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Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible. 

This week we’re sharing the story of a woman who refused to takeno for an answer and spent over a year negotiating and re-negotiating until she earned what she asked for.

Location: New York, NY

Position & Industry: Head of Customer Insights, Tech

Original salary: $80k

Salary requested: $100k

What was the situation when you decided you needed to negotiate your salary?

I’ve been with my company for two years and honestly, I’ve been negotiating since day 1. When I was first hired as the Director of Customer Insights I was very clear about the salary I needed in order to accept the position. The company I work for is a startup so they’re used to paying under market because so many people are drawn to the idea of working for an early stage tech company in hopes that there is a big payoff down the line.

I completely understood that I would be paid less, but I also knew that they needed someone with my experience to really accelerate and grow this part of the company.

When I was first offered the position, I was clear that my salary target was $100k. I felt like this fairly represented the value that I brought to the company, while still being fair and taking into account that they didn’t have the budget to pay more. They were able to offer $80k with a promise that it could be re-assessed in a year. They also assured me that there would be huge opportunities for growth and if I performed well I could be leading a department very soon. I was confident that in a year I would receive a raise increasing my salary to $100k.

I worked extremely hard that first year and focused on accomplishing the goals that had been set for me. Right at the one-year mark, the company reorganized and I was given a promotion to lead the department. I was thrilled with the opportunity, but when I received the raise information, I was frustrated. While I had been given so much more responsibility, my salary was only increased to $90k, still short of my original request.

I knew that I couldn’t settle and I needed to begin negotiating hard to get the full raise that I knew I deserved.

How did you decide what to say?

My previous strategy of just working hard and expecting to be rewarded wasn’t enough. The first year had taught me that.

I also knew that they were clearly very happy with my performance since they promoted me to head of the department and I was responsible for hiring and building a team of 5 to work with me.

I decided that my tactic this time would be to not only be clear about the amount I was asking for, but also be clear about exactly what I would deliver in return. I wanted to have specific goals and benchmarks that we both agreed on so that in 6 months it would be clear that I deserved the raise.

I created a list of things that I thought would merit a significant raise, including increasing the average customer order size (meaning more revenue for the company) and building a high functioning team. Armed with these very specific goals I knew that I could have a rational, unemotional conversation about the raise.

How did the conversation go?

I started by acknowledging that I was so excited with the new opportunity to lead the group. I then laid out my plans and my specific goals for the next 6 months.

Once my manager was on-board with this, I went into the salary negotiation. I let her know that I was very disappointed with the salary increase – I was taking on significantly more work and I still hadn’t been given the full increase I asked for when I started.

From there the conversation became argumentative. She explained that when you work at a startup you often work for less but you have more opportunities than you would have with a corporate job: more autonomy, more responsibility, and the ability to build something amazing.

I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere during this conversation so I ended it without a resolution and decided to bring it up again in our meeting the next week.

During that next meeting I was even more direct with my request. I again laid out my goals and then specified that if I met those goals in the next 6 months, I expected a raise. If that didn’t happen, I let her know that I would start looking elsewhere.

She was much more rational during this conversation and told me that she understood where I was coming from and that she would speak with the CEO.

What was the end result?

About a week after that meeting we created a performance plan outlining everything I was going to deliver in the next six months. I put the date in my calendar to make sure that I followed up.

At the 6-month mark I met with my boss again and brought my performance plan with results. It was crystal clear that I had delivered what was expected of me and my boss agreed. A week later I was finally given the raise to $100k.

What advice do you have for other women?

Don’t shy away from having very specific, bold conversations. From the beginning I should have been more specific about what I was going to deliver and when I expected a full raise. Keeping my head down and working hard didn’t get me what I wanted.

Don’t take “no” as the final answer. I believed in my work and I knew that if I created a strong case for myself, I could turn their “no” into a “yes”.

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