Salary Negotiation: A Simple How-To (Part 1: DO IT)
March 16, 2018 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Andrea Tomingas (MetaFilter's Uncle Glendinning) prepared this how-to-negotiate-salary doc (on Google Docs) for some family and friends and is now sharing it with the world! "I'm a woman in tech and I had to kinda figure out how to negotiate salary on my own (but see note inside) so wanted to share my experience to level the playing field a bit." [via mefi projects]

Bonus tidbits for government jobs (focusing on U.S./Federal positions, but lessons may apply elsewhere):
* Negotiate Your Way to a Higher Federal Salary, from Kathryn Troutman, Monster Federal Career Coach
* How to Boost Your Salary Offer, by Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job, for Monster's GovCentral
* 3 Tips to Negotiate a Government Salary, by Hannah Moss for GovLoop, who also notes that you can "think outside the paycheck," which can also be a general tip
posted by filthy light thief (25 comments total) 118 users marked this as a favorite
 
Every day I’m thankful for the existence of my union so I never have to worry about this horrible rubbish. This seems useful for people unlucky enough not to have that option.
posted by Jimbob at 2:15 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


step 1: organize your co-workers into a union
posted by indubitable at 2:51 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


This is incredibly helpful, and I wish I had had it 10 years ago. Thank you.
posted by offalark at 3:38 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


It's unclear to why unions would change much here. Even if wages are set by level, the level is negotiable. Most employers with inflexible pay arrangements still have substeps per level, in which case substep is negotiable.

I often remind people that in my entire career, I have never heard of a single applicant who negotiated for their wage being viewed negatively for it. Now, some people have their negotiation attempts rejected, but I've never seen any negative consequence to their negotiation. In general, applicants who negotiate effectively are viewed positively.
posted by saeculorum at 4:34 PM on March 16


I often remind people that in my entire career, I have never heard of a single applicant who negotiated for their wage being viewed negatively for it.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The people who study such things do find that people are penalized for negotiating, and women are penalized more than men. Here are the first five results I got when searching for women penalized for negotiating:

Lean Out: The Dangers for Women Who Negotiate
Women Know When Negotiating Isn't Worth It
Why Don't More Women Negotiate?
Women Ask for Raises As Much As Men Do—But Get Them Less Often
Why young women are still less likely to negotiate a job offer

There are many more.
posted by Lexica at 4:59 PM on March 16 [16 favorites]


I like! I am interested in, and think I appreciate, that she never mentions benefits or vacation and stuff like working from home or flextime. Get the offer letter, then get the revised offer letter, *then* figure out how to work from home or that you gotta jet because your spouse has waaaaay more vacation tume than you will ever be grudgingly granted.

And hell yes, organize!
posted by mwhybark at 5:07 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I never claimed otherwise. Reading through your links, there is precious little evidence of negotiation being detrimental for women beyond the single anecdote in The Atlantic article. I fully believe that women are less likely to succeed at negotiation, but absence of success is correspondingly not evidence that negotiation is a bad idea. Heck, even your Harvard Economist article indicates so: "Still, women who practically never negotiate should probably not take this study as evidence they shouldn’t bother trying."

From a societal view, women faring less well in negotiations than men is a thing, and it is a problem. That said, that is not evidence that negotiation is, itself, bad for individual women. From an individual level, I still see no evidence that negotiation is, on average, detrimental to women and that women are better off not negotiating.
posted by saeculorum at 5:08 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


One item that is perhaps implicit in the doc but never called out. Since the biggest bang for the buck is at a new job you should change jobs to maximize your pay as early as possible. You can and should use your current employment as a safety net to have the hard compensation discussions without having too much skin in the game.
posted by pdoege at 5:17 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


Hey cool thank you for posting this!! I love talking negotiation and it's been great to hear people's perspectives.

Re: Negotiating as a Woman - Being a woman is fucking fraught period right? And then as with soooo many things negotiating-when-woman can feel like a damned if you do damned if you don't kind of thing. Same (or more) for people of color and anyone who feels they're coming from a marginalized position. But we gotta just keep doing it and doing it hard til this damn patriarchy tumbles.

Re: Negotiating Outside the Paycheck - I never negotiate things besides money. However, I'm in the tech/design industry. I can see how that could be super useful for certain industries - like in government. For other industries where negotiating salary is more standard, I feel like it dilutes the discussion. Like, let's just discuss this money, period. Instead of let's discuss money, but if that's not cool, I'd be happy to discuss vacation or something.

