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Career Track Live
Hosted by Amy Joyce
Washington Post columnist

Tuesday, June 26, 2001; 11 a.m. EDT/EST

Are you trying to get ahead or find the right niche? Then talk to Amy Joyce, Career Track columnist for The Washington Post.

Amy hosts special guest Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., a clinical pyschologist and work-life consultant. She specializes in worklife and organizational consultation and psychotherapy. She provides individual consultation, leads work-life groups and consults organizations on change management.

Lynn's web site is accessible at www.drlynnfriedman.com. If you are looking for advice on how to negotiate salaries, Lynn's the one to answer your questions.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Amy Joyce: Hello all. Welcome to this week's version of Career Track Live, with the ever-timely topic of salary negotiation. It's tough, it's uncomfortable, but it's important. And Dr. Lynn Friedman is here to tell you how it's done. Let's get started.

Washington, D.C.: My company can't afford to give me a raise, so I'm thinking of asking for a four-day work week instead of the extra money. Is that a reasonable counter offer?

Amy Joyce: I think that's a great way to make up for lack of salary when a company can't afford to give a raise. I know of folks who will ask for an extra week of vacation per year instead of a raise, or other soft benefits, such as a flexible work week, time off to volunteer, etc. Lynn?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Yes. I'm with Amy Joyce on this one. However, before making that request take stock on its potential impact on your company. What will it mean to them if you only work four days a week? Will someone have to cover you for the fifth day? If so, how will that person feel about it? After considering the impact, ask for something that will not make things harder for your colleagues/boss. Besides a four day week, other things to consider are: two half days, time off for professional conferences, additional training at company expense -- and, I like Amy Joyce's idea about vacation. The key here is to ask for something that you want that won't cause others too much stress. Best of luck to you.

Rockville, Md.: Lynn: Great discussion topic. I went for a job interview yesterday and found myself stumbling when asked about the salary. I always find that job ads that ask for "salary history" are difficult to answer. Either way, you may disqualify yourself from a job. What is your advice as far as telling a potential employer, who doesn't indicate any sort of salary, a salary history?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Hi. There is no reason to ever stumble when being asked salary questions. O.K. Actually, there are many reasons. But, here are some steps to take to prevent that from ever happening again. Salary negotiation is very important. It can determine how you come into the company, how the boss perceives you and how you are treated once you get there. So, it is really important to develop those negotiation skills. Here are some steps that you can take. First, read Jack Chapman's How to Make $1000 a Minute. It's a quick read with some excellent tips on how to handle the salary question. Second, read Manual Smith's When I Say "No" I Feel Guilty. He has some wonderful help for handling difficult situations skillfully. Third, after reading these two books, write out worse case scenarios and role play with a friend. Incidentally, both books are "easy reads." Best of luck to you.

Baltimore, Md.: Hi,

I need some advice. Specifically, I'm an IT professional who has been freelancing for several years at a very high hourly rate. My contract is ending, and I'm now looking at accepting a full-time position at a firm making considerably less than my freelancing rate (which is not unusual). However, I know through the grapevine that other employees at this company are making more than what I have been offered - these employees are also ones I worked with five years ago, and at that time, I was their supervisor!

I can't very well say to my prospective employer that I know what these other employees are making, so how effective is it as a negotiating tool to say that accepting this position at the offered salary would mean a significant reduction in lifestyle due to my previous compensation?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: This is an extremely dicey situation -- the problem here of course is bringing up the salary question after the fact. My thought: schedule a meeting in person with your prospective boss. Tell them that the job sounds wonderful. You think that you will really enjoy working as a part of the team, etc., etc. And, you know you will enjoy using the special skills that you bring in x, y and z. However, the salary is a variance with what you anticipated. Then, just be quiet and wait. See what the prospective boss does. S/he may spontaneously increase the offer and/or ask what you have in mind. At that point, you might state the top end of your range. Only one thing: as always, have a plan for backing off gracefully if you need the job. Finally, consider asking for some of the perks mentioned earlier as an adjuvant to salary. And, one more thought -- before doing this, check out the books recommended earlier. I expect that a role play may serve you in good stead. Best of luck to you.

Philadelphia, Pa.: I've been with my organization for less than a year but feel that I've been a high-performer and am now managing self-initiated projects with more responsibility than my peers. I know that my boss--the CEO-- feels I've been doing a great job. Should I ask for a raise and promotion now or wait until the one year mark?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Without knowing you, your industry or your boss, I couldn't say. However, I would take a couple of steps to secure your future raise. First, if you aren't already, document all of your successes for your boss. Do it in a way that is not too burdensome. You might use a weekly or monthly email -- that is a half-page long.
Also, become actively involved in your professional organizations, at the local and national level. In this way, you will achieve visibility. Take on a project. Do a great job. Credit your company. Make the company look great to outsiders in the profession. And, especially, credit your boss publicly. Big raises will likely follow and if they don't, job offers will. Best wishes for continued success.

Rockville, Md: RE: Salary questions. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I find that companies who ask for a salary history can take advantage of a potentially excellent employee. Without knowing the offered salary, you can price yourself out of the market. You can also make yourself too available; i.e., they won't offer you as much...

