Salary Negotiation: How to Avoid Divulging Your Current Salary

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Although I recognize that some employers and employees take advantage of each other, I’m passionate about fair pay for fair work. In the case of fair pay, the negotiating advantage usually goes to businesses, because they routinely have access to knowledge that employees don’t such as (1) what others in the organization are paid for similar work and (2) industry compensation data. Hence, it’s no surprise that many of my career coaching clients are anxious and frustrated by the thought of negotiating a salary with a new employer. They dread the thought of being asked what they currently make, believing their current salary shouldn’t have any bearing on what the new employer offers and unsure how to handle that question.

Although company culture, benefits, career advancement, commute, working from home options, and other attributes factor into a decision to join a new company, most employers try to offer prospects just enough pay increase to entice them to resign and work for them. Over the years, the workforce has come to expect offers that are 10-15% more than what a candidate currently makes regardless of whether he is underpaid for his given responsibilities and performance.

During the hiring process, prospective employers are keen to understand the current salary of job applicants in order to shape their offers. Although I understand businesses are driven to minimize labor costs, I believe it’s short-sighted to underpay candidates, who may take the job out of necessity and still feel taken advantage of.  For candidates who don’t want to divulge their salary, there are conversation strategies that can help.

Salary Expectation Conversation

Employer: “What salary are you expecting for this job?”

Candidate: “I’m only expecting to be competitively paid for the job responsibilities? What range have you earmarked for this position?”

Employer: “We have some flexibility for the right candidate. What do you make today?’

Candidate: “I’m seriously interested in the position and glad to hear you have flexibility. I don’t have access to the most recent competitive salaries like you do, so what range are you prepared to offer for the right candidate?”

Or how about ….

Salary Offer Conversation

Employer: “How much are you currently making?”

Candidate: “I’m curious. Why do you need this information?”

Employer: “We need the information, so we can make you a job offer?”

Candidate: “I’m confused how my current salary is relevant to the compensation for this job? I’d welcome an offer. What are you be willing to pay for the job responsibilities and performance criteria we discussed?”

You’ll notice in both scenarios that the candidate answered each question with a question. These two conversations can be difficult for candidates, who don’t believe they hold power in the negotiation. Don’t be fooled. Businesses are desperate for good talent. If you know you are a performer, you hold more power at the negotiating table than you might think.

If you’d like to strategize on a salary negotiation for a new position or more pay for additional responsibilities at your current company, let’s schedule a coaching session. You can reach out to me at 281.793.3741 or coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

What to Keep in Mind During Your Next Negotiation


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Whether you realize it or not, people are always negotiating, because most of what they want or need in life is controlled or owned by someone else. Negotiation is underway when a parent bribes a toddler with candy for good behavior or a boss offers comp time for putting in extra hours on a critical project. Much of our daily conversation involves the underlying theme of negotiation as seen when you pitch a project or make a recommendation you want the team to endorse. Below are a few concepts that may help you achieve a win-win outcome in your next negotiation.

Understand the Other Person’s Negotiation Style

Understanding the other person’s inherent negotiation style can be helpful in how you approach the conversation. On one hand, you may encounter someone who is very straight-forward and puts their near final offer on the table right away. What about the person whose first offer is usually half-way between what they are willing to settle for? At another extreme, I had a boss who wouldn’t start to negotiate until you asked a third time for something you wanted.

With perseverance and belief that I had to have “such-and-such” for my business, I eventually figured out that I didn’t start negotiating until I had the second “no”. Further into the relationship, I asked him why he took this approach with me and my peers when we asked for money. He answered, “I’m not sure you couldn’t find another way to solve your business problem until you multiple times.” I didn’t necessarily agree with his approach, but I certainly learned to work with it. Many of my colleagues never figured out our boss’s style or got the level of support they wanted.

Figure Out What the Other Person Wants

Understanding people’s negotiating styles leads into the second key negotiation concept which is to figure out what the other person wants. In the case of my former boss, he further expanded on why he adopted his negotiation style. He believed business leaders inherently made business decisions that made their lives easier without considering whether it was most cost-effective or had the ROI that merited the investment. Note: this worldview is difficult to change. If you asked him a third time, you crossed over a hurdle in his mind that you were at least serious and passionate about your request. That marker meant you then got a seat at the negotiation table.

My boss would get daily requests to approve small to large expenditures for operations, sales, and marketing to sustain or grow the businesses. He told me if he signed all the Authorization of Expenditures (AFE) that crossed his desk, the company would be broke. Although he didn’t say it in so many words, I figured out that in order for him to sign an AFE, he needed to believe (1) there really was a problem that needed to be addressed, (2) all possible options where explored, and (3) the recommendation was the most cost-effective solution with an adequate return on investment.

With that in mind, all my requests came with a detailed PowerPoint presentation that covered all those hot topics. I got him to say “yes” to every slide message, so that when I got to the last slide which asked for money, he couldn’t help but say “yes.” And he did say “yes” every time, but…

Leave the Other Person in a Happy Place

…this brings me to the third important negotiating concept—try to leave the person you’re negotiating with in a happy place. Although I got what I set out to achieve, I noticed a bit of disappointment in my boss’s face. Knowing his personality, I assumed he hadn’t felt as if he had contributed to the solution. I had identified the problem, analyzed the options, and recommended the solution too thoroughly.

Although I’m not usually one to have patience in playing games, I am, however, a strategist. So, when my next request came around, I executed my usual strategy but left out a meaningful small component that I knew he’d find. He did suggest, “What about doing…?” My response was, “That’s a great idea. I’ll incorporate it into the plan and then move forward. It shouldn’t change the cost.” He smiled and said, “Great, send up the AFE and I’ll sign it.” The outcome was the same, but I left my boss feeling like he’d contributed to the success of the project which was the cherry on the top of the negotiation outcome.

Wrapping It Up

Many of the other business leaders never figured out how to successfully negotiate with our boss. They hadn’t taken the time to understand his negotiation style, what he wanted to hear in order to say “yes”, and certainly didn’t know how to leave him in a happy place. The reality is that negotiation can easily be a win-win. You need to focus less on getting what you want and more on putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She coaches individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com