Do you ask for what you (really) want?

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you seen this post on Reddit?

It’s not new, but it’s a must-read for anyone applying for a job:

Today I finished interviewing my third new hire this month, two of
which are women. They both are getting paid substantially less than the
man I hired earlier this month, and to be honest I am getting tired of
that. I don’t set the wages, I just handle negotiations (HR has to
approve every offer I make).

Our process, despite the pay gap, is identical for men and women. We
start with phone interviews, and move into a personal and technical
interview. Once a candidate passes both of those, we start salary
negotiations. This is where the women seem to come in last.

The reason they don’t keep up, from where I sit, is simple. Often, a
woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a
number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around
$45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview
simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get
authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of
the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.

Asking for what you want and need is, for many people — women, especially — a terrifying, overwhelming challenge.

So they don’t.

They wimp out, then walk around, sometimes for years, pissed off at themselves for not being bolder, for not really putting their desire on the line, whether for better pay or a raise or a personal matter that really needs resolving.

English: Chungking Negotiation at 1946
English: Chungking Negotiation at 1946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe you really want more respect or attention or more time alone in silence. Or for your husband to stop throwing his wet towels on the bed or your kids to not throw a fit when you expect them to empty the dishwasher or clean up their rooms.

What’s the worst that can happen if you ask?

A tantrum

A fight over how “demanding” and unreasonable you are

You lose that gig/client/job offer

They’re rude or nasty to you

Then, what’s your fallback?

I know this, having grown up in a family where negotiation was rarely an option. You learn, quickly, not to ask because asking for what you want, (which, within limits, is healthy), because you know it’s going to cause conflict.

And everyone wants to avoid conflict, so some people just end up caving and resenting and sighing and feeling crappy.

Wrong!

The best choice I ever made — from 2007 to 2009 when I really needed some steady income — was to work retail part-time, selling clothing at a local mall; here’s the book I wrote about it.

The money was low, $11/hr, with no commission, but it taught me the most useful skill — how to ask for what I want, simply and clearly and without endless foot-shuffling or hand-wringing,

In retail, in business, it’s called closing the deal. It is scary! I still dread that moment of self-assertion, but I do it more often and more quickly now — and my business is doing better as a result. I did it yesterday, dreading (worst case) the client in question was deeply unhappy with my work and would never use me again.

(Helloooooo….that’s called catastrophizing. Turned out much better than that. Whew.)

But I had to ask. And I had to conquer, still, my discomfort with it.

I want every woman who works for income to read this fantastic book, “Women Don’t Ask”, which intelligently addresses why we don’t, (usually for fear of pissing people off.)

Women, especially, can get really nasty with other women who ask — because some are themselves terrified of asking, then resent us for having the cojones to do it, which may also force them to ask someone they’re scared to push on our behalf.

Do you ask for what you want, in work and in your personal life?

Do you get it?