Shortchanged at the Office?

If you’ve managed to stay gainfully employed through the recession, you may feel lucky just to have a job–which you are.

But, the difficult economy doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.

Women tend to be more reluctant than their male counterparts to ask for promotions or increase clients’ rates. Whatever the reason for the reluctance–lack of confidence, fear of rejection, or incomplete market information–women are getting shortchanged at the office.

“Women tend to think if they do a good job and make people happy they will automatically be rewarded at work,” Northbrook wealth advisor and co-author of “Great with Money: The Women’s Guide to ProsperityEllen Rogin says. “I think this is less about them underestimating their own value and more about not realizing that they may need to speak up and ask for what they deserve.”

If you don’t feel fairly compensated, it’s time to develop a plan of attack (and no, that probably doesn’t mean marching into your boss’s office and demanding a raise). Marilyn Fettner, a Northbrook career consultant recommends assessing your own performance so you can build a case for yourself. She says to document everything you contribute to the company, including the hours you’ve worked, the projects you’re juggling and additional responsibilities you’ve taken on due to lay offs. Most importantly, create a list of achievements that directly benefit your employer. Have your brought in new clients? Helped to increase revenue? Reduced expenses? Your boss needs to know that.

“First, fortify your position, then have a sit down,” Fettner says. “Don’t be hostile or accusatory, simply lay out what you’ve been working on and what you’ve accomplished over the last year.”

When you’re assessing your worth to your employer, don’t overlook the often uniquely feminine attributes that create tangible value for companies. Judith Wright, a Chicago lifestyle coach who has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, Good Morning America and others, says women frequently excel at building relationships, bringing out the best in employees and creating environments that breed creativity.

You may think those may seem like “soft skills” that don’t impact the bottom line. But, Wright says to think again. Consider how your excellent communication skills or unique management style have improved efficiency or productivity–those are measurable achievements that could warrant a raise.

“Maybe your department was a mess, people were fighting and morale was low, but since you’ve arrived people are more productive and communicating more–that may have saved the company money,” Wright says. “Those are very concrete things that you should communicate to your boss.”

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