Help, I'm too Cheap – do I Really get what I deserve?

March 04, 2024

Tips for salary negotiations

Over lunch, in a kind of conspiratorial session, I just found out what my colleagues earn, who – like me – have a total of 5-7 years of professional experience and do more or less the same job. And the terrible truth is I earn a whole 24% less. When I started, I had negotiated the salary and increased the offer by 5%, and I was satisfied with it. Since then, I have been compensated for inflation through the collective agreements, just like everyone else. This isn’t by any means an isolated case. Firstly, in Austria, women earn 19% (unadjusted figure) less than their male colleagues and secondly, it’s still a taboo to openly talk about salaries. In many companies, there are no clear, transparent compensation rules for employees, and often the most outspoken ones earn more, provided of course the performance is right.

Does my salary fit my tasks and responsibilities and is also comparable that of my colleagues? Pic: shutterstock, Andrii Yalanskyi
Does my salary fit my tasks and responsibilities and is also comparable that of my colleagues? Pic: shutterstock, Andrii Yalanskyi

Salary Poorly Negotiated - What Now?

What to do if you find out that you have poorly negotiated, and many others earn more despite being at the same job level and - how I perceive it - delivering -at the very most- the same performance.

Of course, there is a risk of being super angry, feeling betrayed or deceived and, at the next encounter, angrily confronting your superiors with the fact that others earn more.

But, beware: Here are 3 no-gos that you should avoid during salary negotiations:

  1. Never negotiate important issues in an emotional state. In a salary negotiation, I would like to receive the desired salary on the one hand and continue to have a good working relationship with my superiors on the other. Being angry, it’s very difficult to score points with rational arguments. 
  2. Do not confront the supervisors with the topic in passing but ask for a separate appointment and plan time for the conversation.
  3. In salary negotiations, do not quote the salary of other colleagues as a point of reference – because it is not about the others, but about your job and your performance. Rather, use this knowledge wisely and discreetly when it comes to your own market value.   

How-to Prepare for your Salary Negotiations

  • You can’t avoid a thorough research, but it is much easier nowadays, as websites such as karriere.at, stepstone.at, kununu.com, glassdoor.com, xing.com give a very good overview of the current market salaries. It is helpful not only to interview other colleagues and friends who work in comparable jobs, but also to ask mentors for advice. Kindly ask them to let you know which salary seems appropriate for your position. And it is important to be aware that the market value of a position is not a single number, but a salary range. Your potential, your competencies, and your willingness to perform can certainly influence the position of your salary within this range.
  • Define your new salary target in a smart way, i.e., think carefully about how much your annual gross compensation should increase. In absolute numbers and in percentage – and please aim for a realistic and at the same time worthwhile goal, otherwise negotiating makes no sense: if you only want a 1% increase, you should better wait for the next collective bargaining agreement. Likewise, those who continue to do the same job will hardly get more than 5-10% increase – and only if it is argued conclusively. Smart also means define time-bound goals – i.e., be persistent and don’t let yourself be put off if, during the first appointment, your superiors follow your arguments but think that it is not the right time or that there is no budget for an increase. Be sure to confirm the next steps in writing and fix a new follow-up meeting to make it clear how serious you are about this topic.
Unprepared and too emotional – this is not going to get you far with your negotiations. Pic: shutterstock, Ariya J.
Unprepared and too emotional – this is not going to get you far with your negotiations. Pic: shutterstock, Ariya J.

What is the employer’s benefit?

If you cannot answer this question conclusively, it is better not to start a conversation.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Maybe you started as an absolute junior and are still in the same job, although you have long been doing the work of a seasoned specialist and can represent the company independently to the outside world.
  • Perhaps your own area of responsibility has increased significantly in recent years, and you are responsible for the onboarding of all newcomers to your department,
  • perhaps you are now responsible for an important project on top of your actual area of responsibility.
  • Or you started years ago as a little-noticed data analyst and now belong to the ranks of the highly sought-after big data specialists, and thus have a significantly increased market value compared to the time of entry.

By the time you have done your thorough research, you should not only be aware of your changed market value, but also of the increased benefit your own activity creates for the company.

And why would an employer not want to pay an employee fairly? Otherwise, the company might have to hire an external candidate more expensively on the labour market.

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