Negotiating Salary: What’s the Value You Bring to the Table?

women who ask

“But I’m not sure that I deserve more.” Does a similar thought come up when you consider negotiating your salary?

The hardest part about negotiating our salaries is putting a monetary value on our self-worth.

We second guess our skills, talents and experience and think that maybe we shouldn’t ask for more.

One of my clients, we’ll call her Jeanine, was feeling undervalued and resentful at work. She was a director of marketing at a tech company. Her colleague Jeff left the company and her boss asked her to absorb some of Jeff’s duties. She’s a pro and a team player and immediately agreed, knowing that no one else in the department could do it. But there was no change to her job title or pay.

Time to ask for a promotion and a raise!

In theory, this sounded like a great idea to Jeanine when I suggested it to her. In fact, her whole face lit up thinking about a promotion. She stood a little taller and laughed out loud while telling me about the changes she wanted to make in the department.  

When I asked her when she was going to ask for the promotion, she slumped down into her seat, her shoulders fell forward and the stories about why she shouldn't ask started pouring out of her.

These are the same stories that we’re all telling ourselves. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

Story #1:

I don’t know what to ask for.

We don’t want to appear too greedy and we don’t know what would be reasonable.

Thankfully, there is an easy, objective way to deal with this issue. Research your market value.

You can find out the range for what the market pays through websites like,, and If there aren’t any positions exactly like yours, you can gather enough data from similar jobs to make a persuasive argument.

Or call up a colleague in a similar position. You don’t have to ask directly what their salary is. You can simply ask, “what do you think someone in my position should make?” Don’t make the mistake of asking only women (whose salaries might be under market).

Story #2:

If I work really hard, my boss will notice and give me a promotion.

It would feel so good if your boss just noticed how hard you worked and rewarded you with a big fat promotion. You’d feel seen and validated. You’d know that you are worth it. The work world is different than school when you worked really hard until you got that “A.”  And there aren’t any gold stars for following the rules.

The work world is more like the wild west where you create your own opportunities and make your own rules. You don’t have to be a gunslinger to be successful, but you do have to ask for what you want.

Story #3:

I’m lucky to have this job.

We develop this weird exaggerated sense of gratitude when it comes to our jobs. We tell ourselves that we’re so lucky to even have a job in this economy and we should be thankful for what we’re given.

It’s hard to deprogram ourselves from the long history of women being taught to accept what we’re given and not ask for more.

But you know what? They are lucky to have you. If you’re reading this, my guess is that you’re incredibly talented, savvy, and hard-working.

If you need to remind yourself how talented you are, start making a list of the benefits you bring to your employer and all of the reasons that it would be hard for your boss to replace you. Don’t forget the relationships you have, the unique knowledge you’ve gained, and the stuff that comes so easily that you forget that it’s work.

Story #4:

I probably don’t need a raise. I’m making enough money.

If you set really low expectations, then you won’t be disappointed. But if you find out that your male counterpart is making more than you, how will you feel then?

Talking ourselves into what we need instead of what we want sets the bar too low. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to evaluate our work in economic terms. Women have been working without pay since day one and continue to do so in many ways. This legacy still affects our hearts and minds. In fact, women expect between 3 and 32% less than men do for the same jobs.

Find out your market value and set your expectations at the top of the pay range. Back up your ask with examples of your successes.

Story #5:

The company can’t afford it.

It’s almost comical how easily we can come up with reasons why the company can’t pay us more. They are going through a re-org, a merger, or need to wait until the end of the fiscal year when more deals close.

Of course we want to protect ourselves from the sting of rejection. But instead of avoiding negotiating, take care of yourself emotionally by reminding yourself of two things. “No” isn’t something you have to take personally. And you don’t need to take care of the company or your boss. They’re plenty capable of doing that themselves.

Preparation and Practice

Jeanine and I worked together to flip these stories around. We talked them through logically and noticed any negative emotions they triggered so that she could move beyond them and feel confident asking for what she wanted.

Jeanine then gathered data on her market value and we talked through the numbers. We prepared her to know going in what compensation package she was going to ask for, what she hoped to get, and what her bottom line was. We practiced her lines and what she would say if her boss pushed back.

Over the course of a couple of conversations, she negotiated a 6% bump in her salary, a year-end bonus, and a new job title that better reflected her job duties.

Over to You

How about you? What are the stories that are stopping you from asking for more? And what are some ways to turn those stories around?