Forget Karma. How to Get a Raise.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella really blew it earlier htis month, when he said that women shouldn't ask for raises but instead trust that "the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along."

Women who don't ask for a raise will accrue "good karma," Nadella said at a conference celebrating women in tech. The implication: speaking up for yourself at work equals bad karma.

That's pretty lame advice for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that women at tech companies earn $6,358 less than their male colleagues, while women with at least one child earn $11,247 less than everyone else, according to a September report by the American Institute for Economic Research

Nadella apologized for his cluelessness and said a review at Microsoft found there's no pay gap between men and women employees of the software maker.

That would make Microsoft the exception rather than the rule. Nadella did not provide any data to back up his assertion.

All of which makes one of my favorite One Thing New pieces, about how to negotiate like a women -- and win, newly relevant.

Here are the highlights of that piece, which makes the hard-to-take point that even if you like to think of yourself as a straight shooter, we need to admit that negotiation is different for women. It would be great if we could just do  if you think you can just do what the guys do and have the same odds of getting what you want, think again. 

Not-for-profit group Catalyst found that women do ask for raises and promotions just as often as guys do, but they're less successful at getting them. And research from Michael Morris at the Columbia Business School and Emily Amanatullah, at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, shows that both men and women find women who are aggressive negotiators to be "unlikeable." Men don't have this problem, needless to say. And it doesn't bode well for your odds of success.

The researchers did uncover one situation in which female negotiators aren't penalized for being aggressive. It's when women negotiate on behalf of someone else. If you're trying to get a raise for your deputy (or because you think about it in terms of how it will benefit your family), you have the same odds of success as a guy would. So even at the negotiating table, most people still expect women to be caring, nurturing, and taking care of others.

Luckily, the researchers also have some ideas about how you can use this very persistent stereotype to your advantage.

I still think that asking nicely, being specific, and being willing to walk away form the basis of getting what you want. But, according to the researchers, it's also smart to address the stereotypes at work here -- and to hold your ground anyways. Here's what they suggest:

1. Use objective measures that are hard to ignore. Showing that you're paid less than other people in your position can be effective no matter what your gender. So if there's any hard data that will help your case, make sure you know it cold.

2. Love your job. Believe it or not, saying how much you love your job is a key point in your negotiation. You love representing your company, you love working with your colleagues. You cannot make this too clear. Why?

  • Emphasizing how happy you are in your work is another way of showing that you are embedded in a web of positive relationships in your company. By doing this, you're helping to keep yourself 'likeable' even though the act of negotiating may temporarily make you seem otherwise. By saying how much you like your job, you show you fit in.
  • By showing how well you fit in, you're saying, in a subtle way, that what's good for you, and what keeps you happy (more money! More flexibility!) is good for the company.

3. Show that you have internal support. If you can credibly say that someone higher up in the organization suggested you ask for a raise, do so. It'll make you seem less selfish. (I know that no guy would have to worry about seeming selfish, but this is the real world. Use what works).  

4. Try not to make it all about you and your achievements. Yes, this sounds completely counterintuitive, and you certainly don't want to ignore everything you've accomplished. But you also want to emphasize how much your team has done. Or show how your promotion will be good for the entire organization.

While karma may play some role in bringing good things your way, don't leave your paycheck up to fate. We're pretty sure that karma isn't the reason Nadella enjoys a pay package of roughly $84 million. -- Kimberly Weisul

October 23, 2014

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If you liked this story, you might also like:
Three Steps to Getting What You Want
Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay for Women and Toyo Tires 
The Basic Personal Finance Concept They Don't Teach in School

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