When No Doesn't Mean No: How and When to Bounce Back From Rejection
Fear of rejection doesn't just stop us from approaching a potential soulmate at a bar – it can also hinder professional development, especially when it comes to salary negotiation. Asking for a raise often requires a lot of courage, and hearing "no" can be a serious blow to your self-esteem. However, when it comes to your career, sometimes a "no" really just means "not now." Knowing what to do when you don't get the raise you ask for can actually teach you how to build a stronger case in the future.
To learn how and when one should bounce back from apparent rejection, we spoke to Lydia Dishman, a journalist who writes about career and business trends for The Guardian, Fast Company, Fortune, and more. She's also a great negotiator who knows from experience that sometimes asking for a raise and not getting it can set you up for even greater long-term success.
When was the first time you negotiated your salary?
"I negotiated my salary when I received my very first job offer after college graduation. I asked for $2,000 more than they were initially offering and was immediately turned down. I was told that entry-level employees were paid a pretty standard amount across the board, but that I would be up for a review and a potential raise in six months. I didn't accept right away, I seem to recall it was close to the weekend, so I told my future boss I'd like to think on it. I did accept."
Lesson: Always negotiate. Even if you don't get more money, you might gain some valuable knowledge.
What inspired you to negotiate so young? Was it careful research, transparent pay data, or a strong mentor?
"I wish I could say that I had the knowledge that graduating during a recession already had set me back in terms of lifelong earning potential. Instead, I think I was just naive to the ways of big corporations, salary bands, and title tiers, and ballsy enough to think that my degree and related internships made me some kind of stellar candidate."
Lesson: Being brave pays off. Even though Ms. Dishman didn't get the raise she asked for, it gave her the insider information that her performance in the first six months would have a direct impact on future pay. That motivated her even more to work even harder, and as a result, she got a raise after six months on the job.
What should negotiators do when they don't get the raise they ask for?
"If you hear no after putting a bid on the table, take it as an opportunity to revisit the ask. If it is completely monetary, can you perhaps request that something else, such as flex time or some other compensation, be substituted? Or, like in my case, ask to revisit in six months with specific metrics or goals that tie directly to the company's success."
Lesson: Salary negotiation isn't just about money. If budget for salary is maxxed out, ask about other parts of your compensation package.
Why do you think so many people are scared to ask for a raise?
"Asking for money makes people uncomfortable, in part, because we tend to keep financial information out of most conversations with peers and higher ups."
Lesson: Salary negotiation is no time for self-doubt. Go into every negotiation with a list of your recent accomplishments. Those accomplishments should assure not only your manager, but also yourself, that you are indeed worthy of what you're asking for.
A list of complimentary emails won't dispel all the fear associated with negotiation. It's natural to be nervous when it comes to talking about money, but that shouldn't stop you.
What can employers do to improve the salary negotiation process and make it less intimidating and more fair for all employees?
"Several companies I've interviewed that have salary transparency have gotten past this issue. Talking about pay shouldn't be stigmatized; it's important to know where you stand. If your company doesn't offer this, sites such as Payscale can provide data on your company or others like it so you can see if you are being compensated fairly within your industry."
Lesson: Companies that do practice pay transparency see increased employee retention and job satisfaction. Dishman has written extensively about companies, like Buffer, Xactly, and Figure53, amongst others, who are practicing pay transparency. These companies have lower turnover and happier employees.
Why do you think women are less likely to negotiate?
"Women often feel as though in order to be competitive -- or even just to apply for a particular position -- we feel the need to have more than all the skills such a job would require. Research has borne this out indicating that men will throw their hat in the ring even with two or three requisite skills while women won't. Negotiating is an extension of that. Many women are great at talking themselves out of why they deserve a higher salary or benefits."
Lesson: This isn't just a belief. Studies show that men are four times as likely to ask for a raise, and that when they do, they ask for 30 percent more than their female counterparts.
If you aren't earning the salary you're worth, you must break through the traps of self-doubt and fear of rejection. Seventy-five percent of people who told PayScale that they had asked for a raise got one, and even if you don't hear a resounding "yes," it can be the beginning of a long-term plan that will get you to the salary you deserve.
About the Author
Lydia Dishman is a business journalist writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, commerce, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others. She is coauthor of the book Survive to Thrive..