In my latest career advice column for Money and Time, I cover salary negotiation, particularly for women in light of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s remarks not to negotiate but to trust the system. Here’s the unedited version:
If you’re a savvy, self-starting executive woman you might feel particularly deflated by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s remarks that women shouldn’t negotiate for more money. Here you are doing all the prescribed “right” things:
- Entering a high-growth industry, like tech;
- Working for a brand-name firm, like Microsoft;
- Proactively working on your negotiating skills, including preparing for your next review…
…and then BAM! Here comes Nadella essentially saying you should just wait for the system to even out the gender pay gap. If the CEO isn’t going to support your efforts, why even bother?
Actually this is precisely why you should bother with all of the proactive hard work. Your effort and skills belong to you, and you can take them somewhere else if you should hit a brick wall. Sure, Satya Nadella’s unfortunate admission shows that a CEO of a major corporation may thwart your efforts just as a mid-level manager might or even a narrow-minded friend (in the guise of well-meaning advice). You may not get the support you expect. BUT, if you keep doing the prescribed “right” things, along the way you will collect some supporters to your cause, including more open-minded, equitable executive sponsors.
Create an amazing body of work
It still starts with getting results, establishing your expertise, and contributing to the bottom line. Don’t let your own work product suffer because Nadella doesn’t care – others care and are watching for promotion-worthy candidates. You want your name to surface.
Advocate for your accomplishments
Whether you trust the system or not, it will run itself. Trust your process more. Trust that you will advocate for your accomplishments. See my post on preparing for your next review for the step-by-step in making sure you get your due.
Build a strategic and supportive network
So Nadella is out of step and there are probably other CEO’s who share his view. There will be others — men and women, at every level, in every industry, in every functional area — who are supportive. I once had a banker at a big-name firm encourage me to “follow my heart” and take an unexpected career turn, even if it meant turning down his firm’s offer. He was so supportive and generous and gave me courage when I needed it most, and this was a BANKER! If I managed to find a mentor with a heart of gold in that industry, there will certainly be supportive senior people in any industry. Find them. Enroll their support.
Be a strategic and supportive support for others
Be the anti-Nadella. Don’t just throw your hands up at the amorphous system; proactively help others along and do your part to change the game. Pick the smart but shy person in your group and tell her (or him) that you will call on them in the meeting, and tell them what you will ask so they have a chance to prepare. Think of that colleague from another department who always helps you and write a commendation to their manager, cc’ing them. Return to your alma mater for a networking event or career talk. As you build your amazing career and advocate for yourself, reach back and better the system for others.