“You don’t get anything in this world by waiting for what you want to come to you. You make it happen!” Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) famously advised her secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) in the movie Working Girl.
This is worthy womanly advice between colleagues. Women take home 77.4 percent of the annual median salary of men, and much of that difference could be reflected in the different negotiating and bargaining powers between the sexes, finds a Harvard Law School review of Women and Negotiation.
Truth is, neither sex does as well as they could in salary negotiations. In fact, most new hires accept the salary they are offered. Consider Passive Kate. Kate is so happy to receive the job offer; she is afraid to make waves and potentially overturn the offer with salary demands. So, she smiles, agrees to all the terms, and signs the employment contract. But deep-down Kate harbours deep resentment towards her new employer because all her college friends are earning 10k more a year.
At the other extreme is Pushy Paul. Paul struts into salary negotiations, rolls up his sleeves, and presents the latest salary data and complaints on Glass Door from previous employees. The employer acquiesces to Paul’s salary demands but regrets hiring Paul owing to his bullying negotiation skills. Pushy Paul is relegated to a desk job with limited client contact.
Alternatively, these new employees could learn the art of conducting mutually satisfactory negotiations. Effective negotiators earn more and perform better in their jobs. So, when confronted with a job listing with a salary range of 40,000–50,000 USD plus health benefits, do you accept the base salary, push for the high range, or settle in the middle?
By following these negotiation tips, you can agree on a salary level satisfactory to both parties.
- Use the Art of Subtle Negotiations
When negotiating, women face a dilemma. Society accepts confident assertive men bargaining prices down or salaries up but finds such traits unattractive in women. These societal norms, however, should not put women at a disadvantage in salary negotiations since the art of persuasion is in subtle negotiation tactics. When women do choose to negotiate, they are often more effective. Bullying or manipulative negotiating tactics may win the salary battle but create a silent war between the employer and employee. Instead of making salary demands, do your research, make a list of acceptable and unacceptable employment terms, objectively present the facts, and ask the employer for their advice and opinion. Salary negotiations are not a debate. Responding to each comment with a counter argument creates an adversarial relationship.
- Let the Employer Arrive at a Higher Salary
Directly demanding a higher salary creates a win-lose negotiating dynamic. What if you lose? You could be forced to walk away from the job offer.
Instead, treat the salary negotiations like an informational meeting by asking questions such as:
- What is the median salary of entry level employees?
- Are these fresh college graduates or like me, do they have a year or two of experience?
- Do you pay higher salaries by education level?
- How, if at all, do my past performance reviews and rewards affect my salary?
- Collect Objective and Accurate Salary Information
Thoroughly research salaries in your position and field before entering salary negotiations. If you take half an hour of your employer’s time negotiating a salary level that no one in your position earns, you are likely to be considered ignorant and arrogant, and not smart enough for your new job position. Be sure to network and speak to as many peers as you can to obtain fair and accurate salary information.
And for women negotiators, here’s some more encouraging news from another Harvard Law School review on salary negotiations. Women perform better at the bargaining table than men when armed with objective information such as comparative salary information.
- Identify Areas for Compromise
Through salary review and comparison sites like Glass Door, you have access to droves of data on salaries. It is up to you to make that data intelligent and put it to work in your favour in salary negotiations. Following are examples of ways you can more deeply mine and analyze the data:
- Within your job position, which specializations are commanding higher salaries?
- Do employees with former experience at the Googleplex, for example, or other revered employers command higher salaries?
- What is the salary differential among those with a bachelors, masters or doctorate in your position?
- What is the profile of employees who complain about the salary at XYZ Company?
- Take a Big Picture View
You are negotiating your career path, not simply adding a few more dollars to your monthly pay check.
With 200 more dollars a month, I can buy a car, avoid the daily bus commute, get to work earlier, and boss for an extra two hours a day.
I am completing my PhD in Computer Software Engineering part time. The tuition is very high. Do you offer any kind of tuition assistance? What is the median salary level of PhDs in your company?
One potential compromise: The company could offer to increase your salary to a level between a master and doctorate while you complete your degree.
- Take a Long-term View
Before negotiating, make sure to include cost of living increases, bonuses, and other ways your salary will grow over the years. Does your new company offer the highest matching funds on retirement plans in the industry? Let’s consider a new job recruit called Quibbling Arthur. Arthur spent two hours negotiating a 5,000 USD annual pay increase because all of his college friends are starting at 40,000 USD, not 35,000 USD. But when all bonuses, retirement benefits and other perks are added, Arthur actually earns 15,000 USD more annually than his peers. Arthur is hired but he already has a negative notation in his review file for poor analytical and calculation skills. Remember to consider benefits such as:
- Stock options
- Retirement benefits and matching funds
- Signing bonuses, bonuses
- Technology (laptops), cars
- Training and certifications
- Vacation and flex time
A job title also affects potential earnings power. Are you an Investment Advisor or Director of Investments? They may involve the same job duties but companies often provide important job titles to engender the trust and confidence of clients.
- Focus on Mutual Goals and Team Effort
I am very excited to inform you that I have been appointed to the conference committee of XYZ industry organization, an unparalleled opportunity to network and promote ABC company.
In place of adversarial salary negotiations, you have introduced a way you can work together to support the mutual goals of the company.
- Provide Options, Never Ultimatums
I do foresee working about 20 unpaid hours a month to support this position, as well as expenses related to travel. I was hoping we could explore potential ways ABC could support me in this role.
You have placed yourself and your employer on a team working together to meet mutual goals.
For example, possible ways ABC could help me include a salary increase, assistance with travel expenses, and/or support creating ABC marketing materials to promote at events.
You have provided your new employer with options, instead of backing them into a corner. They will appreciate the opportunity to propose ways to help you promote ABC.
- Do Not Play a Bidding Game
Sales people are often taught to play to the fear-greed factor of buyers to close a sale. Such tactics could lead to disastrous results in salary negotiations. When negotiating to sell a car, announcing that you have higher offers will raise the bid price of the car. In salary negotiations, your new employer should never feel backed into a corner by higher offers. If you turn salary negotiations into a zero-sum game, you could end up without a job.
Never demand X because you know employee Y has it. Unbeknownst to you, Employee Y may be the developer of the company’s core technology and the comparison considered inappropriate.
- Conduct Interviews in Person
A critical advantage of any good negotiator is the ability to read the emotions of their interlocutor. Tapping into emotional intelligence is hard to do over the telephone, and near impossible over email.
Once you receive the job offer, take time to review it. If you decide you want to negotiate the salary, ask for an appointment to discuss the job offer. Think positively. This meeting is conducted for career coaching to advance your career. If you take the win-lose attitude — you have to have 5,000 USD more a year or you walk — than you are forcing a situation in which you have to leave the job offer on the table.
Once you come to an agreement that is mutually satisfactory to both parties, get it in writing.