My Pay Raise Package Misstep {Case Study}

Why not learn from my mistake?

So-called "compliance behavior" is costing you money. It happened to me early in my own career. Here's how it played out, plus some prevention steps for you.

Pay Package

First, What's Compliance Behavior?

In this context, it's the tendency to “go along to get along.” To order only what’s on the menu, even if you want something else. To conform to the stated policies without challenge. 

You've done it. I've done it, too. And not just one time. Let me tell you about one time.

Quick background: like many baby boomers, I’ve changed careers a few times over the years. Here they are:

  1. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in outpatient settings
  2. Professional Services Marketing for physicians, then lawyers
  3. Negotiation Advisor and Coach to career women

Number 3 is my sweet spot and what I’ve been doing since the mid-1990s at Work Options, and more recently, here at Pay Raise Prep School for Women.

So it was in 1992 during my second career that I was interviewing at a downtown Honolulu business law firm. They were recruiting their first-ever marketing director.

It was a part-time professional position of 20-25 hours a week. Perfect. I had work-family-income needs and that schedule would fill it beautifully.

My prior experience in business development for physicians had direct parallels to the new position with lawyers, making me their prime candidate. That meant my negotiation leverage was strong, and I knew it.

The Job Offer and What I Did Well

One of the law firm partners phoned me after the second interview to extend the job offer.

I was very interested, but the pay she offered during the call fell short of my benchmark. So I requested a separate meeting to discuss the terms of the job before accepting it. She agreed.*

There, I (nicely) challenged their starting salary and we came to an agreement of a figure 14% above their initial offer.

Oh yes, I was feeling so clever and empowered!

Then I negotiated for a downtown parking space, a pricey perk normally given only to the attorneys. Scored again.

Okay, those were the smart parts. Then…

My Pay Package Misstep

Here’s where I fell flat: I failed to ask for pro-rated paid time off (PTO) for vacation or sick days. Why? Because of my tacit acceptance that a part-time position doesn't offer PTO.

So I didn’t ask for it. In fact, I didn't even think to ask for it.

(Which puts me in good company with lots of other career women; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made a similar blunder when working at Google.)

Sheryl Sandberg

Behavior insight: Due mainly to socialization in “compliance behavior,” women are less likely than men to think of, or ask for, available options.

Isn’t that interesting? I see it with my coaching clients and Pay Raise Prep School students, too.

The bottom line in this scenario: I blew that part of the new job negotiation. Essentially, it was a missed opportunity for potential paid time off.

Yep, compliance behavior cost me money in lost potential PTO income.

What's Your Story?

When it comes to negotiating, we’ve all missed the mark at times. Probably many times. Countless career and life opportunities lost, both big and small. Ouch.

So now what?

The Beat-up Phase

  • “I could kick myself.”
  • “I should have…”
  • “Why didn’t I…?”

There will be some of this self-talk after a negotiation misstep. But don’t waste your time beating yourself up; the lament-and-regret phase should be short.

The Press-On-Anyway Phase

Instead, learn from each negotiation experience. The smart parts and the mistakes. Review and debrief.

Next time, focus on more pre-meeting preparation. One tactic that I should have used before heading into the conversation: generate a long list of all negotiable options and the possible paths of agreement.


  1. Be proactive, not passive. You’re not born with negotiation skills; you build them as part of an ongoing, progressive strategy for your life and career.
  2. Keep learning. Read books. Attend workshops. Prepare and practice. Take the affordable Salary Accelerator Course here to learn the necessary tactics.
  3. Be kind to yourself when you don’t meet your performance expectations.
  4. Be encouraged; as with any other skill, your outcomes will improve over time with regular use and practice. 

Fast forward decades later: I can teach you to get the best salary possible. But I also want you to learn from my early pay package negotiation misstep.

* In fact, you should negotiate salary for a new position only after a firm job offer is extended. An employer’s first offer is never their best offer, so it’s expected that new job candidates will negotiate. Except women won’t as often as men. But that’s another topic for another day.

Photo credit: World Economic Forum