“House of Cards” star Robin Wright made headlines after revealing that she negotiated for a salary equal to that of her co-star Kevin Spacey. Kudos to her, right?
Right — except for one thing, says Katie Donovan, an equal pay consultant and public speaker.
“I hate every single headline that said, ‘Claire Underwood would be proud.’ They’re basically saying, for you, average Jane, to get ready to negotiate, you need to be a woman who literally killed people, had affairs, and is considered a witch among witches to be able to pull it off,” says Donovan, referencing the Machiavellian manuevers of Wright’s character, Claire Underwood.
Donovan is all for Wright negotiating equal pay, but comparing her tactics with those of her conniving onscreen character sends the wrong message to women. “Negotiating is just how business is done,” she says.
Here are Donovan’s three tips for negotiating a salary or promotion.
Do your research
“60 percent of people working in the private sector have some kind of pay secrecy in place,” says Donovan. Find out the market rate for your position by researching pay averages on sites like salary.com, payscale.com and glassdoor.com. You’ll find out not just where you stand in comparision to your colleages, but also how your company measures up to industry standards, says Donovan.
Focus on impact, not aptitude
The biggest negotiation error most people make is focusing on how good they are at their job, instead of their impact on the bottom line.
“Using Robin Wright as an example, she didn’t talk about the number of scenes she was in, or the amount of dialogue she had. She didn’t talk about what she actually did. She was talking about her impact. So for an employee in most companies, our impact is that we’re either saving the company money, or making the company money,” says Donovan.
When negotiating, Donovan suggests attaching monetary value to each job duty: “You could be a grocery store bagger. If you know how to bag using less bags, that saves the company money.”
Negotiations start at “no”
Before you sit down at the table, know this: “You are absolutely going to be denied — it’s meaningless,” says Donovan. “The first offer is the first offer, not the best offer.” There’s a laundry list of reasons why employers say that can’t pay more, so when you get that first no, keep going. But that’s where many women often back down.
“We [women] have a tendency to talk ourselves down a few notches. It’s unfortunate,” says Donovan, who acknolwedges that negotiating isn’t easy. “But the more women are doing it — negotiating with their employment — the more normalized it’s going to be.”