You Need To Ask, Regardless Of The Outcome

One of the lessons we could not avoid learning this year is that it is absolutely important to ask for the raise. If you don’t ask, you most likely won’t get one. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got a lot of criticism when he said women should play a waiting game and not ask directly. Many journalists and bloggers responded with statistics and research (and some outrage) that repudiated his bad advice.

At the same time, asking doesn’t guarantee receiving. A huge reason women don’t ask for what they want, at work or at home, is because of pushback: opposition that causes you to withdraw. Women don’t ask because they are afraid of pushback.

A recent New York Times blog post reports that women are less likely to get a raise than men, even when they ask for it. What is going on? Women are bumping into the double bind. On the one hand, you’re expected to speak up for yourself in the workplace and be a strong self-advocate. On the other hand, you’re also expected to be demure and self-effacing, as part of female gender stereotypes (see my August 25, 2013 post on working women and the double bind). African American women face an extra obstacle, according to the blog, because they have more permission to behave in masculine ways but also held to a higher performance standard.

glass cieling


Given all this bad news, why ask?

  • Because you need to speak up and be your own best advocate.
  • Things won’t change unless you change your behavior: maybe you won’t get the raise but maybe the next woman will. Sisterhood can be powerful, so let’s start somewhere.
  • One more reason: your skills are important, not just to you, but to your employer. You have something to offer that people need.

What About Pushback?

What does pushback look like? Here’s a short list:

  • Your idea is dismissed with demeaning words instead of discussed like everyone else’s.
  • You’re given counterarguments to belittle your request instead of being asked clarifying questions and given a chance to influence others’ opinions.
  • You’re told it’s not the right time to talk about this. End of conversation.
  • There’s condescension in the air.

What’s good about pushback?

  • It lets you know you’re violating someone’s expectations – you’ll want to use this awareness when you plan how you’re going to move forward asking for what you want.
  • You acknowledge this could be scary, which means there’s an opportunity for growth.
  • You’re creating discomfort in a place that needs some shaking up!

In the next post I will write about ways to manage pushback. In the meantime, send me your stories.





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