How I navigated the aftermath of a salary negotiation that left me feeling undervalued
People reach out to Empower Work for a variety of reasons, facing a range of challenges in their workplace. To respect the confidentiality of conversations, we don’t share their stories or experience without explicit permission.
Chris, one of our incredible volunteers, has generously chosen to share their story about reaching out to Empower Work as a texter. In this post they explore what the outcome was, and how it has changed the way they think about work.
How did you find out about Empower Work?
I saw a LinkedIn post from a volunteer I knew about Empower Work and thought that it sounded interesting both as a volunteer and as a resource for a situation I was going through.
This was pretty soon into starting a new job. I was from the beginning interested in volunteering and also in texting. I went to the website and did the web chat version because that way I could type instead of using my thumbs. I loved that it was text-based because I wasn’t struggling with conveying things exactly right as I was speaking. I could go back and look at things I had said, the volunteer had said. It made it much clearer for me to see the action steps and decisions when it was in writing.
How was text more helpful for you?
In true Millennial fashion, I hate the phone in a lot of ways. Looking for support from strangers, phone calls seem to be emotional for me. Phone calls can be vulnerable.
Both when I wrote in and when the other person answered, it was so helpful to have clarity of writing. I’m also a writer first and a speaker second.
What was the work issue you were facing when you reached out?
I had just started a new job in a new industry and basically did a really bad job negotiating. I didn’t realize how much it was bothering me until a couple of months in. I feel like I struggle with salary a lot in several directions. Money should not be the way that people are valued. But also, in the world today, salary unfortunately represents the way your work is valued. I was struggling with feeling like my work wasn’t valued or respected.
This should have been an exciting new opportunity, but it didn’t feel that way at all.
What was happening in your prior work situation?
I’d been at the prior company for most of my career, and I knew I needed to take a step back for my own health. The org I left was in the middle of an internal and external crisis in some ways. And my role put me into the middle of both. Every day, I got up and forced myself into work that was gut-wrenching. Some days I couldn't—I became depressed and started having panic attacks.
At the same time, I didn't think the job itself was interesting, and I knew that it didn't match my long-term career aspirations.
The field I'm in now is better both for my health and for my professional goals. But my departure and my pivot in industries all came much faster than I expected. My whole network was in one field, and I had very few contacts and resources in the new one.
I got the job by networking and they created the role for me. I ended up getting offered a much lower salary than I expected. I thought, “Well, if I negotiate the salary, they’ll take back the job offer.” Even my new boss seemed surprised by how low the offer was. I decided at the time, “Ok that’s fine, I need to make a change so I’m going to make this work.”
But clearly it wasn’t working a few months in.
How did talking with a peer counselor help?
I had been kicking myself for a few months, feeling like I had failed myself. I came out of the conversation with the Empower Work peer counselor feeling validated and heard, which was part of what I needed. I felt like it wasn’t just only me who’d made this mistake and messed up in this way. I felt validated for my feelings and for having this experience in the first place.
I also worked with the counselor on an action plan for how to handle it. I hadn’t really decided how far I wanted to take anything when I started the conversation. By the end, we came up with an action plan that I felt comfortable with.
What was the outcome of your plan?
I’m actually just about at the point where I’m putting that plan into action and see what happens. I wanted to work enough to prove my value and walk into a conversation feeling confident in my work, so the counselor and I talked about how that could work. I wanted to have already had a track record I could point to for the conversation, so I instigated a 3-month check in and have benchmarks for what I want to have accomplished.
How did the conversation shift your perspective, if at all?
I had been waking up full of regret and feeling bitter towards my new employer. Why didn’t they pay me more? Really, why didn't they value me more? And after I had the conversation, it made it a lot easier for me to separate out those feelings from the rest of my job. It made it easier for me to not be so mad at myself.
By the end of the conversation, I trusted the volunteer enough to ask about one of my deeper concerns—what if my boss thinks I’m greedy? What if they think less of me for asking? The volunteer helped me shift my perspective, reminding me that my boss (based on what I knew about them) wasn't going to be mad at me for asking for what I'm worth.
It really changed how I came into work and let me move past the daily regret that came from this situation. And I'm more confident about the work I’m doing now too.
Who would you recommend Empower Work to?
Empower Work is for you if you're trying to figure out what you want to do—not just how your coworkers, friends, or bosses want you to move forward. Empower Work's counselors are trained listeners first (even by text!) who help you think through a problem and identify the solution that works best for you. It's especially helpful if you're in a situation like I was where your experience and professional network isn't giving you much help, or you don't feel like you can get an unbiased perspective from the people involved.
Why do you think Empower Work’s text support is valuable?
The people you know—the ones you turn to for help—are great, but they have their own opinions about your life and everyone involved.
You can text Empower Work whenever we're open, so you can reach a trained volunteer right after something happens at work.
Empower Work cuts the information gap that comes from working in a different field or at a different level than most of your network.
Anything else you think is important to share?
When I was starting training as a volunteer, I intellectually knew that I hadn’t given my name or anything identifiable when I was a texter. But I didn't realize quite how anonymous it is—that volunteers don't even see phone numbers.