Get more by asking for it  

I still remember the day I got the call from the internal recruiter delivering the news. The job was mine! I was pleased as punch. It was a role I wanted at a company I was eager to work for as they had a strong reputation and I had already met the team. But when the recruiter told me the offer over the phone, I was bitterly disappointed. Why was it so low?  The story gets worse – I accepted it.

It was one of my worst salary negotiations. I literally felt cheated. And not by the company but by myself. I later learned they were surprised that I had come on board at that pay. Ugh.

All I can say is that you live, and you learn. I’m glad I made that mistake early enough in my career to recover.

Recently, on The Change Diaries podcast, I chatted with Jenny Ward, a career and transition coach who specializes in supporting women. She wasted no time in highlighting some of the struggles that women face – from not knowing their worth, to not negotiating for better compensation or failing to talk about their accomplishments.

Honestly, I believe this is the result of socialization, and long-standing systems of oppression. Both of which have done a number on us, and I am including myself here. I’ve already shared the mess I made of my early salary negotiations. Later, I also realized I simply didn’t know how to brag about my accomplishments. In fact, I would downplay them.

I recall handling a big change communications project several years ago. Now, if you’ve done this, you know there are several moving parts and a lot to get right with your company’s most senior leaders. Weeks of adrenalin culminated in carefully crafted messaging, along with team calls, and then an all-hands session. My GM was happy and when everyone had left, he gathered up his papers to leave, but not before turning to tell me:

“Arlene, you did a great job. Everything went really well. Thank you.”

Before the last words left his lips, I cut him off.

“No, no it was nothing.”

He literally blew a mini gasket and flung his hands up in frustration.

“Why can’t you just accept a compliment?”

Was that my reputation? Someone who wouldn’t accept a compliment.

It was an aha-moment for me. I felt a little bit sick because he was right. I was always judging myself so harshly that if someone complimented me, I was sure they were wrong. I couldn’t accept the praise because sooner or later they would find me out for the imposter that I was.

I discovered it was a skill I had to develop – learning to accept praise. From then on, I found myself practicing some variation of these words: “I worked hard on that. Thank you for noticing. I appreciate the recognition.”

In Jenny’s experience, I am not unique in this struggle. To support women who tend to shy away from bragging, she recommends having a ‘things I got done list’ every day to remind yourself of your accomplishments. It is critical to know your worth and practice talking about awesome you are.

Coincidentally, I recently came across an article entitled “Savvy Self-promotion”. If this is your challenge, after you listen to Jenny’s episode on The Change Diaries, you might also wish to give it a read. Take it seriously because this is a change worth making in your professional life.

On the matter of getting paid more, Jenny noted that women find it difficult to negotiate a pay increase while men go in with the attitude of ‘give it to me’. Women, she finds, are schooled to be humble while men are comfortable outright asking for it.

An interesting thing happened the week that I taped that show with Jenny. We were having dinner one evening and I made the kids an offer. If they helped me with some work, I’d pay them $50 bucks each. My son, who is twelve, did not miss a beat. He immediately said, “Pay me $70.” I noticed that his sister who is three years older didn’t ask for more.

Credit: Aris Amitirigala, created using Pixar

I waited a day or two before bringing it up with her. Are there any reasons why you think you should earn more than your brother? She pointed out her age, experience, speed, and ability to focus. All great answers yet it hadn’t occurred to her to demand greater compensation.

It was a live example of someone being better qualified yet hesitant to request more. At the end of our conversation, I asked her to repeat this to herself daily for the following week:

I deserve more.

I am convinced that those three words are part of the reason why some people land amazing compensation packages every single time. Yes, they are well-qualified, and certainly they have a great track record but, above all else, they know their worth and they believe they deserve more. This is what makes them ask for it and get it too.

To make this happen for you, I suggest honing your negotiation skills. If you aren’t accustomed to doing this, it takes practice. Perhaps even some rehearsal. Gather your accomplishments, do your research, and then role play with a friend.

Lastly, I highly recommend that you listen to Jenny and all the wonderful coaches featured during my first season of The Change Diaries. They offer great advice for both men and women.

Thank you for stopping by! Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Listen to my new podcast now available on Apple: The Change Diaries Podcast or you can also listen on Spotify.

And don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.   

5 thoughts on “Are you getting what you deserve?

  1. Yes, learning negotiation is key and accepting compliments graciously is also a compliment to the giver.

    Some individuals are naturally more assertive and it is not that they have a higher sense of self worth than anybody else.

    Self deprecation plays out differently, across cultures.

    Great thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! Agree that some folks are more assertive while others need to practice more and cultivate their self-confidence.


  2. Don’t we just kick ourselves afterwards? I wish I’d said some of the things in the moment that I’d thought of retrospectively. It’s actually quite hard to identify people who strike the right balance between promoting themselves and the amazing things they do and giving others fair credit for their contribution. Sometimes we just have to be confident that what we do just speaks for itself.


  3. All very true and relatable. Although I believe that getting paid what we’re worth shouldn’t depend on our individual assertiveness or negotiation skills. A company is the one doing the “cheating” (and furthering inequity) when they knowingly offer compensation that undervalues the employee’s worth.


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