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How to ask for a Pay raise when you are underpaid - Debunking myths on salary negotiations for women

As a negotiation coach to countless highly achieving women, I've noticed a pervasive trend of self-limiting beliefs and misconceptions regarding salary negotiations. Many of these women professionals have internalized certain myths that hold them back from advocating for the compensation they truly deserve.

These myths might originate from a variety of sources. Some can be traced back to societal conditioning where women are often taught to be accommodating and not to 'rock the boat'.

Another factor contributing to these myths are the 'double binds' or the complex, contradictory situations that women often find themselves in. Women are often expected to be assertive, yet not too assertive, for fear of being seen as overbearing. Or expected to show just the right blend of emotion and objectivity otherwise we are seen as too hysterical or too detached. Constantly needing to strike this delicate balance leads to fear and/or second guessing.

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How to ask for a raise

These myths and false narratives can act as mental roadblocks, preventing women from asking for a pay raise. Recognizing these myths is the first step towards dismantling them and being able to ask for a raise when you know your are underpaid.

Here are a few recurring myths that I hear-

Myth: If I ask for more money, I will seem crass

Truth: Asking for what you deserve isn't crass; it's professional, reasonable and even expected. It's about how you frame your request. Instead of bluntly asking for more money, explain the reasoning behind your request. Bring research, show how you have driven results.

Myth: I hate feeling the sting of rejection

Truth: Negotiation isn't a win-or-lose game; it's a problem solving discussion.

Let's say you've asked for a flexible schedule to accommodate your long commute and have been turned down. Instead of seeing it as a rejection, consider it as an opportunity to discuss alternatives, like starting earlier to beat the traffic or working from home a few days a week. Start asking, "what are the reason for denying the request. How else can we structure my work day so I can achieve what I need."

Remind yourself - you are solving a problem. Not engaging in battle.

Myth: I am lucky to have this job

Truth: Yes, you are fortunate. But remember, the company is lucky to have you, too! Your skills, experiences, and contributions make you an asset. If you've just led a project that brought in significant revenue or saved costs, use that as leverage to negotiate your salary. Companies often reward their high-performing employees to retain them.

Myth: I feel my relationship is going to be soured

Truth: A negotiation can be a relationship-building experience if handled well. You might be worried that asking for a pay rise from your current boss will strain your relationship. However, a well-prepared conversation highlighting your accomplishments, their value to the team, and the industry standard for your role can help keep things positive and professional. We should take care to recognize cognitive distortions in these situations - it's entirely possible that what we amplify in our minds may not hold as much significance to our manager.

Myth: I got a pay increase last year, so I'm not sure I can ask for more

Truth: You can always ask for a salary review if you believe you deserve it. Let's say you took a professional development course, acquired new skills, and have been handling bigger projects since your last raise. These are valid reasons to ask for a review. Keep in mind that your salary should reflect your value to the company, which isn't static.

Ask for a raise and feel the surge of confidence

Our upbringing and the narratives we've internalized over the years have shaped us and even served us well in the past. Question is do these serve our evolving goals and ambitions. The good news is that when we confront and fix these stories that constrain us, we experience a massive surge of freedom and confidence.

After all, it's not solely about the money - that's merely the beginning. It's about our aspirations, our dreams, and our desire to progress in our careers.

Know your worth and fight for it!

Download the free salary negotiations training here.

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