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Career Advancement

How to Ask for What You Want at Work—Including More Money

Reluctant to ask for what you want at work? It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s worth doing, for the sake of your career. If you don’t speak up, you’re putting yourself at a significant disadvantage. Find out more in Forté’s Women Lead webinar, Why Don’t Women Ask, which featured Michelle Duguid, a professor at Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, where she teaches such courses as Women and Leadership, Negotiations, and Power and Influence.

At the beginning of the webinar, Duguid offered a reminder that we should always be negotiating. She said, “Usually when people think about negotiations and asking for things, they tend to think of these very big moments—negotiating for a salary, negotiating for a raise, or when you’re buying a house or a car—but we negotiate all the time, and you should be asking all the time for things that you think you need to be successful.” She explained that this includes things like asking for more time and asking to be taken off of a project.

When she asked webinar participants to list a few of the reasons women don’t ask, responses included “fear of rejection,” “fear of hurting the relationship,” and “lack of confidence.” Duguid said another reason women don’t ask is because they don’t think they need to. When women join a new organization, they tend to believe that their new workplace knows exactly how much they’re worth. These women think, “I’m sure they’re going to treat me fairly. They’ll give me what I deserve.” She referred to recent research that showed that while women in white collar industries were more likely to assume they’d be paid fairly, men were more likely to do salary research and return to the negotiating table with hard numbers to back up their request for more money.

People Want to Say Yes

When you negotiate, it may feel like an uphill battle, but Duguid said that in general, people want to help you. They want to say yes, but they may not always be able to. She said, “Give people opportunities to say yes.” To do this, she recommends having a menu of things that you want, and that they may be able to give you. That way, as soon as you hear a no, you can immediately say, “If you can’t do this, maybe you can do that.”

It’s important to make your alternative request in the moment, as part of the initial conversation. Duguid said, “Rejections hurts. It sucks, and we want to retreat. We want to lick our wounds… but we can’t do that. We need to be resilient, and in that moment, be prepared to say, ‘If you can’t do this, can you do that?’”  She said that when someone retreats and then returns, it is seen as a brand new request, and the decision-maker is more likely to say no.

To hear more of Michelle Duguid’s powerful insights on the importance of asking for what you want—and the long-term benefits of doing so—listen to the on-demand recording of her Forté webinar, Women Lead: Why Don’t Women Ask.

A full library of previous Forté webinars is available to Premium Access Pass members. For $50/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars. 

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