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Three Things Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know So He Can Keep Underpaying You

Ed Kennedy; Career Development

Who wants to under-earn?  Nobody, right?  But for some reason, women tend to settle for less money than they deserve.  In fact, only 12.5 percent of women negotiated for their starting salary versus 52 percent of men, according to Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda Babcock. Women are four times less likely than men to ask for a raise, Babcock says.

Add COVID-19 unemployment to the mix and you have men and women too scared to ask for a raise or negotiate a beginning salary.  Bosses can play into this fear by using 3 key devices that make it easier to keep you underpaid. These can either be calculated or baked into your organizational culture to the point that your boss isn’t even aware of them.

Since payroll is the biggest expense for most companies, it’s usually the first place they target for controlling costs or budget cuts.  Often the higher up you are, the more likely your boss is using one or more of these tactics.

 #1 They hide information that shows how valuable you are

How much are you worth to your company?  Literally, figure this out.  The more you know about the value you bring to your job, the more powerful you are.  This may require some digging.  Don’t let COVID-related fear keep you from earning what you deserve. Instead, flex your power by gathering information that proves your value to your company.  The more specific the better.  This is up to you, not your boss.

What you can do about it:

Track expenses and sales to show improvements since you came aboard.  Keep a file of positive comments customers and employees have made about you.  If you’re the first person to hold this position, show positive changes that have come about since the position was established.  Same thing if you have reorganized a department, updated a workflow or launched a marketing campaign.

Below are a few examples of how employees generate value for their employers and customers. Some are tangible (e.g. revenue or expenses) and others are intangible (customer satisfaction).

Tangible Value

Intangible Value

●        Increase in revenue compared to previous month, quarter, or year

●        Decrease in expenses compared to previous month, quarter, or year


●        Increase in customer satisfaction score (CSAT) surveys

●        Increase in Net-Promoter-Score (NPS) surveys

●        Increase in customer engagement (e.g. more customers attend an event, visited website, contacted our department, etc.0

Reduction in customer complaints

#2 They Hide How Profitable the Company is

Especially in the COVID era, everyone’s so used to hearing it’s been a bad quarter, the economy sucks and there’s no money for raises.  We’re lucky to have ANY job, right?  But remember that many businesses are surviving and some are even thriving. The way to protect yourself against this red-alert rhetoric is to be able to prove that what you do is helping your company make a profit.  If your boss says the company can’t afford to give you a raise, ask for proof.  Again, this is up to you.

What you can do about it:

Get the facts on your company’s performance.  Look for income statements, sales records and profit-and-loss statements.  Don’t settle for ambiguous answers or “hard times” excuses.  Dig deeper for facts to prove or disprove the health of your company’s bottom line.  Be armed with this information before you even ask  for a raise.  When you can prove that your work has contributed to your company’s success you should share in the rewards.

#3 They Distract with False Allure of a New Title

When they can’t give you a raise some employers will try to placate you with a new title.  I’ve seen so many clients in my career coaching business who have taken on additional responsibilities with no pay raise but a fancy new title.  They slap Senior or Manager on your email signature and feel like they’ve compensated you. Some settle for a shiny new title like Senior Vice-President or Director without any accompanying pay raise.  Some are given the new title with the promise of an accompanying raise “down the road.”  Employers present these new titles as a promotion but they are just words.  Don’t fall for the trap.

What you can do about it:

Stay focused on your goal of getting a raise.  Stand firm against attempts to manipulate you with games based on loyalty and ego.  Don’t set a precedent for settling for a title. That just makes it harder to get paid fairly in the future.

Sometimes it can help to work on your career development with other women, that's why we've created the Queen of Your Career Workshop: COVID-19 Edition.

Here are some quick tips to help you figure out your value to your employer.

#1 Conduct your own Salary Survey

Sign up for a free trial at a website like Make sure to sign up from the employer perspective.  Once you provide some basic information about company size and the type of position you’re in, PayScale will generate a report showing you the value of your position.  You can use this information when asking for a raise or when negotiating your beginning salary at a new job. Employer Report

  1. Thought experiment: What if You Quit Today?

Women often don’t realize how much value they bring to an organization.  Let’s say you walked out on your job today, right now.  What actions, planning, meetings and decision-making would be dumped on your boss or someone new?   Who would train your replacement and how long would that take?  Get as specific as you can and have fun with it! What would be the tangible cost to the business and what would be the intangible cost?

  1. Show How You Increase Sales or Decrease Expenses.

The language of business is the language of profit and loss.  If you want your boss to hear your message, speak in numbers.  Keep detailed notes of instances where your work led to increases in sales or decreases in expenses.  Maybe even start a spreadsheet with dates, amounts saved and positive comments.  This will pay off nicely whether you’re asking for a raise or looking for a new job.  This is called becoming indispensable (one of many topic covered in the Queen of Your Career Workshop) The more specific the better!

Don't let them stop you:

You hold more power than you realize when it comes to setting or negotiating your salary. Your secret weapon is data.  Use it to prove what you’re worth and what your company can afford.

Register for the upcoming Queen of Your Career Workshop: COVID-19 Edition (Saturday Dec. 12 @ 9AM Pacific / 12PM Eastern). Use code "QUEEN" at checkout to secure your seat for just $37!

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