“The art & science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
Thomas Berger

I enjoyed watching ‘Dispatches, How To Ask For A Pay Rise’ last night. It made my heart swell to watch Katie and Andy learn some excellent negotiation techniques from the negotiation guru, Dan Hughes (https://negotiatingguru.com/) and walk away with the pay rises they wanted, so very clearly deserved.

The program made some very pertinent points. Average pay rises across Britain have not risen in line with inflation and if we carry on as we have been doing, for most people, they will begin experiencing pay cuts, as living costs continue to rise, whilst relative pay levels do not. The program also highlighted some key survey outputs from a survey they had done, which even given the work I do still surprised and to an extent shocked me. I wasn’t expecting the numbers to be so high……

49% of Brits have never asked for a pay rise; this rises to 59% for women and 42% for men.
54% feel apprehensive knocking on their bosses’ door
and
39% feel they don’t have the skills to ask for what they want.

Clearly being able to ask for what you want, especially when it comes to pay is a skill that is lacking across cultures and countries; it’s not just the Brits. From my work in Australia, whilst I focused primarily on helping women to ask for the pay rises, promotions and professional opportunities they wanted due to the inherent gender inequality in pay, I knew many men also weren’t asking. I received requests to work with them too, which I was more than happy to do…. after all, everyone deserves to ask for what they want and receive it.

Unsurprisingly in the program, the notion of asking for pay rises by people was instinctively linked by an ex-trade minister to a required corresponding rise in productivity, which given the low levels of productivity in Britain over the last few years had to be made note of. After all, how would we pay for all these pay rises??? Don’t get me started on that! I’ll leave that argument for another time….

Dan Hughes gave some excellent advice. I realised whilst I hadn’t known about anchoring and pre-conditioning as such, this was exactly what I’ve been doing throughout my career, to get some amazing pay rises, promotions and opportunities. I don’t consider myself a negotiation expert; my expertise lies in knowing, understanding and disseminating the inner workings of corporate reward and remuneration; how strategies, policies and plans are made, implemented across all levels and how by helping people understand this inside and out, it can help them ask for what they want in a way that sets them up with a strategy for life.

Asking for pay rises should not be a singular activity, occurring once in a blue moon. It ought to be an automatic part of all career strategies, especially for women. Just as we expect to be developed and progressed in our careers, we ought to be thinking about ensuring we ask for the pay and reward for those steps we take and not, as happens with many people, be taking on additional responsibility without asking for the subsequent pay rise, at the time or as near to as possible, when the additional responsibilities are being given. A point that too was made in the program when one of the candidates in it mentioned that she had been taking on additional responsibility, but hadn’t been paid for it….

This is all too common and in my experience, it’s women who tend to be the ones who miss out, because they generally will hear what one of the managers said in the program, ‘you have to prove yourself to me.’ The irony being the candidate already had, but this is exactly what happens when you don’t ask for the pay rise at the time your responsibilities are being increased, among a multitude of other ‘asking’ scenarios. The inevitable, ‘prove yourself’ vocabulary, is one often levelled at women more than men and the consequences of this is it becomes the kind of language I hear women unconsciously use in meetings and interviews, whilst men will talk about demonstrating their value. (Here’s an article I wrote about this when I saw it happen once again…)

Which is why it was wonderful to watch Katie do an awesome job of articulating what she had already done, what she was going to do and she made sure her boss heard her when she talked about her strengths. Brilliant! And of course, she got the pay rise!

There were a few things for me though that stood out in this program. One that was mentioned was that it seems it’s unbritish to ask for pay rises. As I said above, I don’t think this has much to do with being British. My twenty years plus experience in the field suggests it’s a global phenomenon’ not asking for pay rises and an even more prevalent one for women because of the potential social negative consequences they face when they do ask for what they want. My experience about why people don’t ask for pay rises is more about the three points I make below.

Firstly, something mentioned very briefly in the program – we allocate all the power in the conversation to the boss. Now, whilst this may seem like it’s true and even more so, for people who feel like they are in unskilled or low paid work, it isn’t always so. There’s a lot I can write about why this isn’t so, but for this conversation, let’s keep it as this.

If you have a compelling case for asking for a pay rise and like the candidates in the program have already demonstrated you are a strong performer; you add value and are intending to add even more value and you’re articulating and demonstrating that, then it’s a pretty hard-headed manager who is going to let you walk away, because guess what?

Unless they’re flush with staff, letting you walk away is going to likely cost them more than if they’d just given you the pay rise. Especially if you deserve it.

Think about it. They will have to start recruiting (costs money and time), they will have to interview (costs money and time), they will have to wait for the new person to start (costs money and time) and there will be a window of time as the new person gets up to speed (costs money and time), and if you have been in an organisation for a while, your manager will lose all the intelligence that will walk out of the door with you. That is a lot to lose and a lot of money to spend when the solution was in front of your face. Literally.

Whilst I have never suggested to any of my clients that they point this out to their manager when they are having a pay rise conversation, having this in the back of your mind can help you to build your case from a place of strength. And a savvy manager knows this too. Therefore, there’s no reason why you can’t intuit what is on the table…

The second thing about not asking for pay rises is we hate talking about money, and I mean, HATE talking about money. It’s true what they say – people will tell you all about the intimate details of their sex life, but ask them about their money life? You may as well have asked them to strip naked right there and then, because that’s exactly what it feels like when we have to talk about money, and even more so when we are asking for more money! That we HATE even more!

There are many reasons for this, and whilst there are some universal themes – lack of self-confidence, belief in own confidence in asking for money, issues of self-worth and of course, having unresolved or unconscious limiting beliefs around money and asking for it – once we are willing to face these, do the work of them and then start practising asking, slowly we can condition ourselves not to hate the money conversation any more. This kind of work has the power to exponentially change your asking life, from being something you fear to something you actually look forward to, because irrespective of the outcome, you are taking charge of your earning capacity and your career. And the added bonus of this; you don’t feel the unequal power position with your boss as much. Now you’re starting to feel your power……

Finally, my third point. Something that isn’t as unusual as you might imagine. We fear anything we have never done before and asking for money seems to bring out a visceral fear within us, tied to the fears we may have around ourselves and money (as per the previous point) so, if we can, we will avoid doing it. Asking for a pay rise, I have been told by women and men is far worse than being rejected brutally by a lover. Apparently.

So, it makes sense that we don’t ask and the even more frightening thought that often comes up, ‘What if they say no?’ This one stops us in our tracks more than we can imagine. This is a much bigger topic. I’m going to leave this one till next week.

In the meantime, one way to start taking a hold of our fears and helping to diminish them is the age-old adage – ‘Feel the fear, and do it anyway!’

Learn how to ask, however you do that – you can find out one way how by clicking here and buying the book that shows you how – https://highvaluewoman.org/project/six-steps/ is the key!

Start asking and never stop. I promise, after the first time, it will get easier, and then you’ll wonder why you were so afraid…

“Don’t be shy about asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re wise.”
Anon

Here’s to next time,

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