When thinking about negotiating my starting salary, I immediately start shaking my head. Since I am going to be part of a two-year rotational leadership program with about 20 other people, I know that negotiating a salary is pretty much set in stone. At least, that’s what I’m pretty sure about…. Even if negotiating my starting salary was on the table, I’m not sure I would–for two reasons.
First of all, from where I stand, my starting salary is pretty good. Why would I need more, unless I was really intense on saving a lot for retirement already? As Abbey Stauffer points out in this week’s reading from The Atlantic, “Any kind of money can seem like a lot after being a student for four years. They didn’t have much of a concept about how much the dollars on the page would translate to real life.” Truly, I have no idea how much it will actually cost to be an adult in the “real world.” I guess I have sort of gotten a taste of it over the past two summers when I had internships and was also not living at home. However, I was fortunate enough to not have to pay for housing either summer. All I really had to worry about was food and transportation, so I’m still pretty much in the dark about what it will really take to be a grown-up.
Second of all, although I am confident that I will be a very valuable employee wherever I work in my career, I am not so confident already that I will be able to immediately make such a significant impact that the salary already on paper wouldn’t be enough. How do I know how much money my work is worth when, so far, I have been the one paying to do work at school? For a recent graduate, unless the offer is egregiously low or there is another offer on the table and raising the salary would make a difference in the decision process, I don’t really see a reason to negotiate the starting salary. But to each her own, right?
In general, though, I think it is ethical to negotiate a salary, so long as it is done respectfully and there is a valid reason for it. It is important for a person to be able to advocate for what is best for his or her livelihood. Incorrectly compensating someone for their work would be the unethical thing in this situation. You never know until you ask….
I found Hannah Riley Bowles’ article, Why Women Don’t Negotiate Their Job Offers very interesting. (Aside: I was legitimately nervous that this article was going to be written by a man, but was very happy when the link opened and the author was revealed.) I have read a lot about gender’s effect in the workplace and am a big Sheryl Sandberg fan, so much of what Bowles pointed out made a lot of sense. It is unfortunate that we still live in a society that generally views a woman speaking up for herself and her self-worth negatively. I understand that gender roles play a significant part in the workplace and that they will never be able to be overlooked. However, the fact that it is OK for women to “negotiate assertively” for others, but that there are issues when women do the same for themselves, is just mindblowing to me. I guess we still have a long way to go.
Nevertheless, the “relational account” that Bowles discusses was useful to learn about. Even though it is annoying to me that there needs to be a special term for how women need to negotiate, I appreciate the fact that women before me have gone through this process and have shared their experiences often enough for this strategy to exist.