Whether your goal is a raise after 10 years in the same position or you’re a potential new hire preparing a counteroffer, talking about money can be uncomfortable, and salary negotiation is an art. To help you master it, here is a roundup of research- and expert-based tips and insights to equip your negotiating toolkit.
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1. Ask for a meeting.
If you are after more money, the obvious first step is to schedule a meeting with your employer in which to ask for it. Before you enter the lion’s den, however, do your homework. Bring in research on current industry salary averages (if they work in your favor) and prepare a list of specific examples that illustrate the different ways you’re an asset to the company (e.g. “I made you $17 billion dollars last year, and Janet from HR won’t stop raving about the cupcakes I bring to the cafeteria every Wednesday.”).
2. Propose a range with strategic “anchor” numbers.
Now that you’ve made a case for what you bring to the table, its time to bring up actual numbers. To do this, consider proposing a range as opposed to a specific dollar amount. According to a recent study conducted by Columbia Business School researchers Daniel Ames and Malia Mason, who refer to their negotiation method as “tandem anchoring,” the low end of the range should be your target salary, and the high number should be more ambitious.
The co-authors’ findings, which are based on five separate “scripted negotiation scenarios and live dyadic negotiations,” contradict the common belief held by many negotiation experts and social psychologists, that the recipient of a range-based offer will focus on the lowest number in the range, and immediately dismiss the higher one.
“For years, we taught students to avoid making range offers in negotiations, assuming that counterparts receiving those offers would have selective attention, hearing only the end of the range that was attractive to them,” according to Ames. “Our results surprised us, up-ending how we teach the topic. We can’t say that range offers work 100% of the time, but they definitely deserve a place in the negotiator’s toolkit.”
3. Avoid certain words and phrases.
Career and negotiation experts warn that certain words and phrases in a conversation can be immediate deterrents in a negotiating scenario. HR expert and Blogging4Jobs.com editor Jessica Miller-Merrell, for example, emphasizes the importance of confidence overall, and warns against using all “uncertain words” including “I think” and “maybe.”
At the same time, its important not to be overly aggressive. Statements such as, “this is my bottom line” or “this is my final/last offer,” for example can come across as hostile, and even end a negotiation altogether, according to HR expert Steve Kane.
“If you say any of these things, and the demand is not met by the employer, the negotiation will be over and you’ll have to be prepared to walk away,” Kane says.
4. Don’t be afraid of “No.”
For many people, a salary negotiation is an intimidating conversation you want to get over with rather than a fun conversation you look forward to. Because of this, it can be easy to want to abandon the discussion entirely at the first inkling of confrontation. Avoid this instinct. If your first offer is refused, take a moment to collect yourself and calmly and confidently return with a counteroffer (that you prepared prior to the conversation).
5. Don’t say “No.”
Similarly, if an employer proposes a number that’s lower than what you want, don’t simply walk away — at least not right away. Instead, treat the figure as a jumping off point and respectfully return with a counteroffer.
“In negotiations, you’ll have to be willing to be flexible,” says author and career coach, Ryan Kahn, who agrees that you should come back with a number or range of your own if your employer’s proposal “isn’t in line with what you are seeking.”
6. Don’t use another offer as leverage.
You know the practical pearl of wisdom that warns not to bring up another guy to make your current boyfriend jealous? Even if it can be argued that said tactic comes from an understandable motivation such as not feeling appreciated, using it is more likely to result in resentment or an ugly argument than a bouquet of fresh flowers. Equally tacky is to play other offers against the one on the table if you’re negotiating with a potential employer as a prospective new hire.
“Only discuss the offer at hand,” instructs workplace expert Lynn Taylor, especially if it’s actually the only one you have. “You could shoot yourself in the foot,” Taylor adds. “The hiring manager may ask you to elaborate and if you’re bluffing, it’ll be hard to save face.”
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