I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for awhile now, but I didn’t quite have enough material to work with. Now I do, so I’m going for it! Because I really believe so passionately that women in particular, rarely ask for what they want in the workplace, especially in terms of compensation. And what I have found, through my own personal experience, is that if you don’t ask, it won’t ever happen. And if you DO ask, you often get what you ask for, if not better! So, women, please do me a favor, and ask for what you want in the workplace! Because you are worth it!
YOU WON’T GET FIRED FOR ASKING
Okay, I’m not a job coach or a professional on this topic, so obviously, please use your best judgment. However, I have never heard of a woman asking for a pay increase and getting fired for it. And so often, I will meet women who are unhappy with their compensation. And when I ask them if they’ve ever asked for a pay increase, they usually say no, and offer all kinds of reasons why they don’t deserve it. Sometimes, they are also just petrified to ask.
I can’t blame women for their fear, and I totally understand it. The workplace, historically, has really been a man’s world. And women have always played a subservient role. Only recently in the last few decades, has it really and truly become commonplace for a woman to be in command in the workplace. And I think women over time, have just come to actually believe within their bones that they’re somehow less than their male counterparts. Or even less than their competing female counterparts.
Again, I understand the fear. But, I really think in this situation, it’s important for women to examine their fears. And find a way to overcome them. Because in all honesty, unless you are in a super abusive and terrible work situation, NO ONE is going to fire you for asking for a pay increase. At the very worst, they’ll say no.
MEN ASK FOR PAY INCREASES ALL OF THE TIME, AND NEVER QUESTION NEGOTIATING FOR MORE
I remember when I had just graduated college, my boyfriend at the time’s best friend had just gotten hired in a corporate office. And he told us about the conversation he had with his incoming boss. The company had offered him a healthy salary of something like $50k to start (this was back in 2002 and he was only 22, so at this time, this was a good salary). And he responded with, “That’s a great offer, although I’d love $65k.” I remember the shock and awe my boyfriend and I felt just listening to him tell the story. And of course, they gave it to him, without question or argument. It was the easiest thing for him to do, like asking for fries with his burger.
Ask for what you want women, because men do it all of the time. And it’s not a thing. You are just as smart and capable, and have just as many skills, talents, and abilities to offer your employer. You know it and they know it. So, all you need to do is ask.
I’M HAPPY I COULD HELP
I want to share a tale with you that is actually the inspiration for this article. And it’s about a woman I work with.
I work at a university, and I wear many hats in my role. However, one of them is to help manage and maintain the course plan for each semester. And I am also in charge of reaching out to non-faculty members who teach for our department, to arrange what they will teach and when.
We have a particular woman who only teaches one course a year, and since she’s not standing faculty, she pretty much teaches whatever we ask her to teach. And I typically just slot her wherever is best for the overall plan.
As I was planning courses for this academic year, I realized that it would be better for her to teach in the spring, rather than the fall when she usually teaches. So, I reached out to her and asked her if I could switch her teaching to the following semester. And she just about fell over with gratitude. Because apparently, due to certain personal, family, and life circumstances, it’s become really taxing for her to teach in the fall. And in that moment, I realized the amount of power I had over her life.
IF YOU NEVER ASK, YOU WON’T EVER KNOW
I instantly and easily offered that from here on out, if she prefers this, we can set her up to teach in the spring going forward. And she never has to teach in the fall again. I had no idea it was taxing for her, and she never mentioned anything, so I just assumed it didn’t matter either way. She was almost in tears because of this accommodation. And I couldn’t explain to her enough how NOT a problem it was for me to make this switch. And yet to her, it was life-altering.
I actually made a point to tell her, “Ask for what you want,” because I never would have known! And it was the simplest thing for me to do. Unfortunately, if I hadn’t offered, I really don’t think she ever would have thought to ask. Which is such a shame, because she was really suffering in silence. And it didn’t even occur to her to explain her situation to her employer, and ask to have her needs met. But, employers are people too, and we all have lives outside of work. The majority of good and decent employers understand this, and will want to help. And if they don’t, they suck!
