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Let’s Talk Money – Part 1

BY: Maggie Gough • COO | WELCOA

In 2008 I had been working my first professional job for two years. I participated in my first-ever salary survey for Registered Dietitians. When the data was published, I discovered that I was underpaid by about $10,000 when considering my experience. In my short time in the role, I significantly improved the job, allowing us to serve our customers and clients better. While that would have been enough for me to take to my manager and ask for a raise, I didn’t want to appear ungrateful or greedy. We also had new management, and I was working to create a healthy rapport.

“The salary report gave me the leverage to begin a negotiation conversation with my new management…”

Requesting a Salary Increase

I was 25 years old. My spouse was in grad school, and it was the only income supporting our household. The salary report gave me the leverage to begin a negotiation conversation with my new management about the improvements I had made for the company and what appropriate compensation would be. I requested a wage slightly below the average market rate to be an agreeable employee, but I did provide her with the full report. My boss considered the information and asked for a few weeks to work through all of the dynamics of the budget, with a promise to get back to me.

The Offer

When she did, she offered me above what I had asked for. She reclassified the job salary within the average, not the slightly below-average salary I had requested. What that meant for my young family was the ability to have a little leisure in our lives and put some money into savings. What it meant for every Registered Dietitian that came after me was a better starting base salary. What it meant in the larger organization was that the dietitians served a unique and valuable role in that department and, as such, earned more than the average.
“It’s uncomfortable to talk about money when you’re placing a value on yourself.”

What the Conversation is Really About

It’s uncomfortable to talk about money when you’re placing a value on yourself. You are essentially asserting that you are more valuable than someone has compensated. The fear is that, upon asking for that value to be delivered in your paycheck, someone may very well let you know you are not, in fact, what you believe you are worth. Ouch! That’s where the discomfort resides. This is why data can be so important to these conversations. If my peers are earning $10,000 more than me for performing the same job, and I have invested meaningfully in the company, then the conversation isn’t about my worth but rather how this particular company values this expertise.

The Power of Compensation Conversations

During my time as an entrepreneur, many of my fellow colleagues doing similar work would share what we were charging and what we had successfully earned. That data set the bar for what we could ask for and what we knew organizations had paid for similar services. Never mind the fact that we were mostly women with a known gender pay gap. The handful of men in the industry would also ensure they too shared what they were earning to support better outcomes for pay equity.

Our role at WELCOA is to develop the professionals of this industry, and a large part of that is ensuring fair compensation. We’ve gathered data to do just that. Our hope is that this data can help you accelerate in your role, and ensure that organizations are appropriately valuing your service.

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Maggie Gough
Serving a variety of populations in a multitude of industries, Maggie understands the complexity and depth of the corporate wellness industry and the needs of the professionals and employees they support. Her role at WELCOA is to ensure members receive stellar service and build sustaining connections as a community.