| I dare me |

Did I have the nerve to ask for the raise I deserved?


In the business world, we women are often at a disadvantage because of a reluctance to make demands or push ourselves forward.

 

Good at people, bad at math. That’s why my job in sales is so perfect for me. I get to meet new faces all the time, and then leave the numbers for the people in the back office to work out.

Plus, another great perk is that I work for my uncle. It’s nice to work with people you’ve known for years… until it isn’t.

He’s the greatest guy, but at the end of the day, his first priority is his bottom line, while mine is my own growth. He cares most about the logistics, the dollars and sense, but I don’t feel like that focus gives me the freedom to try new things and take initiative.

With a couple of little kids and another on the way, I’m grateful for a job I love that also allows me some wiggle room in my daily schedule. But it’s also important to me that my work is valued and compensated accordingly.

The challenge

With a recent company-wide reorganization, I went from being paid mostly on commission to being a salaried employee. The money’s steadier, I’ll grant that, but there’s also less of it. And as we’re trying to save up for a down payment, every penny counts.

I need to ask for a raise — I feel that I should be making at least as much as I did before — but with the general austerity measures in place throughout the company, it’s going to take some nerve. And nerve is something I’m sorely lacking, at least in this area.

As a woman in a man’s arena, I always doubt my worth. Can I really command that kind of salary? Working from home twice a week and having the flexibility to do car pool are so valuable — no one else would accommodate those needs, so I need this job more than they need me, right?

I second-, third-, and fourth-guess myself. But my family needs this, so I’ll have to bite the bullet and have the money talk.

Getting ready

The first order of business is getting my numbers straight. How much did I actually earn in 2018? And, oh, right, adjust that monthly total for my eight-week maternity leave. I stink at math, so this is painful, but my pay stubs and my accountant get me through it, and with a clearer picture of the figures, I feel empowered.

The next question is how to broach the topic with my uncle — in person? By e-mail? Do I let him know in advance that I plan to bring it up? A friend and I analyze the situation from all angles, and we decide I should first send an e-mail requesting a meeting and giving a general sense of the reason, without getting into specifics.

The other item to be worked out was what I was prepared to settle for. After the painful number-crunching, and some almost equally painful soul-searching, I decided what my asking salary would be, the lowest number I’d accept, and what non monetary conditions I’d accept in lieu of money.

How it went down

I take the subway to the main office in Lower Manhattan, slightly intimidated by all the confident career people who flow past in rushing rivers of pedestrian traffic.

Once at the office, I find an endless number of people I need to greet, conversations that can only be done in person, and assorted other distractions to push off the moment of truth. But the clock is ticking, the day is ending, and I need to get home to pick up my kids, so with barely any time left, I head into the CEO’s office.

We dispatch the polite chitchat quickly. I’ve left this for the last minute and there isn’t much time to spare. I cut to the chase, explaining that the new arrangement isn’t working for me.

Needless to say, my uncle isn’t thrilled at my salary request, and comes back with an offer that’s lower — like five digits lower. He pulls the “flexibility” card, which is hard to refute. I know that on my telecommuting days I’m glued faithfully to the computer, and that I pick up my phone to clients all evening, even on my own time, but he doesn’t see all that, so in his mind he’s being super-generous.

Not wanting to be seen as a slacker who’s demanding more than her worth, I come up with the idea of using a time-tracking app so he can see how much time I’m putting in, even away from the office.

When he still feels that my requested salary is too high, my preparations pay off. “I understand that,” I’m able to say confidently. “So what non monetary conditions can we change to make this worthwhile for me?”

Since it isn’t only about money for me, but also my professional growth and work-life balance, I ask instead to be relieved of being on call certain evenings — and I get it! And eventually, we meet somewhere in the middle on the salary question. Not as much as I’d hoped for, but I guess that means more room to grow next year.

Looking Back

In the business world, we women are often at a disadvantage because of a reluctance to make demands or push ourselves forward.

At the same time, our ingenuity and appreciation for the intangible perks can help us solve complex problems to everyone’s advantage. Not enough money in the corporate account for a raise? No problem, I’ll work fewer hours/work from home more often/delegate that account to someone who has more time.

Knowing that I wasn’t going to win on pure mathematical grounds, I came prepared with certain accommodations I’d take in lieu of some of the salary. I knew my boss was focused on making it work financially, but I had other considerations too, so we were able to juggle them.

With creativity, flexibility, and an attempt to understand others’ perspectives, I was able to craft a solution that took into account everyone’s needs and worked for both of us.

My dare inspiration: Some people hate it, but I find it fun to network with new people

I would never dare:  bungee jumping.

My next dare: I’ve been dreaming about starting a side hustle. I’d love to do something artistic, and I’ve explored options in event planning and home decorating, but so far haven’t launched anything.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 667)

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