Question of money
“Women just negotiate shit”: a personnel manager accuses
Claudia H. is HR manager in a large German company. When she conducts job interviews with women, she regularly gets into a crisis when it comes to money. “Women’s negotiation skills are partly underground,” she says. She sees responsibility not only for women, but also for companies.
by Marie Stadler
I’m sitting in a café with Claudia and immediately feel like an applicant. This proof-of-yourself aura surrounds the 49-year-old like other people in a subtle cloud of perfume. I suspect that this woman knows exactly what she wants. Are you born with this quality? “Absolutely. I would even argue that everyone is born with this quality,” laughs Claudia and points to a two-year-old who protests loudly against putting on his snowsuit. “The big question is, why don’t many women retain this clarity?” And we are right in the middle of the topic.
BARBARA: Would you say that men are clearer?
Claudia: Yes, I’m sure of that. Most men are clearer about their own worth above all. They don’t take their own achievements as naturally as women do.
BARBARA: What do you mean?
Claudia: In terms of evolutionary history, we women are programmed to sacrifice ourselves for the family and to put our own needs aside. One must not forget how new the slow dissolution of gender roles is. Many of our mothers left their jobs when they had children. Or my grandmother, for example, was fired the moment she got married so that she could devote herself entirely to house, husband and family planning. So women have worked a lot in the recent past without ever receiving their own salary. In staff appraisals I often notice that even today women still tend to take their achievements for granted. It never occurs to you to charge a lot of money for particularly good performance. I think you can say it with a clear conscience: Most women just negotiate shit.
BARBARA: That means you are satisfied too quickly?
Claudia: Not necessarily. Women also want to be paid fairly. But the dissatisfaction only gradually comes when they see themselves in comparison to their male colleagues. Then you start to wonder why Mr XY earns a third more in the same position than you do yourself.
BARBARA: Yes, but why does he earn so much more?
Claudia: Because it sold well. From the beginning. He asked for a sum in all clarity and broadcast in the conversation that he was not to be had among them. Women often do not have this attitude. Sometimes they try, but they also quickly row back when things get uncomfortable.
BARBARA: Does that annoy you as HR manager?
Claudia: Yes, that annoys me. Maybe not as a human resources manager, but as a woman. I work in a company where the management fortunately knows that good pay is the basis for the satisfaction of the team. So we would never rubbish anyone and sometimes put something on top of the required amount in order to stay within a range we set. I see our responsibility as an employer clearly. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs see it differently.
BARBARA: Can women learn something from men?
Claudia: When negotiating, definitely. In other areas of professional life, I would be happy if the opposite were the case and men would learn a bit from women. Those who spend less time celebrating their own successes work more and have a better view of the team. But that’s another field. (laughs)
BARBARA: Do you have any advice on how to escape the humility trap as a woman?
Claudia: Yeah. My tip: find out more! Ask or research in your environment which salaries are common in your industry and in your position. There is nothing dirty about talking about money. Never enter a conversation without a clear opinion of what you are worth, all of you. Nothing that you make available to an employer is taken for granted. Every achievement, every qualification, and by that I mean every single soft skill, is worth money. Period.
BARBARA: And what if that comes across as too demanding?
Claudia: That can happen. Even bosses are not used to clear women. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to stand up for your rights. I’ve never seen a realistic salary expectation lead to someone not being hired. If the sum was too high, it only led to tough negotiations, and most of the time an agreement was reached somehow. It is important to know and defend your own pain threshold. If necessary with a rejection. Working under it ends up going wrong anyway because it doesn’t make you happy. Neither one nor the other side.
BARBARA: What percentage should I add approximately to my pain threshold for the negotiation?
Claudia: The pain threshold shouldn’t be included in the calculation, just an ulterior motive that protects you from gross nonsense. Basically, you have to ask yourself three questions before each negotiation, namely: What is my pain threshold? What would I ideally like to earn? What am I asking for? That’s three different sums. You only count on the last two. You can remember with a thumbs-up: The demand should be around 10 to 15 percent above the ideal salary, then there is still scope for negotiation. In the best case scenario, a woman does it so well that she is completely satisfied with the salary. Also in the interests of the employer. Because satisfied employees are the best employees.