Don’t Leave Money On The Table. How Wonder Woman can help you negotiate a raise.

Posted by on April 9, 2015 in Career change, Coaching, Leadership, Negotiation | 0 comments

Don’t Leave Money On The Table. How Wonder Woman can help you negotiate a raise.

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One of the most satisfying parts of my job is helping people negotiate raises, the biggest one to date is a 35% increase! For people of color, women and LGBTQ workers there is a pay gap which means there is almost certainly money left on the table. April 14 is “Equal Pay Day” – the day that women would have to work into the next year to be paid the same as their male counterpart. There are even more significant gaps when you take race, disability status and/or LGBTQ identities into consideration.(1) We shouldn’t have to negotiate for pay equity, but the reality today is that unless you’re asking for a raise, you’re probably not getting paid what your straight, white, able bodied, male colleagues are making.

Here’s the thing – the process of negotiating can be really empowering for you, and everyone in your broader community. By speaking up for yourself, you’re learning skills you can share, and creating an opportunity for those who come after you. Think about it if you pave the way, inspire or help someone in your community to negotiate for even $1,000 more on their first job, that can bring in more money for them over forty years of work than winning one $40,000 raise! Advocating for yourself opens up space to help others like you to do the same.

Did you see what I did there? This perspective on negotiating makes it easy for me to ask for more, and to help others earn more in turn. I’ve noticed when many of my clients start thinking about the details of negotiating, something comes over them. They begin pointing out what they don’t do perfectly, and begin building a case against themselves in their heads.

Think about walking into a room to negotiate with these two different perspectives, let’s call them “I’m creating opportunity” and “I suck.” Which one do you think will have the better outcome? Negotiation starts with finding a perspective that works for you and makes it easy. Some people like to think about it as a game, or a chance to demonstrate to your organization that you can stand up for what the organization needs in other settings. I personally like to see my employer as a partner in negotiating. I have picked them because they are someone I really want to work with – it’s my job to put everything on the table that will help me do a good job and stay for a long time. What perspective will help you?

Starting with a good mental perspective is key, beyond that, here’s are 5 tips for more effective negotiations:

  1. Do your homework and bring numbers. What are other people getting paid in your company and your industry? (Check sites like Guidestar  to see what non-profit leaders are being paid, or sites like Glassdoor or for the rest of the world. Some industries have sites specific to a particular industry or market, ask around). Do you have another offer on the table? What has been the quantitative impact of your work? Narrow this down to three top bullet points that you can remember and emphasize. Decide what one thing you must not say/do and stick to it.
  2. Think about different ways to frame your number. If your raise is framed as a ‘cost of living increase’ it may be really small. If you can change the frame to “reevaluating your base pay,” or you can argue that you’re doing a different job than you were hired for, or if you are being wooed away by someone who pays more, you can make a case that will allow for a wider range. Think about what experience you brought to the job that may have been overlooked in determining your seniority, or elements on your resume that may not have been evaluated correctly. This is especially important if you didn’t negotiate when you were first hired or have an equitable pay scale at your job. All of these strategies can raise the bar that your raise will be measured against.
  3. Know your rights. You know that poster by the bathroom with all the fine print? You have a lot of protections under Federal law (thank you labor movement and friends!). “Federal laws prohibit job discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, equal pay, disability and genetic information.“ (there are only limited protections for LGBTQ workers, more work still to be done!). All this means it’s illegal for people of color or women to be paid less while doing the same work. Employers are not supposed to forbid you from discussing pay with your coworkers. If you have a disability you have the right to ask for accommodations. You should not be an independent contractor unless you have significant freedom in your work (no hours, no office, no detailed supervision, etc). Your state and local laws may protect you even more. There are a lot of things that are against the law, but they still happen. Knowing what you’re entitled to, and being able to talk about what is required under the law gives you a firm bargaining chip (and potentially grounds for action).
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Pick a friend or work with a coach to develop and practice your negotiation. Treat it like ‘game day’ where you imagine walking through the door, what you’ll say, and how you’ll leave. Here’s where Wonder Woman comes in! Amy Cuddy did some really interesting research particularly focused on helping people of color and women in negotiations and she has developed a strategy for using body language to get more money or a better outcome. This short video explains how it works and shows you how standing in a “Wonder Woman” pose for two minutes before a negotiation is scientifically proven to help you in earn a better outcome.
  5. Think about bringing another offer to the table. You can frame this as “I’d love to stay here because _______, but it’s hard to say ‘no’ to a higher offer. Can you help me close the gap?” Use this tactic carefully, because though it’s one of the most effective approaches, some bosses or organizations write you off if they think you have one foot out the door. If you can genuinely say “They pursued me” you can shift the process so that you and your boss are on the same side of the negotiation, trying to figure out how to keep you here. Coaching can help you think through tricky decisions like this one, and figure out how to finesse this strategy if you decide to use it.

