Position: Project Manager
Location: Portland, OR
Original salary: $49K
Negotiated salary: $75K + $10K in stock (approximately)
“I knew that they needed me more than I needed them.”
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary?
When I started with my company, I was one of three project managers. It was a small startup and the work hours were brutal. After 18 months one project manager left and they hadn’t yet hired her replacement. The other project manager and I were struggling with a crushing workload in an all male company. We bonded over our shared frustrations with the job and culture and soon realized that we both made $49K and hadn’t received a raise in the last two year.
The other project manager and I were both approached by a competitor looking to poach us. After some deliberation, I decided that I wasn’t ready to leave my company because I was dedicated to the growth and the vision that they had, even though I was struggling with the current situation. The other project manager took the position, put in her notice, and I was about to be the only one left in the department. The company was actively looking to hire replacements but I knew that there would be a few months where I was the only person handling the work load of three people.
Sensing my frustration (and stress) my manager invited me out for happy hour drinks one evening. I knew that he would ask me how I felt about the current situation and I wanted to come prepared.
How did you decide what to say?
I didn’t have a lot of time to prep for drinks, but I knew that I wanted to be brutally honest with my manager, without having it be an unproductive venting session.
I put myself in his position and realized that he was terrified of losing me. If I left, there would be no project managers, which is a problem for a startup with aggressive growth goals. Having been approached by recruiters, I knew I was marketable and I was in a position to ask for something big. I just needed to be clear and firm with what I wanted.
“Having been approached by recruiters, I knew I was marketable and I was in a position to ask for something big. I just needed to be clear and firm with what I wanted.”
How did the conversation go?
Once we sat down he kicked off our talk by asking how I was doing. I felt like I had been pushed to a point and I couldn’t hold back anymore. I was blunt with my feedback.
I told my manager that the same company had approached me but I wanted to be a loyal employee and I truly believed in the vision of the company. I wanted to stay but the situation right now wasn’t going to work. I had been loyal to them and now I needed them to be loyal to me.
Without hesitation I said that I wanted a raise to $70K and 1K in shares. I wanted to have a stake in the growth of the company. I also told him that I wanted to hire the two replacements and run the project management department as it grew.
The raise was bold – I was asking for a 43% increase. But I knew I deserved it and I knew that they needed me more than I needed them.
He didn’t push back at all and said he would discuss it with the CEO.
What was the end result?
He came back a few days later with my raise. They had given me more than what I asked for. He offered me a raise to $75K, the shares I had asked for, and a promotion to completely build and run the project management department.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even question what I was asking for and they came back with more. I felt like I had really been heard and I was valued.
What advice do you have for other women?
Be vocal about what you want. I could have been less direct and hoped that they gave me a raise or some other sort of bonus. I could have used the time with my manager to vent and talk about all of the things that I hated. But I used this time strategically. I wanted a raise. A big one. And I didn’t want to waste this moment.
Use a rationale the other person can appreciate. I dropped “loyalty” into the conversation as much as I possibly could. Working for a tech startup where turnover is high, I knew that loyalty was something the management team deeply valued. I didn’t want them to see me as someone who just wants to make a quick buck and jump to a new job. I wanted to signal to them that I was in this journey with them – I was part of the team. That was a more compelling argument than just focusing on how great I was or the current state of our department. They appreciate loyalty even more than talent. Knowing that helped me present my ask in the strongest way possible.
This article first appeared on Forbes.com