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June 9, 2021

Sarah’s Negotiation

Sarah has been with her company for nearly 20 years. When her boss left her role to temporarily support an initiative for the department, Sarah was asked to take on additional responsibilities until she returned. A few months later her boss continued to support the initiative, leaving Sarah with the additional responsibilities for longer than planned. For nearly a year, Sarah performed her increased workload without a change to her title or compensation.

While in her expanded role, Sarah heard a talk from Worthmore’s founder Kathryn Valentine. During the talk, an audience member shared their hesitancy towards going into a negotiation conversation and not getting anything out of it. Kathryn’s response stuck with Sarah – ‘if that happens, maybe that’s not a place that’s serving you.’

Sarah thought about her own situation. She knew she was a valuable member of the team, and that she was filling in for her boss beyond the original commitment. Kathryn’s description of ‘communal negotiation’ resonated – by carrying forward the additional responsibilities, she was enabling her boss to fulfill other needs for the company.

Although she knew she deserved a raise, making the ask was out of her comfort zone. She had deterring thoughts – maybe this is pointless; maybe this is the wrong time; maybe this won’t land well. Nonetheless, Sarah setup the conversation. She communicated her value, putting Kathryn’s ‘communal negotiation’ strategy into play. The conversation was quick and ended without a clear positive indication. But only two working days later, she learned that her base salary would increase by a substantial percentage.

This was a HUGE success for Sarah. The increase to her base salary was a lasting change, with implications for her bonus and stock. Beyond the compensation, she felt valued by her company’s willingness to listen and act. When asked if she would do anything differently, she had just one thought: “I wish I had done it sooner.”

Sarah’s story doesn’t end there. A month later, a female colleague in another department asked about openings in Sarah’s org. The woman’s job grade had shifted after a reorganization, and she felt undervalued by her new level. Sarah felt compassion for the situation – the woman was a strong performer, and the department wouldn’t want to lose her. Sarah shared her recent negotiation success and encouraged the colleague to negotiate with the advice from Kathryn’s talk. ‘The worst they could say is no’, she explained, ‘and if you are told no and truly believe you deserve a raise, then maybe that’s not a place that’s serving you.’

The colleague went to her boss and communicated the value she brought to the department. She left the conversation with both an increase in compensation and an increase in job grade.

It took only 5 minutes for Sarah to earn a raise – the most challenging part was deciding to ask. When Sarah thinks forward to the next few years and her next raise or promotion, she knows she won’t wait as long to ask.

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