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Yes. Your question was clear though it had two parts and I answered the first part. I believe that asking employees about their salary history is an unfair question. It probably accounts for the fact that women (who are sometimes less experienced negotiators) make about 73 cents to every dollar that a man makes. I think that it should be illegal to ask. Why? Because your previous salary history is irrelevant. People should not be repeatedly victimized because they negotiated poorly in the past. More importantly, you should be paid what you are worth -- whether or not you made more or less at a previous job. That is, the question is: "what value do you add for the company?"
Again, I'd encourage you to read Chapman's book. He will tell you how to get around this question.
Amy Joyce, I wonder if you can add anything here. Thanks.

Alexandria, Va.: Please help. I have been at my company for over one year. My boss is on his way out and really doesn't have a lot of leverage these days. I approached HR about my review and raise and was told that they didn't have a policy in place. When I asked her what I should do to make sure that I get a raise, she shrugged her shoulders. I have made many accomplishments during my year and feel like I need to be compensated. I work at a dot-com, what do you suggest I do? Thanks.

Amy Joyce: I'm sure Lynn has a lot to say about this, but right away, I would suggest you sit down with yourself and write a memo about WHY you think you've earned a raise, and sort of review yourself. Have this in mind when you go to ask for a raise or talk to a supervisor about your review. The more educated about yourself and why you should be earning more, the better. Lynn?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Well I am with Amy Joyce on this one. However, given the instability of dot-coms right now, I think that you should consider why you think that the HR lady shrugged. And, is this a good company for which to work? Are they financially stable? Can they afford you? Are they likely to go under? I ask because negotiating salary raise while on the Titanic is not a viable strategy. So, answer these questions for yourself first.
Then, before going to HR, talk informally with your boss. Seek his or her advice. Also, beginning to network aggressively in your professional community will enable you to shop your skills elsewhere. Best of luck to you.

Washington, D.C.: How can one encourage one's superiors to act on their oral commitment to grant a promotion? A common ploy of administrators at my institution is the "go-slow" processing of approval of promotions. Example: After agreeing that it was time for a promotion for me, my supervisor kept putting off the initiation of the paperwork process. When he finally turned to the task six months later, he asked me to write the job description. When it was submitted, his superior told him that he wants to see all such requests handled in a batch. Thus, action on my case awaits my superior completing personnel action paperwork on several other people. After this, it has two more levels before final approval and action, plus several pay periods before I see the raise. This kind of delay tactic is not typical to this institution, whose administration is usually quick and efficient. It is a ploy used with personnel affairs. I feel disrespected and angry. What can I do?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Is this typical for your industry? Do you work for the government? There are some industries in which these kinds of tactics are, should we say, "business as usual" and should, unfortunately, be anticipated. This means starting early, tracking progress and exercising patience. But, why would anyone tolerate that? Because often these types of places, in their own antiquated stodgy ways, provide many benefits and lots of job security.
Identify the benefits for working for this sort of place. If they are worth it to you, remain there. Otherwise, you may want to seek employment in a more fast-paced, forward-moving setting.

Amy Joyce: So Lynn, in response to Rockville's question, I also am wondering what you would suggest to someone who is asked to offer up a salary history. Should they just say that they would rather not, but they will give an estimate of what they expect to make considering their previous experience?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: I would tell the employer something like this (and, this is not original--it belongs to Jack Chapman--but is effective). You know, I think that I know why you are asking me this question, you want to make sure that you can afford me. One of my personal principles is to never discuss salary until it is clear to you that I am the person who you want to hire and it is clear to me that I can do a great job for you. So, if it is O.K. with you, can we defer the discussion of salary until then?
Another ploy is if you do any sort of freelancing or ever have to quote your freelance fee. Say something like, you know I remained at my previous job because (tout your former employer). The job was familiar to me and straightforward -- not too psychologically demanding -- which allowed me to freelance in my free time. Thus, although I was working below market value, I was to make an annual income of (amount). There's a lot more to be said about this. But, these are some ideas.

Somewhere, USA: RE: Salary History I am a compensation person, the bad guy in this format. Salary history gives us a data point to work from. If we are thinking $40K for a position, but the person is close or over, we know we have to reconsider our position. Do we pass on the person or do we change our guidelines? Not many people want to change jobs for the same salary.

Amy Joyce: Hm. Interesting point from the other side. But if someone had negotiated poorly in their last job and they are earning less than they should be, you're obviously not going to offer them much more than they already earned. Right?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: I don't mean to be insufferably naive but what about just being straightforward with the person -- over the phone, even. Gee Ms. Smith, we are most impressed with your credentials. Before we pursue things further, I want you to know that the job pays $40,000 a year. Your technique is actually fairly discriminatory for a number of people, like people who are trying to relocate and just want an interesting job with a secure salary but who aren't in a deep sweat about making as much as they were in their former locale. Also, it is discriminatory for people who are trying to change fields. And, what about older people, with a lot to give, who perhaps want a change of pace and are well enough set that salary isn't a preoccupation? O.K., I admit I'm biased. Thanks for adding your input. Feel free to write back. You are the folks that we should be getting input from. All the best, Lynn