The best way for you to get a raise might be to join a union, or get involved in changing policies (like raising the minimum wage, or passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act). You might want to advocate for a transparent pay scale – organizations with transparency have a smaller pay gap. Don’t overlook these options for advocacy. If you’re on your own though, you now have some more tools in your back pocket to help you and others in your community to earn more.

Hearing “no” is a good sign! If you don’t get to a firm ‘no’ you are probably leaving money on the table. Just remembering this fact can take the sting out of hearing it. Once you do hear ‘no’ it doesn’t necessarily mean the process is over. The leverage might have flipped in your favor. If you have a strong hand, and your company can’t increase your salary but wants to keep you, now is the time to get creative and explore other tradeoffs for the dollars they can’t pay. Is there a title/role that would make you more effective now and more valuable on the market in the future? Would you like a shorter work week? Professional development opportunities? A more flexible day? An opportunity to play a leadership role on a project, or shadow a senior leader who has skills you’d like to learn? A long vacation? Keep brainstorming with your employer, there are a lot of win-win opportunities for both of you which come from another budget or don’t cost money.

If you don’t get what you’re negotiating for, it’s worth thinking about what that means for you. Is it time to change jobs? Time to stop working overtime and reclaim those hours to take classes or volunteer for something that will advance your career? Being clear about what your Plan B is helps can help you be confident and calm. If you have two good options, you’re working with an employer to make theirs the one you chose.

Again, part of what love about negotiation is the way that my clients increase their leadership in the process, and bring along others by breaking glass ceilings and sharing their experience with their broader community. You might not be Wonder Woman, but advocating for yourself can make you feel as powerful as she is. Paving the way for others in your community and helping us all close the pay gap counts in my book as a little bit heroic.

A note for employers & managers:

Having someone negotiate for a salary increase has an up-side for you too. One of my clients, Tatiana, felt invisible at her job in a creative company. Through the process of negotiating a salary increase she began to see herself as a peer with a lot more to offer. She won a 35% increase and the supervisor she negotiated with called her a “tough cookie.” The process made her more invested in her career and abilities, but also in the company being more of a  leader in their field. As a result, she started working longer hours, volunteered for projects that required more responsibility and took classes to improve her skills. Not only did the negotiation process empower her, and significantly improve her bank account balance, but it also made her a more valuable employee. If you think that your company might be out of compliance with the Equal Pay Act, it’s worth looking at how you can ensure your employees know that equal work means equal pay in your organization.


 Shop Indie Bookstores Ask for It. This is a great book that acknowledges the pay gap and has strategies for effective negotiation.

* Ask for a Raise? Why most women hesitate. This is a short article interviewing the authors of “Ask For It” if you want the cliff notes.

* Amy Cuddy’s “body language makes you powerful” video.

(1) For a quick glance at race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and pay gaps, here are a few articles you might find interesting.
Race + Gender:
LGBTQ identities:
Disability status:

Julie Roberts-Phung is a career and leadership coach whose change-making clients do exciting things with their lives. To explore how coaching can help you in negotiations, you can make an appointment for a free strategy session here:

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