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March 26, 2014
How to Beat the Salary Survey Trap
 
Beth had been at the company for two years and began the conversation with her manager to negotiate a salary increase. She deferred to HR and was told that her salary was higher than market rate based on the surveys they use. She then asked her manager to ask HR if they could share their info, because her surveys said otherwise. “I heard back today that they are not able to share their sources. They said that they matched my current role to surveyed job descriptions, then they added a premium for our location.”
 
“I think it's unfair to have this secret survey as the baseline for their argument. Any advice on next steps? Would really appreciate your advice.”
 
Thanks in advance,
 
Beth
 
Hi Beth,
 
Here's a suggested script. First, ignore the fact that HR would not share their survey information. Then gather surveys that support your position. Highlight the relevant portions that support your claim. Ask your manager to arrange a meeting with HR. Then use the following script with the HR person (I’ve called her Mary) to enlist her help:
 
“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Mary.”
 
"Let me show you the relevant surveys."
 
(Pass the highlighted copies to Mary.)
 
"You see, Mary, they document positions with responsibilities like this one."
 
"They show salaries XX% higher than the company is paying."
 
"I like the company and my position."
 
"I am uncomfortable being paid XX% less than market."
 
"Can you help me with this?"
 
The goal is to enlist Mary’s help. And to make sure she knows, in the politest possible manner, how important this issue is for you. You can also say:
 
“Mary, I’m sure you understand that I need to feel valued and supported for my contribution here to feel comfortable. That’s why I’m bringing this issue to you.”
 
If she is unwilling to help you’ll have to consider other options.
 
I’d avoid the issue of the unrevealed surveys because raising it would put them in a defensive position. Their surveys are not the issue. The issue is your salary and being fairly compensated for your contribution.
 
Please let me know what happens.
 
Ted Leonhardt’s book “Nail It. Stories for Designers on Negotiating with Confidence” now available in print from Amazon.

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Ted Leonhardt has provided management consulting and negotiation training exclusively to creative businesses since 2005. He cofounded the The Leonhardt Group, a brand design firm in 1985 and sold it in 1999. In 2001 and 2002 Ted served as Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide, out of London. In 2003 through early 2005 Ted was president of Anthem Worldwide, a brand packaging design group.     
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