What to say when you aren't happy with your salary...

Comp day. Communication day. Promotion / bonus day. One day that will decide your title and pay for the following 364 days. The day that everyone looks forward to and dreads at the same time. Will you finally get that promotion you have been working hard for all year? Will your bonus reflect the positive reviews from your coworkers? Will you be impacted by the negative performance of your division?

My communication day began by following the usual format. There is an uncomfortable tension as coworkers are called into their one-on-one discussions and leave shortly after expressionless. When my turn approached, it was the normal spiel. I was delivered a positive review and the obligatory, “keep up the good work”. Then came the paper slide. A sheet of paper with just two numbers – my base salary and bonus. This is the part where I was clearly expected to quietly leave.

Except this year I didn’t.

The past year I had determined that I was being paid well below market value for my title and role. Numerous conversations with colleagues and friends with similar roles elsewhere led me to this conclusion and it was further confirmed with a quick search on Glassdoor and chat with a recruiter. I had joined the firm as an experienced hire a year prior and was expecting my low starting salary to be corrected after a full year of adding value and receiving strong reviews. When my compensation package fell well below the low end of my anticipated range, I finally had the courage to speak up for myself.

I finally realized that if I didn’t raise my concerns, I wasn’t going to see any change.

As a young female in a workplace dominated by older men it can sometimes be hard to speak up. However, I was done being penalized for being non-confrontational. I calmly looked my manager in the eye and just went for it.

“Thank you, but I would like to discuss these numbers in more detail. I feel as though this compensation package is not in line with my expectations and does not reflect the strong reviews and ongoing feedback I have received. I have the title and responsibilities of an associate but I am still being paid like an analyst. I have proven to be an integral part of this team and have taken on additional responsibilities over the past year which I thought would be considered during compensation discussions. I truly enjoy working here but I am concerned that my pay is below market value and am worried about falling behind this early in my career. I believe you value me and support my career so I would like to directly address these concerns with you and discuss potential solutions.”

Then I directly stated my salary and bonus expectations, despite the fact that they far exceeded what was given to me. I explained how I came to these numbers and why I felt they were justified based on my current workload. To my surprise my manager didn’t disagree with me. In fact, he thanked me for speaking my mind and acting in a professional manner. He promised to follow up with HR and see if changes could be made to move my numbers closer to my expectations.

 Walking away from the situation I felt more empowered than I had in a long time. While dramatic changes likely won’t be realized this year, making my expectations clear and articulating the rational for what I feel I should earn gave me a new-found confidence that I will take with me going forward in my career. Compensation conversations are always awkward but if you want to see real change it might be time to gather the evidence, find your voice, and present your case.

Additional Resources:

Strategies for Women to Negotiate Salary

Why Women Must Ask

This was a guest post by a dear friend. A big thanks to her for sharing her experience so we can all learn from it!