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Negotiating Salary When YOU are Replaceable

On March 6, Boston GLOW's Organized Women gathered for our monthly Spitfire with on equal pay negotiations for women.  After 2 hours the group was still eager to discuss this important issues so we invited Katie Donovan to continue the conversation via our blog.  We'd love to hear your thoughts.  Thanks, Katie!

I started writing this article as I waited to hear “Habemus Papam”.  And I heard those words as I finished the first sentence.  “We have a pope.” Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  He’s a Jesuit and an Argentinean and now known as Pope Francis.  

 I decided to write this article based on a question I was asked during the Boston Glow Spitfire on Equal Pay.  The question was “how can I negotiate more pay when I am replaceable?”   The pope is considered infallible and yet he is still replaceable.  Seldom is such a perfect example timed so well. 

 Oh yes, we are irreplaceable to our family, our loves, and our friends but no one, absolutely no one, is irreplaceable in business.  Irreplaceable is an unattainable challenge and is not a prerequisite to negotiating pay.  Everyone who negotiates pay is replaceable whether s/he knows it or not.

Cost of Employee Turnover Would be Greater Than Raise

The question then becomes “why does a company negotiate with employees when they are replaceable?”  The answer is the cost.  It is less expensive to pay you more than to replace you.   Now I am not suggesting you state “Give me a raise or I quit.”  Your employer knows that that will be more likely to leave should they not give you a raise.  The average cost to replace you is 21% of your annual pay and can be greater than 200% for specialized and C-level jobs.  The costs include productivity losses and costs of hiring and training a new employee.  If you are looking for a 10% - 15% increase than the company is going to save money by giving you the raise.


Preparing for the Negotiation

Most managers like to keep good employees and like to minimize costs so there is a chance to get a raise but you need to be armed with good business arguments.  Your business arguments should include:


  1. The market value of the job
  2. The value you bring to the company to earn the high-end of that range.  The value should include:
    1. Increase in revenue you have brought to the company
    2. Decrease in costs you have brought to company

Notice I have never used the term “ask for a raise.”  You are not asking for a favor.   This is a business decision and you need to give ample reasons for your manager to decide in your favor.


Also practice.  Negotiating pay is a seldom-used skill. Practice each of the arguments, practice responding to NO, and practice to stating the amount you want.   You will be more successful if the words roll off your tongue easily and you have a relaxed demeanor during the negotiation. 

Some Companies and Industries Don’t Give Raises

That’s the logical approach and yet some companies and some industries have very larger employee turnover.  Some of the industries that have large turnover are leisure and hospitality, food services, and utilities.   Should you work in such an industry or company you may not have much luck getting a raise.  Often in those situations, the norm is to pay low and churn people.  That may not be the most cost effective means in the long-term yet you will not be the person to change that mentality.  Your decision then becomes, staying with a job for little pay that you may hate, like, or love OR finding a job elsewhere that you hopefully love and are paid appropriately.  Give negotiating a raise a try, and then make sure you negotiate your starting pay when you get your next job.




Katie Donovan is a salary negotiation teacher, coach, blogger (, and speaker on equal pay and women’s salary negotiations. Her client successes included increases of $2,000, $20,000 and as much as doubling income. Her first mobile application Earn More Girl for iPhone and iPads calculates women’s personal pay gaps and their true target salary. Katie’s on Twitter @KDSalaryCoach

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