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Knowing what you’re worth and asking for it should be an empowering experience. But requesting a raise can be anxiety-producing for any employee, and if you’re a female employee going up against the wage gap, the build-up around raises is even more intense.

In an effort to help close the gap and bring us closer to equal pay, we’re partnering with Secret—a brand that’s been supporting women and their strength since 1956—to provide managers with tips on how to be an ally at the office.

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Esquire.com spoke to four high-power managers from different industries to get the conversation started, and we’re highlighting their best advice for how employees at all levels can support everyone in their office. The purpose? To make raise conversations productive and positive—no matter the outcome.


“It’s easy for conversations about money to become emotionally charged. Managers should set the tone for the dialogue, making it about meeting and exceeding clear objectives,” explains Annie Dean, the co-founder and co-CEO of the technology startup Werk. “But at the same time, don’t forget that these conversations are about the needs of the people who work for you. Empathy and a willingness to listen can go a long way, even if the raise request can’t be immediately granted.”

“You might discover that an employee isn’t meeting their objectives because they’re feeling burnt out or they don’t have access to the flexibility they need to do their best work,” Dunn adds. “At Werk, our research has proven that when employees have access to flexibility, they’re more likely to meet and exceed their goals—which ultimately puts them in a better position when going for a raise.”


Give praise where it’s due

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“The most important thing a manager can do is empower their staff,” explains Alexandra Schrecengost, the AVP of Public Relations at Wilson Daniels, a family-owned marketing and sales company. “Talking through a list of goals that have been accomplished is always a good thing, while also providing constructive criticism.”

For Schrecengost, that involves “considering what’s justly deserved. If a team member went above and beyond their scope of work, they should be rewarded for it, because that’s empowering the team member. You want employees to feel like they’re part of something, working together to achieve larger goals,” she says.

“A good manager should help foster whatever their employee has potential in—it’s the only way they can evolve into a more senior role. See what their interests are, and help evolve them. A lot of managers don’t realize how important it is to empower and encourage employees during these conversations.”


Foster open communication

“The best approach is making sure the conversation isn’t a surprise. If the manager and teammate are having regular check-ins on career advancement, then when the teammate comes to the point where they think they deserve a raise, it won’t be a shock to the manager,” says Stephen Swartz, the Director of Marketing at Just Salad.

“By creating a culture of clear communication, the manager isn’t caught off guard by a promotion request and the teammate feels rewarded,” he adds. “It’s also important to set up a professional development project where you’re improving the skills of your teammate in a way that aligns with the company’s needs. If you’re investing in your team all year, and at the end of that year their skill set is better than when they started, giving them a raise is very easy.”


“Open, honest communication with one’s manager is critical. If there’s an environment of trust established, approaching discussions around topics that could illicit anxiety, such as pay, can be diffused,” says Mary Kerbs, the Senior Director, Human Resources Business Partner, Product Organization at LinkedIn.

“Encourage coworkers to share what they are motivated by with their manager. It may be a raise, more time off, flexibility of schedule—whatever that may be, it’s important for their manager to realize that,” she explains. “With these motivations, including raises/financial reward being out in the open, it takes away the stress of having to ‘ask’ for a raise given that it’s already known and acknowledged.”



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