Can You Bring Personal Matters into Salary Negotiations? Two Experts Weigh In

You’ve always been told that you shouldn’t bring your personal life into the negotiation room at work. But is that a hard and fast rule? We consulted two experts—Charlie Javice, founder of Frank, a service that helps students decode the mountains of paperwork required to receive financial aid, and Georgene Huang, cofounder and CEO at Fairygodboss, an online community that helps women navigate the workplace—to hear the case for and against making money personal.

Advice from Successful Career Women on How to Negotiate Your Salary

woman job negotiation professional

Keep It Professional

Ask Huang and she’ll tell you straight out: Bringing your personal life into salary negotiations at work poses a real danger, and sets a bad precedent that other employees will ultimately view as unfair.

“Compensation in a business context fundamentally boils down to labor supply/demand,” she says. “For most positions and roles, there is a range of what compensation is reasonable in the marketplace.”

She also stresses the way personalized salary negotiations will be viewed by other colleagues. “There has to be a fundamental framework of fairness that applies to compensation. What if another employee had worked equally as hard and successfully in the same role and job description and not had financial stresses in their lives? Would they not receive a raise as well for doing substantially similar work? There is a real danger in taking irrelevant factors into compensation decisions, which should be as objective as possible.”

And, says Huang, the need-based approach can even backfire: “Some research shows that men get compensated more when they become fathers and women get compensated less as they become mothers due to the expectations by employers that the fathers are the financial bread-winners for their families.”

Huang’s bottom line: Make your case based on your work performance, not your home life.

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It's Ok To Bridge Work And Family

Javice offers the alternate view—and one rooted in her own experience on the job.

When her company, Frank, was going through a period of hyper-growth, she noticed one of her best employees never worked late with the rest of the team.

When she asked him about it, he was direct: “He let me know that he started doing freelance jobs on the side for extra financial help, so he had to clock out in order to clock in for them,” she says. “I automatically wanted to know if there was a way for us to become his extra help instead of him trying to spread himself thin. He was a great employee and a value to my team, so I was very open to discussing how we could help him finance-wise.” Because of his transparency, he got a raise.

And Javice maintains this is not a one-off scenario. “Building a relationship with your employees is very important because you want them to know that they can come to you when there’s a personal issue that may cause a change in their work,” she explains. “When employees are happy and focused, they tend to produce better work. If someone is struggling financially, they may start to resent the role/company and this will show in their performance.”

In other words, if you’re at company that values employee happiness and work/life balance, you may actually be wise to mention the reasons you want or need a raise.

The Verdict

As both of our experts attest, it’s a case-by-case situation and you know your boss best. Still, we think that if you have the increased workload—and results—to lean on, bring that info to the table first since that has the most meaning to your employer. Personal struggles are subjective. Performance speaks for itself.

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