4 Messages Your Salary Might be Sending About Your Competence

I work with professional women who make great salaries.

Many times, when we get to the issue of compensation, they say that money isn’t the point. They are already making more money than they have ever imagined they’d earn. These women have to resist the little voice in their heads that says they should just be satisfied and grateful for what they have, because the result is that they are hesitant to ask for more, even when they deserve it.

Obviously, your pay matters when it comes to your future salary, retirement, and benefits. In the article, Why Do Highly Capable Women Not Always Realize Their Workforce Potential?, published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, researcher Mandy O’Neill found that women who become bosses and earn a high salary are in a better position to set their own schedule, find good child care, and keep the career they  want.

But, have you ever considered that your pay can also be viewed as a measure of your competence? If you have not yet taken steps to negotiate a salary that matches up to your value, there are four ways this could be undermining your career.

1. Your salary positions you relative to your peers.

Your salary positions you relative to people in your profession and organization whose work has the same value as yours. The more money you make, the more valuable your contributions appear.  And when your contributions are highly valued, you have much more ability to control your career.

So, what happens when you earn less pay for the same work as your colleagues?

2. You appear less competent.

When you appear less competent, you aren’t offered as much responsibility. You don’t get the same opportunities to work on challenging projects.

People prefer to assign work to individuals who they believe can get it done most effectively. If Joe keeps getting promotions and pay raises before you, colleagues will assume he’s the go-to person for more important, and likely, more interesting, work.

3. You are bypassed for management opportunities.

Compensation scales are tied to seniority and rank in most organizations. Once you are at the top of the salary scale in your current position, the only way to make more money is to take on more responsibility. This is why many people who aren’t necessarily management material get promoted. It is just the next “logical” step in the organization.

If you aren’t making the money at the top of your salary range, then you aren’t considered as “ready” for a promotion or management responsibilities.

It might not seem like a big deal that the next step is to manage a team or project.  However, if you want to be part of senior management in your firm or organization, it won’t happen until you meet a particular salary threshold. It isn’t written anywhere; it’s just the perception that if you’ve garnered a large salary, you must have the savvy and know-how to handle the intricacies of senior management.

4. You have less autonomy.

Women that make more money and have more management responsibility tend to have more autonomy and resources to create flexibility in their careers.  In many organizations, senior leaders aren’t required to report directly to a boss.

They report to a team, or their boss has multiple executives that run their own groups, divisions, and departments.  The effectiveness of the senior executive is evaluated by the bottom line contribution of the group they manage or book of business they build.

Here’s the bottom line…

When it comes to salary and competence, perception is reality.

If part of what motivates you in your career is challenge, autonomy, and more responsibility, then asking for the money you’re worth is a key step to a successful career path.

 This article first appeared at www.foodonourtable.com

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Jennifer McClanahan-Flint

Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is an Executive Career Strategist. Through her Leverage to Lead Programs she works with ambitious women and people of color to help them navigate compensation, bias, and their career progression so they can continue to rise. Jennifer works across industries to help women and people of color obtain the autonomy and financial security they need to thrive in their careers. To learn more about Jennifer visit her at www.leverage2lead.com and feel free connect with her on Twitter at @jennifermcflint.

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