You Got This!

A People Pleaser's Guide to Salary Negotiation

Negotiating salaries is hard. It's harder if you have a pathological need for people to like you. If you don't negotiate you will fall behind your peers and won't reach your full earning potential. This talk demystifies negotiation and empowers the attendees to earn as much as their peers while staying true to their personality. This talk is for people who can't sleep at night because they accidentally said something borderline rude three years ago and still feel bad about it.

Related collections

Sponsored by



All right. Thank you so much, Erin, for that great introduction. Hello, everybody. This is A People Pleaser’s Guide to Salary Negotiation. And I, as Erin mentioned, am Colleen Lavin. First thing first. Why am I giving this talk? I am -- I desperately want everyone everywhere to like me. I say that I'm a recovering people pleaser. But that just means that I'm identified that about myself. And sometimes try to change it. I picked a picture of me with my dog on the screen so you would like me more. I come from a long line of people pleasers. And here in Chicago, they're just called Midwesterners. And I've identified that it's there. And I used a slightly brisk tone with a neighbor yesterday and she'll tell the neighbors and then I'll have to move, and then get blacklisted from the moving company and have to move all my possessions myself and I don't have the upper body strength for that. And can you believe, that I used to be worse than that.

When I first got started in tech, I felt lucky to even get interviews. I could barely believe people would hire me. I was new and very aware of the things I didn't know. So, when I got my first job offer and it was a little lower than what I wanted and what I'd researched it should be, I wasn't sure what to do.

So, I asked my mom who you may remember from a few sentences ago, is a people pleaser too. She proceeded to give me the worst negotiation advice the world has ever seen. Can any of you guess what that is?

Just put it in the chat. I can see it if you have any guesses. All right. If there's no guesses, I'm just going to tell you. If you are prepared for this... just tell the hiring manager that you trust them and are sure that they'll give you a fair wage. Please, please, be smarter than me and do not under any circumstances say this in an interview. Like, I was new. My brain cells probably weren't really working that day. Because I said those words. Verbatim. I can talk today.

Later I found out that other coworkers in my role were making 5 to 20,000 more a year than me. So, to properly negotiate, I've increased my salary we 85% in the last two years. Some of that is from experience. But I've also become comfortable saying no to lowball offers. It's really scary at first. But it's worth it. I've gotten offers increased by 20,000 while still being myself and still being nice. So, I feel like I've got to do it. I will never -- I will never take a job again without negotiation.

So, how do you tell if you're a people pleaser? Here are some of the things that I think. Really, if you're watching this, you probably think that you're a people pleaser. But you also -- you might be a people pleaser if you apologize when someone else runs into you. Or it's the thought of sending a boundary fills you with dread. Other people's needs, don't put them above your own. And you are concerned -- this is the most important one -- you are probably a people pleaser if you are concerned at any point in the negotiation process that the the other person might not want to be your friend if you ask for more.

And I'm gonna break it to you. They're not your friend anywhere. They probably won't be your friend. It matters that they like you to an extent. But you're not going to be exchanging friendship bracelets after this at any time.

So, being a people pleaser, negotiating in general. Why does any of this matter? Outside of my own personal experience? So, according to a survey from Fidelity Investments, 58% of people surveyed, which were all Americans, by the way, so, this is American-centric data. But 58% of people surveyed did not negotiate and accepted the job they were offered as-is salary-wise. However, 70% of managers from that same study expected negotiation when they made -- or expect negotiation when they make a job offer. And because of that, those who negotiate kind of succeed. According to that same survey from Fidelity, 85% of people surveyed who countered on salary or other compensation or benefits or all of the above got at least some of what they asked for.

So, who does this actually hurt? So, people pleasers can be any race or gender. However, the majority of self-identified people pleasers are either women or some other under-represented group. Usually, I will get into little bit of why people are people pleasers and a big portion of it comes from a defense mechanism where the world sees you harsher than you are sometimes. So, people like to couch all of their words in extra niceness.

So, they can't be misperceived. Which is understandable. But not the best for the job negotiation.

All right. 46% of men negotiated their salary for their current job. And I couldn't find the same statistics from Fidelity. So, these don't fully match up with the other ones. But that is okay. And 34% of women negotiated the salary for their current job. And the gender gap in negotiation may partially -- may partially explain the gender pay gap as a whole. Compared to the median earnings of white men working full-time, Hispanic women full-time earnings -- I need to take a sip of water.

Hispanic women's full-time earnings in 2021 were just 58%. Black women, 63.1%. And white women's, 79.6% according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. And that also applies to raises, by the way. White men, men in general, but especially white men, are most likely to have asked for a raise at some point in their career. Also most likely to be successful at it.

So, for a while, I used to think, like, I should just act exactly like that. I don't know how many of you have watched the TV show 30 Rock. But I would try and -- I would try and channel Jack Donaghy, the executive from it. Who is kind of a parody of what a successful businessman should be. But caricatures are also the easiest to imitate. And that didn't really work for me. It felt foreign, it felt odd. And honestly, I felt wrong doing it.

Because I also was judged more harshly because of it. I believe. Because implicit and explicit bias exists. This is not fully a problem than be fixed by leaning in. I despise the phrase "Leaning in." We're not going to fix inequality with a conference talk and a can-do attitude. Men are offered higher salaries than women for the same job. 60% of the time, even before negotiation, this works. And what we can do is try our damnedest to get the wages our peers are getting. We can work to make the hiring process at our jobs equitable. Once you get hired, do not hold back your opinions. Try and get involved. We can lift each other up. But also have to put forth effort and at least try to negotiate. Traditional negotiation advice is aimed at white men, usually. And it does not account for bias.