I originally created this doc for family and friends - women in creative / tech fields where negotiation can be very very fruitful but like no one's ever telling you (at least for me) when you're in design school starting out, "Oh and hey negotiate the shit out of every job offer." So yeah I'm hoping this helps some people who are where I was at when I started my career.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 8:13 PM on March 16 [12 favorites]


From an individual level, I still see no evidence that negotiation is, on average, detrimental to women and that women are better off not negotiating.

Individual negotiation leaves the opportunity for individuals, women, to come out with worse deals than men. The ridiculous corporate-enforced taboo against discussing your pay cements this in place. Collective negotiation for the same pay and conditions for everyone, which are known and public, is the efficient and obvious solution to this. In addition, people can focus on being good at their job rather than trying to learn industrial bargaining.
posted by Jimbob at 8:18 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I LOVE negotiating, but am TERRIFIED of being penalized or ostracized for it, so the whole "Lean In" thing has always screamed victim blaming to me. We are taught to not negotiate because there are so many attitudes and stigmas that encourage us to not even try, and to be penalized if we even do, so it's an act of self preservation that also doesn't help us either.

Once I got over the programming of settling, I'm now an assertive bossy bitch who just WANTS ALL THE DAMN MONEY because like hell I know those mediocre white men are not even working that hard and the shit is just given to them. This is so helpful, thank you!
posted by yueliang at 8:19 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


My friend got a new job recently. She had three concurrent offers, and the one she was already planning to accept offered twice the salary of the others, plus all the benefits she might want. The offer was made in person and she said she knew she should negotiate, but it was so much better than what she had expected, her face must have shown her delight and surprise.

The guy making the offer interrupted her when she started to reply and said, "Hey, before you say anything, I just wanted to say, people tell me women don't always feel they can negotiate on salary and benefits. You should negotiate. My boss will be mad at me if I come back and say that you accepted the offer without negotiating, because it will hurt our gender equity statistics, so I'd like to recommend you take a day or two and come back with some requests."

So she did, and they agreed, and everyone was happy. I kind of like this.
posted by lollusc at 12:45 AM on March 17 [22 favorites]


I often remind people that in my entire career, I have never heard of a single applicant who negotiated for their wage being viewed negatively for it.

Negotiating, done well, is never a bad thing, but I've seen a number of people run afoul of it (to the point of retracted offers in some cases) by insisting on negotiating things that weren't negotiable and/or making demands that showed how poorly they understood the situation. It can be better to not negotiate than to negotiate badly, but those are unusual cases, and I definitely agree that people in general, and women in specific, should negotiate more.

So she did, and they agreed, and everyone was happy. I kind of like this.

That was well done, and I wish hiring managers did this more often rather than acting like the salary comes out of their own pocket.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:01 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Am right in the middle of this process at this very moment. It is stressful!
posted by pharm at 6:09 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Every day I’m thankful for the existence of my union so I never have to worry about this horrible rubbish. This seems useful for people unlucky enough not to have that option.

Well, sorta. I negotiated a starting salary at my union job that was at the the high end of the scale. Now, a few years on I've maxed out and will only ever get cost-of-living increases until I get a different job.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:06 AM on March 17


That was well done, and I wish hiring managers did this more often rather than acting like the salary comes out of their own pocket.

When I first became a hiring manager, I had a really great boss/director who explicitly said we should try to get new hires as much money as we could (within the fairly restrictive salary grades), even if they didn't negotiate hard. His argument was that we were hiring mostly young women, and the organization we worked for had a lot of prestige/cachet in our industry, so yes, we might be able to get people for less than they were worth. But the higher salary they started at, the more their salary would go with each step increase and raise, the happier they'd be, and the longer we'd be able to keep them. We did indeed keep good people for a long time, and it's a principle I wish more hiring managers understood. (We were also helped by the way that organization did the budgeting, where staff salaries were in a different budget pool than your department's operating budget. So hiring managers didn't feel like they had to make impossible tradeoffs with every hire.)
posted by lunasol at 9:37 AM on March 17 [9 favorites]


Based on my experiences without unions and friends’ experiences with them I’d rather work outside of one. Better pay, better raises, I don’t have any bizarre rules about when I can take a vacation and every one of my friends in a union job still faces the prospect of layoffs.

