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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

Are You Using the Right Arguments in Your Request for a Promotion?

how to get a promotion, leadership and women

I recently wrote about Why Women Don't Ask and What They Don't Ask For at work. I got some positive comments but also some frustrated ones from women who felt like they were already asking enough but receiving push backs.


One of these women was Melinda. She was working in a marketing role in a startup, a career switch after many years in another industry and functional role. Her marketing team had gone through several reshuffles during which she had accumulated responsibilities but wasn't getting her desired title and compensation despite showing great results. She felt like the leadership team was constantly raising the bar on her promotion while male colleagues were getting recognized and promoted much faster. She was preparing for an important conversation with her manager and wrote to me a very long e-mail listing all the things she's achieved over time and sharing her frustrations about the all male, leadership team, with whom she felt she had little in common. She did bond with the company's HR person who gave her more insights about upcoming push-backs and overall company culture dynamics. ISSUES From Melinda's note it became clear she needed to improve how she sold herself to the management team:

  • Results are important but since she was trying to position herself for a very senior role, she needed to focus more on the value she will bring by communicating her long term strategy and vision and making sure she didn't present herself as a very operational person

  • Focusing on execution and proving herself meant that she didn't spend enough time building critical close relationships with the very tight-knit leadership team. It was clear that she could not be able to thrive in this company in the long term unless she built those relationships. If this was not possible, she should have started looking for a job elsewhere.

STRATEGY I suggested the following steps to prepare for her upcoming conversation with the company's senior exec who was going to make the decision:

  1. Build excitement by starting with what you love about the company and the work

  2. Talk about your vision and how you see yourself adding a HUGE value to them as a Director of Marketing (and implying how they can't do this without you). Be succinct. Tie this to the company's most important strategic goals he cares about

  3. Appeal to his sense of fairness by saying you want to make sure that you're compensated fairly. You can even cite a study about how women are compensated less because they don't ask and say that you don't want to make this mistake

  4. Share some more supporting data: a few key points (if needed) about your past results, demonstrating growth and how much you and your team have achieved in past months

  5. Ask for a higher number than you want, to have room to negotiate down

  6. It's always good to have someone else to sing your praises. Ask the HR person to advocate on your behalf behind the scenes.

OUTCOMES Melinda followed my advice one week later I got the following note from her: "I just wanted to say thank you. Your advice was extremely valuable. [...] I held my ground and after a few conversations I got exactly what I wanted! They lowballed me for sure, but I immediately stated that wasn't an acceptable offer and had all the points laid out. They came back and countered just a little lower than my ask - which put me exactly where I wanted to be - without having to compromise on equity or bonus structure. [...] That might have been the most direct, to the point and non-emotional I have been in a salary negotiation - only took me 13 years to figure it out!" Do you have any important negotiation coming up? Write to me about it!

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