“Do I not destroy my enemy when I make them my friend?" Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President, 1861-1865
By Marianne Eby
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, recently suggested that women should have faith in the “system” that will give them the right raise, rather than ask for a raise. He went further to call women superheroes for not asking. Nadella has since admitted that he was “completely wrong”. But in his mea culpa statement to Microsoft employees, Nadella got a few more things wrong, and that's where this blog begins.
In his original statement at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference (GHC), Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said that women shouldn’t ask for a raise; they should have “faith that the system will actually give you the right raise as you go along.” He went on to say that women who don’t ask for a raise have a “super power” in that they know how to use this “good karma” of not asking in order to get what they want.
Every good negotiator knows that you have to ask for what you want, and certainly there’s been a lot said (Bloomberg, CBC, Salon, et al.) about Nadella's live interview comments. We can take some comfort in the fact that Nadella's other stories, and his post fumble tweet, give us some indication that he too can have his eyes opened and learn from mistakes -- the mark of a good leader, and a good negotiator.
Nadella was being interviewed by Maria Klawe, a Microsoft Board Director and President of Harvey Mudd College, who was very professional and passionate in disagreeing with this man she respects so much:
"This is one of the very few things that I disagree with you on."
She gave some examples from her own career, and then said to the audience:
Here's my advice to all of you. First of all, do your homework. Make sure you actually know what a reasonable salary is."
Klawe also reminded women to role-play, or practice, the ask.
Klawe was right of course. And Nadella acknowledged that Klawe was right when he issued his written mea culpa to Microsoft employees:
“And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”
I want to share a negotiator’s perspective regarding what Nadella said in this more prepared written mea culpa. I want to talk about whether "deserving" is sufficient, and if the best way to go is to "just ask."
Deserve v Worth
Should you ask for a raise because you think it’s “deserved?”
Not exactly. You should ask for a raise because you are worth it.
You can accuse me of splicing words, but maybe the words we use to describe why we want something are critical to getting it.
You may deserve more money for lots of reasons, but are you worth it?
Also, if you think in terms of deserve, you may talk yourself out of asking for a raise if you think the system is not able to adjust based on unique talent or results. For example, if you are working in a system that is stepped, like a training program, law firm associate, government jobs, or someone who recently got this year’s compensation increase and is not due another one for a year, you might hesitate to discuss what you “deserve.”
But if you think in terms of worth, you are more likely to initiate the conversation anyway, because a “worth” conversation leads to ideas – like higher profile assignments, other positions, switching geographic or subject areas, meetings with key leaders, etc. When possibilities emerge, you and your boss can find ways to compensate you for your worth.
Master negotiators leverage the worth v. deserve distinction all the time. Don’t pay us more, or provide a higher quality product, or meet a shorter deadline because our company deserves it after we took a hit on the last deal; instead master negotiators say (and demonstrate with legitimacy sources) -- give us more in this negotiation because our product or service is worth it. Now the counterpart feels psychologically motivated to give more.
“Just ask” v. Plan your approach strategically
“Just ask” rubs me the wrong way too. If you are worth more to the organization, more than likely you will have to show it, not “just ask.” And to do that effectively, Klawe was spot on when she said you have to do your homework.
There are 3 main considerations that should be part of your homework – People, Data and Plan B:
What’s your plan B or BATNA -- Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? If this raise doesn’t work out, what are your next steps? Don’t wait. Network, share access and influence, help others. Test the market. Begin working on your plan B, or BATNA, now.
Any “ask” is the beginning of a negotiation – a conversation about how to address your worth. To be a real superhero, don’t “Just Ask “– Plan strategically to ask for your worth! And all my fabulous male negotiator colleagues -- this applies to you too!
One absolute positive from Nadella’s comments is that the ensuing discussion is loud and hopefully has legs beyond the tech sector.
The tech industry has 30%/70% workforce split of women to men. And as reported in the New York Times, while female computer scientists are catching up and making 89 percent of what men in the same occupation make, other professions in the tech industry may not be so lucky. For finance professionals across professions, for example, women make only 66% of what men make. And across industries, another study showed that in 2013, women working full time earned only 78% of what similarly situated men earned.
Raising awareness about women lagging behind in salaries and leadership positions is always a good thing because it propels change. I always opt for controversy over silence; controversy sparks conversation, which can lead to solutions. Similarly in negotiation, controversy (you want x and I want y in exchange) drives conversation, and that conversation leads to solutions.
(Review information on Watershed's Advancing Women Negotiators workshop.)