The Top 12 Negotiation Mistakes and What You Can Do Instead

The prospect of negotiating salary gives people hives. The thought of talking with a hiring manager or your boss about your value to the company can induce all kinds of dread about rejection, potential conflict, and even character assassination.

After consulting and training hundreds of people in the skills and strategies of negotiation, we have collected a consistent passel of mistakes made at the negotiation table. Here are 12 common negotiation mistakes we see, and what you can do to better your outcome in the future:

1. Failing to research your market value in advance of your compensation conversation.
At the start of any job, few employers will offer you a salary at the top of the market value for your position. In fact, hiring managers typically make an offer on the low end. They hope you won’t negotiate, but are prepared if you do. That means there’s usually wiggle room. Right now, in your current role, you could be far under market value, especially if you didn’t do research prior to accepting your current position. Research with your internal and external networks, and on sites like, and get informed so you can negotiate your next raise/promotion.

2. Going in to a negotiation focusing solely on salary, and forgetting to put benefits and perks on the table as bargaining chips.
It is far more effective to have multiple items to negotiate in a compensation negotiation to give you leverage in getting to agreement. So make a prioritized list of all your moving parts—from salary and vacation to title and remote work – and assign a monetary value to each. That way you’ll know the value of what you want, and the value of any trade-offs you may make.

3. Underestimating your own authority, ability and strengths.
You need to be well and accurately acquainted with YOU. So keep an ongoing journal of your accomplishments and contributions, and assign each the strengths/skills they demonstrate.

4. Discounting your lifetime experience, skills and strengths when making a move to a new department or job with a new learning curve.
Go reread number three, and then add “develop career narratives or stories you can tell at the drop of a hat that serve to show (not tell) your strengths in action” to your to-do list.

5. Assuming you know what your bargaining partner wants.
Most people go into a salary negotiation focused only on what they want. They forget that they’re sitting across from someone who is concerned about how you contribute to the productivity and profit of the business. Your task is to ask open-ended, diagnostic questions to discover your bargaining partner’s strategic business goals, priorities and preferences, so you can frame or align your unique value with your bargaining partner’s interests.

6. Overestimating your opponent’s knowledge of your weaknesses.
Job seekers often think that their every gap and flaw is as apparent to their bargaining partner as it is to themselves, and end up capitulating to the first offer, or worse, negotiating against themselves.

The hiring manager is not privy to all the limiting beliefs that may be swirling in your head, but will likely be aware of the (temporary) deficits in your skill set and sometimes make you a low-ball offer accordingly. Your task is to play up how your strengths map to the strategic goals of your team/company, and turn your perceived deficits into growth goals.

7. Becoming intimidated by your opponent’s prestige, rank, title or educational accomplishments.
Do your homework. Research the company and the people you’ll be working with; create a framework and strategy for your conversation; and be prepared to speak about how your unique skills map to your employer’s strategic goals. Remember, they need you as much as you need them.

8. Being overly influenced by traditions, precedents, statistics, forecasts, or cultural influences and taboos.
Just because “that’s they way we do it,” or “we tried that before,” or “nobody gets a promotion in less that three years,” sound like full stops to your request or proposal, it doesn’t mean you should stop and put your tail between your legs. Align your interests with your employer’s interests, and challenge the status quo as a benefit to the bottom line.

9. Negotiating against yourself by asking for a raise and following it up with something like, “but I’m willing to negotiate.”
Of course you’re willing to negotiate, but you don’t want to cut yourself off at the kneecaps! Propose your number and back it up by communicating your unique strengths and potential, and BE QUIET. Silence can be your weapon.

10. Accepting a promotion and additional responsibilities without asking for the obvious well-deserved raise.
You will never have a better opportunity to improve your livelihood than when you receive a promotion. So research and ask for an increase in your salary, or you’ll end up as the company doormat.

11. Failing to be proactive and waiting for your boss to make an offer, or make good on a promise of a raise or promotion.
Meritocracy anyone? Didn’t think so.

12. Thinking you can’t re-negotiate when you’ve accepted an offer that’s truly below market, or against your financial best interests, or clearly not aligned with what others in similar positions are making.
Sometimes we can be so eager to get the job that we let “yes, please” escape our lips before we pause to think and make a counter offer that’s more in alignment with your market value. So schedule a follow-up conversation. Worst case, you might be told you have to wait until next year, but at least you’ve seeded the ground for a raise.