HEALTHY BOUNDARIES AND REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Just like in any relationship, no one can read your mind. And when it comes to work, if you’re not asking for something, an employer might just assume you’re happy. Also, they’re working for a business, who’s most likely trying to make money. So, employers RARELY IF EVER just hand someone a promotion or a pay increase without an ask from the employee. Of course, there are exceptions, and when it comes to a Good Ole Boys Club situation, things are handed out left and right. But, in the real world, you have to ask.
You also can’t blame your employer for not handing you a promotion or a pay increase without asking. Because it’s not necessarily their job to do this. Yes, it’s their job to make sure your needs are being met as an employee, and good employers care about the happiness of their employees. Or, at least, they want to make sure they are happy with their compensation. Because most companies are screwed when someone leaves abruptly. And if they value your work, they will want to retain you!
When you ask, you might be surprised to find how valued you are. You might also be surprised to find that they have money to spare, and offering an increase is totally not a problem for them. But again, they most likely won’t ever offer, and you can’t take that personally. They are also used to men asking all of the time, and just assume that women will also ask. So, ask for what you want, and don’t assume your employer knows you’re unhappy.
WOMEN AND PAY INCREASES
The unfortunate truth is that pay increases and promotions are almost always going to be categorically handed to men more often than women. Yes, women have made great strides in the workplace. But women and men, don’t fool yourself into thinking there isn’t still a TON of growth needed in this area of our feminist evolution.
Read this related article, “How To (Effectively) Be A Feminist In The Workplace,” by Jennifer Dziura.
Admittedly, my job is essentially a glorified administrative role. And unfortunately, administrative roles get no love or appreciation in terms of compensation. Unless you work in a monster corporation, there’s typically a ceiling that exists with regards to how high anyone would be willing to pay an admin worker, no matter how amazing they are.
I absolutely love where I work. However, there is really no room for growth, based on the way the department is set up. And if I want to stay here long-term, my chances for substantial salary increases are basically non-existent. Therefore, knowing this, I approached my boss about submitting a request for reclassification. Because in academia, you don’t get promoted, but you can get reclassified. If you’re able to prove that you’re essentially doing a different job than you were hired to do.
YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
My boss supports me fully and we put together a strong proposal. I stressed for MONTHS about the results, all through my breakup drama, and having to take on extra financial burdens after my ex moved out of our shared space. And I felt SO much pressure to receive this increase, since all of my expenses are now doubled.
Long story short, I didn’t get it. They rejected our request for reclassification. However, because I do a significant amount of work now, in addition to what I was originally hired to do, they gave me a slight salary adjustment. But in my opinion, the amount was a bit of a fuck you. Although, I appreciated it.
Still, I felt like I really deserved more. So, I went back to my boss to ask him to resubmit a request for a higher salary adjustment. This is what I wrote, word for word, to my boss:
I GOT WHAT I WANTED (SORTA), BUT I HAD TO ASK TWICE!
My boss happily obliged and agreed that it was certainly worth a try.
Today, he sent me an email with an attachment from HR and wrote:
“Hi Libby, It’s true: it doesn’t hurt to ask!”-my awesome boss
In the attachment, they bumped my salary up even more, taking me almost to the place I was originally hoping for, once combined with my upcoming annual merit increase.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected, and not quite as high as I wanted. And I had to ask twice. But hey, I got pretty close! And if I would never have asked, and asked twice, I would be several notches less financially prosperous than I am now!
THANK YOU FOR READING!
So, what do you think? Do you ask for what you want in the workplace? And are you in a supportive enough environment where you feel like your ask will be received well? We deserve so much more than we get at work, but in addition to men and women employers who need to learn to be more supportive, we as women just NEED TO ASK for way more, and much more often than we do! You and I and they all deserve it! xo
SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER TO RECEIVE EXCLUSIVE, SUBSCRIBER-ONLY GODDESS CONTENT!
FOLLOW THE GODDESS ATTAINABLE PODCASTBecome a Patron!
VISITY MY ETSY SHOP
Featured photo by nrd on Unsplash
Woman hiding photo Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash
Exchanging paper photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash