How to Stay on the Same Side when Negotiating Salary

Everyone’s only out for themselves.  It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Maybe that’s what you have been taught. And if you bought it, you will see evidence reinforcing it everywhere. You believe it, and so it is your reality.

If so, the techniques I share in this blog are not for you. If you struggle to give people the benefit of the doubt, you will use negotiation tactics that are defensive. And, if you feel like you are struggling for power and losing, your approach may even border on adversarial.

If you struggle to trust a company even though it seems to be on the up and up, you will assume they are hiding something, and it will reveal itself in due time. In the meantime, you cover all your bases and feel compelled to constantly cover your … butt. In your professional work, if you feel the need to be competitive with others for attention, credit, prominence, and pay, you will assume others go to great lengths to win and that justifies you doing the same.

You are the last person my clients want work with, work for, or hire.

Why? You will most likely insist on being the last one to reveal your ask, even when pressed. You will try to circumvent the people in the company who are expected to ensure policy is followed for fairness and consistency. You may not even realize your bias against human resources.

You won’t believe what I am about to advise, so you might as well stop reading here.

If you consider yourself to be a moral, ethical person who believes that people are generally good and fair, you have found yourself disgusted by some things you have experienced in cut-throat corporate America. Even if you know there are good people out there, you may not have a lot of faith they can stay good in a system that promotes gaining profit (corporate and personal) over all else.

That being said, you want and deserve to be paid fairly. And there are so many great things you want to do with excess income that would enhance your life, help your family, and perhaps serve many others.

I have a deep compulsion to help you earn as much as possible within your market value range.  The truth is everyone wants a fair deal. I want that for you. You want that for you. And I want that for your employer, too. Why? Because when a company gets ROI on its talent, and it is a conscious corporation, it will reinvest profits in its people. And that is what we are all about.

A lot of companies say their people are their number one asset, but how many of them demonstrate it consistently? Finding out if a company really means it is getting easier (and we are working in making it even easier). And these companies will do the right thing by their people – and that’s when everyone wins.

If you want to stay on the same side with your employer during compensation negotiations, the first thing to do is due diligence: qualify that employer as a conscious company. Glassdoor, Top Places To Work lists, and the tenure and growth of its people historically (information you may be able to assess on LinkedIn) are resources you can use to do this. Then, of course, reach out directly to people on the inside to see if what you gather is substantiated.

The second thing you must do is understand what the market pays for your skills, experiences and talents. You can do this through online research on bls.gov, the salary estimates on Indeed (in the left column), reports on salary.com, and Glassdoor data. I recommend that you always ask a local recruiter who niches in your field to validate what you find. Make sure your data is based on local positions, or you adjust them based on your local cost of living.

Next, determine how you uniquely add value to this. In the nearly 12 years I have been a career coach, I have always been able to identify unique qualifiers for my clients, which is the essence of branding. Often there are monetary values attributed to those unique qualifiers, which can be qualities or hard skills. These can either push you into the upper ranges of market value, or move you above market value. Either way, you must be prepared to justify these clearly in a business case for your employer.

Whether you want to make a fair ask that enables the company to get ROI on you, or you are a top performer and the company knows how to leverage and develop you, they will aim to make 1.75x your salary. You may have a role traditionally considered to be in a “cost center” for a company, such as customer or technical support, but make no mistake – each and every role in a company was designed to contribute to the balance sheet in some way. If you’re not directly generating revenue directly, you are making it more possible, or you are helping to reduce costs or avoid shut-down/fines.  When you understand how your role contributes in this way, you can ensure that your ask is fair and that your reasons for believing this can be clearly articulated.

If your research indicates that the market value for your current position won’t meet your quality of life standards, it’s time to re-evaluate your career. And if you are unsure if the market value will support your needed standard quality of life and also provide a retirement you desire with the future quality of life you want, it’s time to get with a financial advisor. I am happy to make a referral. Just private message me.

Notice I haven’t said anything about your prior compensation. In spite of some companies’ and recruiting firms’ practices of determining your future value by your current value, your past or current compensation is not an accurate determination of your future value at all. It may be a reflection, however, of your self-worth. The branding journey we take our clients on helps them feel in alignment with their true market value and overcome the mental mindset that can develop from being underpaid and undervalued.