When women or minorities in general negotiate, it can be seen as pushy or greedy. So, you've got to find what works for you and what you're comfortable with. With that said, here are some things that have worked for me.

They might all work for you. More likely some of them will work for you, some of them won't. You know yourself best. And I'm sure you're going to find your process with some trial and error.

All right. Tactic one. Research, research, research! At the start of your job interview, take a look at all the salary data you can find. I like looking at Glassdoor, a bunch of other websites. And also, going into Slack groups and just asking people to share their salaries anonymously or not. It's very helpful.

Then I also like writing a list of my non-negotiables. Salary is the most common for this. But they don't have to be money. In my last job search, my highest non-negotiable was the manager. What manager I would have and what they were like. I wanted to make sure that I had someone who I fully believed would advocate for me. And so, I picked my job versus another one because of it. And I'm happy every day that I did.

But you also kind of have to be prepared to walk. If they don't have your non-negotiables. And tactic two. Find motivation, real or imaginary. Maybe you don't need this, but I am a complete and total baby when it comes to things that intimidate me. So, whenever I need to do something scary, I make myself a little prize team. Like if I can get them to up their offer by 10K, then I'm gonna get myself a fancy latte from my favorite coffee shop. I've negotiated a sign-on bonus, guess who gets a croissant? Extra vacation days? Looks like somebody gets to watch her favorite movie tonight. It is a tactic that is often used on 5-year-olds. But it works really well when self-imposed on me. So, I don't think I'm the only one for that, though.

I have a few -- the other thing that really works for me is conjuring up the most loathsome person I can think about or I can imagine, and pretending that I'm competing against them for the job. My person is this guy that once told me to be more lady-like at a hackathon. Whenever I'm about to give up, I imagine him going for the same job and getting offered a higher salary than me. And I want to win against that guy. My people pleasing goes out the window when I'm up against jerks.

And finally, the last one is just looking at pictures of the -- of a thing you really, really want. For me, between -- or right before my last job, I really wanted a dog. And so what about it meant I needed to live in a dog-friendly building and I also had to have extra money for dog emergencies. So, this is really silly motivation. But I put Petfinder, the dog shelter site on in the background when I was doing negotiations. And it worked for me. Saying, do it for the dog was a lot easier than saying, do it for myself. And it's funny that all of these things work for me, but they do.

I don't know why it is, but finding different motivations helps so much. I'm more incentivized by an immediate fancy coffee than I am with the thought of $10,000 in the future. And that's something broken about my brain, maybe. But it's also something for -- something a lot of other people that I've talked to have had the same experience with. Because negotiated money doesn't -- in the moment, the money doesn't feel real. So, this is why I always needed motivation. A lot of my motivation, by the way, is just imaginary. Because I'm using a lot of things, but I watch too many of them. Miss Nick from New Girl summarizing my negotiation tactic. I will make these intricate situations up in my head.

All right. Tactic three also builds on that. Project false confidence. I believe in myself in a lot of ways. But when negotiating, it's hard to believe that I deserve that amount of money. That I'm asking for a lot of the time. Part of this is because I grew up with a mom who is a teacher. A lot of my friends are teachers or social workers. And it feels wrong to be making two to 5x what they make. It is wrong, they need to be paid more. But me being paid less doesn't actually impact that. So, like I mentioned earlier, whether I first started negotiating, I tried to channel Jack Donaghy. That didn't feel right. So, now I try to channel myself. But the best version.

I listen to songs -- I listened to this one song Chip on My Shoulder from Legally blond: The Musical. And it gets me pumped up and helps with any hard situation. And another thing that worked has been watching old episodes of Parks & Rec, specifically the flu season episode. And making my friend give me pep talks right before a negotiation. So, find something that works for you.

And part of projecting false confidence for me, at least, comes with writing a script. Virtual interviews are the greatest development for those naturally averse to negotiation. And really conflict haters. So, what I do now is I have a Google Doc -- a Google Docs tab open with exactly what I am supposed to say in each situation. And if I feel like I don't know how to conjure up words in my own brain, I just look at that and read it aloud. It works a lot better.

And here are some of the scripts that I use. So, these are just a few scenarios. I've got one for the initial question -- the initial salary question in an interview. Try not to give a number, by the way, at any point in time early on. But it's -- I usually have a lot of non-answers there. Then there's another one for, you just -- when I just received my initial offer and lastly, when you -- when I get a counteroffer back, it's on the lower end of what my research said that I should accept. And so, I've got to figure out how to get -- get what I want or get something I feel happy about out of the situation. And you'll notice all of these responses still are nice. They're polite. They probably have too many pleases and thank yous in them. I'm Midwestern, it's not going away. I still feel like myself when saying them. But they're also bringing me closer to exactly what I want.

And all right. So, those are the scripts. The last tactic is stick to email whenever you can. It is right after you get the first offer, send them an email reiterating your counteroffer in more detail. And then try and keep that email thread going. A lot of the time during negotiations, they'll want to get you on the phone. I try and get out of that when possible. I say that I'm really busy. Which a lot of the time is the truth. But it's also that having the time and space to think about exactly what I want and write it down gives clarity. It removes a lot of the pressure. There's no immediate... the ability to think on my feet is not needed over email. So, I highly recommend it. So, those are the five tactics that work for me.

And I hope some of them work for you. Here are some of the resources that I've used overall. These are just some of them. I really recommend the top two especially. Bad with Money. The podcast. That's an episode called Negotiating like Taylor Swift. It was the first thing that really got me thinking about negotiating. And then the second one, Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued by Patrick Mckenzie is awesome. Now, that's all I've got. Does anyone have any questions?