Annapolis, Md.: Hello--What are your thoughts on the "promotion doesn't automatically equal a raise" conundrum, as in "nice title, but I'd rather have the money"?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Great question! You bring up an interesting point and something that I overlooked earlier. In negotiating salary, if all else fails ask for a great title. Why? Because it could be of great value to you in your next job search. Also, it could give you much credibility in the world of your profession. With a great title, people will be happier to have you on their boards or in charge of their organizations. All of these things can ultimately translate into money down the road.
That having been said, I would look carefully at the promotion that doesn't equal a raise. Why is the raise being withheld? What does it tell you about the company? What does it tell you about your relationship with your boss? Is the company young and growing? Is money tight? Or, does it reflect something about how you are valued? Also, what will the promotion get you? Will it get you status with the outside professional world? Or, will you be the only one who knows about it? Will it take you further from your family and/or friends or bring you closer to them? That is, is the promotion bringing you closer to your work-life goals? Will it make you more competitive for future positions? All these are questions that you might consider. Best of luck to you.

Washington, D.C.: I just had my annual review and got the average raise for people at my company...which is shabby to say the least. I can't possibly survive on my salary even with the raise until my next annual review.

What should I do? I'm up for a promotion in about seven months but the company isn't doing well as are most nowadays and it's no guarantee that I'll get that promotion, and even if I do, what that salary increase will be. Should I just look for another job? Should I say something to my boss?

Amy Joyce: It never hurts to start looking for another job if you're unhappy. I'm also a big proponent of sitting down to talk to your boss. Don't be bitter about it, just explain things as you see them. Make sure you prepare well before going in to talk to your supervisor so you don't sound like you're asking for something without really having earned it first. Explore all options and make sure you're doing what makes you happy. Lynn?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: I agree with Amy Joyce. I hear about these kinds of situations all of the time in the work-life groups that I lead. These groups are designed to help people achieve their personal and professional goals.
The key problem is often that the employee and the boss are unaware of each other's concerns, thoughts and feelings. I would just add that you want to work to establish an ongoing, open relationship with your boss so that you can both be candid about your satisfactions and dissatisfactions. So, when you meet with your boss, I would start by asking for feedback. I would read Smith's book so that you can solicit highly specific, detailed feedback in a non-defensive way. Then, particularly if the feedback is largely positive, I would ask her/him for advice. I hope that this is helpful to you.

Arlington, Va.: Hi Dr. Friedman. I read the transcripts from your two shows on salary. You described many different strategies for negotiating salaries. I am curious though, do you believe that there is a relationship between self-esteem and salary? If so, can you comment on it? I ask because it seems that no matter what the job and what the skills, I seem to always end up getting paid less than my co-workers.

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: In my opinion, there is definitely a relationship between self-esteem and salary. I see this all the time -- both in my work-life consulting practice where I lead groups on "thriving in life at work" and in my therapy and analytic practice. Basically, what I have found is that often people with low self-esteem undervalue what they have to offer and in negotiating salary they convey their sense of their own worth the prospective boss. And, voila, they are offered a salary that confirms their inadequate sense of their self. It can he a vicious cycle. In my experience, this can be a particular problem for children of alcoholic and/or depressed parents.
On the positive side, I have also seen how successfully negotiating a wonderful salary -- as terrifying as it can be -- can lead to an increase in self-esteem. The person can feel valued (though perhaps terrified about that). When they enter the new work place, they are respected for their skills and things start off on a completely different foot. A wonderfully positive cycle.

Frustrated in Washington, D.C.: About a month ago, I requested a pay increase along with an increase in responsibility including a small title adjustment. My supervisor said simply, "OK." Here we are over a month later and I have not heard or seen anything about my raise. I casually mentioned it last week, and my supervisor's response was to joke about it. How do I get a serious response about this?

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Good question. Work on your relationship with your supervisor. Make an appointment. Tell the supervisor how much you enjoy them, the work, etc. Ask for their guidance on how to get the salary and title change. Best of luck to you.

Arlington, Va.: Is it appropriate to compare one's workload to that of others in the company? i.e., I supervise more people and my dept. is responsible for more revenue than another V.P. -- who makes a lot more than me. How does one do it successfully, without sounding like a whiner? (I'm assuming whining is not a good tactic!)

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Whining is only a good strategy if it works! And, I mean that it achieves all your goals including being liked and respected. However, documenting your accomplishments, networking nationally and locally and having close ongoing dialogues with the boss -- in which you convey what you have accomplished -- are reliable strategies.
This is the last question that I can answer today. However, 10 days from now - next Thursday at 11 A.M., I will be doing a show on salary here at Jobs. I invite you to tune in. Also, feel free to write to the message boards with your questions.
You have been a great audience and Amy Joyce -- thank you for being such a wonderful host.
Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist and Work-life consultant

Amy Joyce: Well thanks, Lynn. And thank you all for joining us for this hot topic. Now go and enjoy your day. We'll see you here next week, same time, same place. Have a good week.

Amy Joyce:

That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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