Lastly, what do you ask for and how do you come to an agreement with your employer while still keeping things friendly? After all, this is the first big decision you will make together. How you come to an agreement sets the tone for the commencement of the partnership, and it will influence your impression of each other from that point forward. Don’t you want to feel like you’re on the same team?  You each have an agenda, but the negotiation is really about finding the overlap and understanding the other party.

I am not one to advise people to refuse to answer questions about desired or expected salary.  Some of my peers, and even mentors, would.  If you feel like you might be taken advantage of by divulging your ask too soon, then you don’t trust this company. Maybe you wouldn’t trust any company? Or perhaps you didn’t qualify them as a company worthy of your trust? If you are the former, you probably should have stopped reading very early on. If you are the latter, do NOT enter into negotiations until you learn that the company is trustworthy, conscious, and invests in its people.

Instead of “holding your cards close to your chest,” I recommend boldly coming out with a reasonable range, data to back it up, and a business case to explain if you are asking for more than what the position usually pays. Keep in mind, ethical or not, when a person hears a range, they focus on what they are inclined to focus on in order to achieve their agenda. An unconscious company will want to get talent for as little money as possible. And a conscious company will not want to overpay for talent, because it hurts the company and inhibits their ability to re-invest in their talent.

Both examples will hear the low end of your range. So right after giving the range, discuss what conditions would have to be met in order for you to accept the low end, then swiftly explain how the company will benefit from investing in you on the high end.  Your low end must still support your current standard of living. Don’t give a low end that will leave you feeling slighted if offered, even though a conscious corporation would offer you good reasons for doing so.

Collegial negotiations are not just dependent what you say, though. It’s really more about how you are being – are you expecting the company will find your ask reasonable and do what they can to bring about the best possible outcome for both parties? If not, you probably should have stopped reading much earlier. This method will not work if you are suspicious. Authenticity is key here.

Lastly, leave the door open for them to ask questions and counter-offer. If a counter-offer seems way off your ask, ask them to help you understand, while giving them the benefit of the doubt that they have their reasons.

True story: I was trained in negotiating with candidates and employers as a recruiter. In my annual review shortly after that I was expecting a raise since I had been promoted in title. As trained, I did my research. In this annual review situation, it’s not customary to make an ask, as you’ve probably experienced. I anticipated my raise to be 50% above what I was making and instead it was a 10% raise. I had been underpaid my whole career prior to that, and armed with this new training, I was ready to earn fair compensation.  My boss, the VP of Sales – a master negotiator, had trained us to engage clients and candidates in further discussion when agendas didn’t align with the request, “Help me understand.” It became an inside joke, but in all fairness, it works, and it worked on him, too. I don’t have a poker face and I’m sure my disappointment in the offer was all over my face, so I took a deep breath and earnestly said, “Help me understand. I did research and based on the data, my compensation should be X.” I pointed to recent successes and things I had done outside of the scope of my role. He wanted to take a closer look at the data himself, and discuss it with the finance department and CEO.  They came back with a raise that was in my range, and a bit above the median. I, thankfully, had a conscious boss and CEO who wanted to pay talent fairly. 

The training I had was not the same as what I see other negotiation coaches promoting. It was designed to help three parties get on the same page, the employer, the candidate and the recruiting firm.  Our agenda was to keep strong relations with the employer to supply future talent needs, and to help our candidates earn as much as possible so that they stick and so that our share increased.  I used this training to increase my own salary by 50% and finally earn market value, and now I’m sharing it with you so that you can earn your fair share too.

 

If you would like to have guidance and support in qualifying conscious employers, understanding your unique market value, formulating and making your ask at the right time, reverse-engineering your career to align with your desired quality of life, and/or crafting counter-offers, e-mail Karen@epiccareering.com with the subject line: Make My Career Epic.

 

The Searchers – Take Me For What I’m Worth 1965

The Searchers – Take Me For What I’m Worth 1965

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