Sense of Self-Worth
In addition to the very real impact on your pocketbook, failing to negotiate can exact a psychological cost as well. Kathleen, a 30-something accountant in Chicago, recalls accepting a promotion within her firm without trying to negotiate the salary. Only later did she discover that the man who previously held the position earned $5,000 more. Initially, the difference didn't bother her. "I figured he must have had more experience or something, and that's why he had gotten more."
Over time, however, as she collaborated with the man (who also had received a promotion) on different projects, Kathleen became frustrated. "He was a nice guy, but no more experienced or competent than I was."
When she asked her boss about the discrepancy, Kathleen was told that her predecessor had more experience that was directly relevant to the position. "This wasn't very convincing. Our work experience had been very similar," she says. Figuring her chances for ever getting much more money were pretty slim, Kathleen left the company about a year later for a similar position with a new company. This time, she did negotiate a significant boost in her salary.
Given the tremendous cost of staying silent, why don't women speak up? For starters, many worry more about maintaining a relationship with the person with whom they're negotiating, than about promoting their own needs.
Girls are socialized to think of others' feelings, says Babcock. "From the day they're born, they're given messages to think about other people."
"Women think they'll hurt the relationship if they ask for what they want," says Andrea Kay, a Cincinnati-based career counselor and author of three books on job hunting. They don't want to make someone angry by asking for something that imposes a cost -- financial or otherwise -- on the other person, adds Kay.
A lack of self-confidence is another reason, says Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD, a leadership psychologist and chief executive officer with Battley Performance Consulting in Stony Brook, New York. "Deep down, they are not truly certain that they are entitled to (the additional money) or sufficiently competent."
At the same time, women can be overly fearful of their request being rejected, says Battley. Because they often take rejection personally -- rather than viewing it as a business decision -- women may avoid making requests that could be turned down, she adds.
Finally, many women worry that they'll come across as pushy if they ask for what they want. "Women think, 'If I ask a direct question, it will make the other person uncomfortable,'" says Carl Robinson, PhD, a consulting psychologist and principal of the Seattle-based Advanced Leadership Consulting.
In fact, asking for what you want can have a result that's just the opposite of what you might think. Debbie, 37, a New York-based professional in the food industry, was interviewing for a new job. When it came time to negotiate salary, she asked for $15,000 more than she had been making at her previous job.
She got it. Later, the woman who interviewed her said she liked the fact that Debbie was "gutsy enough to ask for that number. It made me think she would be just as dynamic on behalf of our company."