Anyway, yes, negotiate, it’s expected. Where I’ve seen problems happen is when people keep trying to come back to the well. We already give unlimited vacation days, but you have people try to negotiate salary multiple times, then ask to only work 3 days a week or only from 11-4 with no on-call, then ask for a Director title, etc etc etc. Eventually we wonder if they’ll be this painful to work with and then kind of don’t want to hire them.
posted by mikesch at 10:10 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


It's worth calling out that the Google Doc is focused on tech, where unemployment is currently under 2%. (2% is from the Stack Overflow survey earlier this week.) When unemployment goes below 4%, it's hard for companies to hire, and workers get more strength in negotiations because you're a limited resource; they can't hire as easily as they normally could.

In a low-unemployment setup, everyone should always try for one round of negotiations. If you aren't negotiating when you're an incredibly limited resource for the company? You're doing yourself wrong.

One interesting twist is with larger companies, the person on the phone isn't all that powerful; they're a recruiter, not a hiring manager. That said, large companies often give recruiters different options they can open, or there's a fixed process they can initiate if you go and ask for more in a respectful way. (This was implied in the doc, but is worth knowing; you're talking to someone with a *playbook* for this, not someone where it's head-to-head negotiating money out of their pocket!)

If you have *competing* offers - if they're bidding against another company - you're in a far better shape in a negotiation. If they don't feel they're competing for you, they will not offer as much.

I've also had luck with a simple phrase; "I'm not after a specific dollar value, but I want to make sure if I find out what coworkers are making, I don't feel I got a bad deal here." In a <2% unemployment job, that actually works better than it should.
posted by talldean at 10:39 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Here is the single best negotiating tactic I have ever seen: when you're offered the job, no matter what the salary offer is, just repeat the number back to them, pause, and then say "hmm." That's it. Often, just that pause and hmm will put them on their back foot and get them to start raising the number.

This is the best tactic because it works without you having to risk looking like you're difficult or stingy or anything. You haven't said no, so if they're reasonable at all they can't put this on you.

Obviously, if that doesn't work, then start all the stuff listed in the article above. And even if it DOES work, you can still negotiate, but now the starting number is even higher. Win-win.
posted by nushustu at 2:19 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


I'm so bad at this. Usually what happens is that they ask for a number up front and then they counter with a bigger number which means that I'm always underselling myself.
posted by octothorpe at 6:52 AM on March 18


I often remind people that in my entire career, I have never heard of a single applicant who negotiated for their wage being viewed negatively for it. Now, some people have their negotiation attempts rejected, but I've never seen any negative consequence to their negotiation. In general, applicants who negotiate effectively are viewed positively.

Hi. I've been in the workforce full-time since approximately 1990. In the past 28 years, I've tried twice to negotiate compensation, and both times I made what I believe any reasonable person would consider a reasonable request. Both times the offers were rescinded. I mean the actual job offers were rescinded, not my opening salvos.
posted by scratch at 7:03 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


To provide another good-outcome anecdote in this thread: Based on salary information provided from a fellow Mefite (YAY banjo_and_the_pork!) from an AskMe, I waltzed into my manager's office and asked for a $20k raise. That was FUN! I was reasonably sure, because of the circumstances, that I wouldn't be let go; was also reasonably sure I wouldn't get $20k. I didn't. Instead, I got a managerial title, another week of annual PTO, and $10k. Hee hee. [Am female, middle-aged, work as a librarian in law firms; my manager is a woman, who started her own company in the '80s staffing law firm libraries, which I think is relevant.] DANG that was a blast, asking for twenty grand more!
posted by goofyfoot at 6:00 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


Congrats, goofyfoot!

My one experience trying to negotiate was closer to scratch - arguing that I was losing out by not getting a higher pay, only to be told "sorry, there's nothing we can do for you." This was in the setting of state government, where pay scales are fixed, and because someone probably gave their cousin or friend a great promotion at some point in the past, current state employees can only go up one "step" in pay, regardless of how many steps they go up in a new position. My would-be boss didn't even push back against H.R. on my behalf, so that alone was a good sign that it wasn't a good idea for me to take that position.

In short: if your attempts to negotiate end up in you getting denied the job, that might say something about the company or agency who would hire you (but it may also be an "employers market" where companies can be rude about even attempting to negotiate pay because others will take what's offered and say "thank you").

Also, that's part of the reason I included those three bonus links about applying for government jobs below the break.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:11 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Yeah, negotiation sounds good and all, but it's more the rule than the exception that the offer they present is changeable.

Also be careful getting a union salary too far up that level, and other people finding out. Won't make that mistake twice.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:14 PM on March 19


I don't think that having a union salary of any kind is a danger for most of us.
posted by octothorpe at 3:23 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


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