Didn't Get the Salary You Were Hoping For? Here's How to Learn From the Experience



As women, we are acutely aware of the professional challenges we face. One of these challenges is pay inequity. Of course, some of the salary gap between men and women can be contributed to systemic or institutionalized causes, but research also shows that women are less likely to negotiate salary increases or raises, further deepening the issue. 

The causes of this unwillingness to negotiate are complex, but a lot of it does come down to the stigma surrounding a woman asking for more. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review shows that women who negotiate are often seen as “greedy or demanding.”  

Despite that negative perception, though, there is a growing movement encouraging women across professions and levels of experience to take matters into their own hands. A quick search on Google uncovers numerous articles with pragmatic and actionable tips for salary negotiation, and Career Contessa has a great post detailing how to confidently ask for what you deserve.

But what happens when you do take a stand and a company does not reciprocate with a higher offer or total compensation package? It’s a less-talked-about scenario, but it’s important to discuss and know how to handle. Here are three key tips for navigating that complex situation. 


It’s easy—and totally understandable—to feel like you somehow dropped the ball if you stand up for yourself in negotiations with an employer and then don’t see what you asked for materialize. Even worse, you may decide that you must not actually be worth that higher pay.

This feeling is even more pronounced if you’re like my friend Rachel, who was assertive in asking for a higher starting pay, had the company stay firm with their initial offer, and then accepted the offer anyway. After deciding to pursue the opportunity despite this “rejection,” Rachel felt like she had compromised her self-worth—and allowed the company to somehow “get away with something." 

However, as hard as it may be, it’s crucial to realize that when you ask for what you want, you have already been successful—simply by asking for recognition for your skills, accomplishments, and experience. Just as in many other areas of life and business, receiving a “no” or “not at this time” is not an indication of failure, but simply that the answering party will not or cannot give you what you deserve.

Despite the answer you may receive, you should hold your head up high knowing that you have done what has been historically difficult for women to do. Asserting your personal value may seem like a small act, especially if it doesn’t result in immediate impact, but over time, that can have a collective impact on the dynamic of your workplace—and the broader professional world.


Many articles on salary negotiation, for women and men, remind job applicants or those seeking raises, that take-home pay isn’t the only bargaining chip. This is an important thing to keep in mind, as other employer-provided benefits—from paid time off, work-from-home time, 401K match, and performance-based bonuses—can also be subject to discussion and re-evaluation with your employer. 

So, if you did attempt to negotiate your initial salary offer from an employer and didn’t secure an initially positive response, remember that you can—and should—recommend substitute concessions outside of pure pay. And, in some cases, those other “perks” or benefits can add up to a total compensation package that is equal to, or more than, the salary increase you would have received.

Or, if you’re like my friend Rachel, who accepted her original offer without requesting additional benefits or concessions, remember that the door for negotiation is not closed once you start a job. You can still sit down with your supervisor after starting, perhaps during the initial 90-day review, and suggest a performance- or time-based plan for incentives. In fact, after a little time at your job, you may actually be in a more advantageous spot to analyze what your department or company needs most, develop relevant milestones, and then convince your boss to tie additional compensation to your meeting those outlined and agreed-upon goals.

And even if you wait until your annual review, you are well within your right to discuss the initial salary negotiation as part of your next year’s compensation package. After all, even if a company is unwilling or unable to raise the starting pay for a new hire, they may be open to and flexible about rewarding and retaining current employees, especially if they are high-performing.


It can be difficult to remember that one circumstance that does not turn out as expected does not automatically mean that we shouldn’t try again. In fact, as humans, we have a tendency to see patterns where they don’t exist—sociologists call this the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

But, as professional women, we have to look past isolated, individual incidents and continue to negotiate for each subsequent opportunity, whether with the same employer or the next.

In fact, in all of the studies that have been done about how men negotiate, one thing that consistently bubbles to the surface is that men are less likely to take no for an answer. What’s crucial is that this doesn’t necessarily only apply to individual salary negotiations; in fact, it’s a repeated practice of assessing one’s value and asking employers to reciprocate that over the course of a career that creates higher pay overall.

In other words, if we as women can continue to strive for more, even when we face some “no’s” along the way, we are sending a clear message: obstacles may be disappointing, but they won’t set us back, and they won’t keep us from trying again the next time.  

Article originally published on Career Contessa.