Believe me or not, most of the unhappiness found at work derives from a lousy salary negotiation in the beginning when you are still a candidate. After so many tests, interviews, assessments, and case-solving during the hiring process, the candidate’s anxiety levels are up to the top, so basically, it's not a surprise that after receiving an offer, the candidate tends to accept it immediately just as it is, without negotiating anything.
I have worked in the finance department for several companies. Let me tell you something. Most large companies have budgets, which means they have ranges for hiring people and usually go for the lower range when making an offer. That's why you have to negotiate, because it may be the case that they are offering you their minimum possible. You don't know, so you accept it. After you join the company, you realize that your colleagues are less qualified or less experienced and earn a little more than you. That is when things start to get a little bit ugly. When you're comparing yourself to others, it will generate negative emotions and negative thoughts in yourself that can lead to unhappiness. So why not change your behavior and start negotiating?
These are some very well known thoughts about it:
“but I am Sicilian, we don't negotiate”;
“I'm German, and we don't negotiate like that in Germany”;
“I'm English, and I don't have that in my culture,”
Name the nationality, and the same excuse will come. That’s what it is, an excuse, because we, humans, don't like negotiating for ourselves, we tend to be protective of others. Hence, it’s a lot easier to negotiate on behalf of someone else than doing it for ourselves.
The only way to overcome that negotiation block is by practicing. So, I’ll help you with typical salary negotiations for a new hire or in case you want to get a promotion.
1 - If you get a question about your salary expectations, run away from it because it’s way too soon to come up with a cold number right at the beginning of the hiring process. If it’s a mandatory field in the application form, write the number 1, for example. That is only a way for HR to organize and classify information. It should not be of more significant concern. Even though it's mandatory, you can try to skip it postpone that information as much as possible. Shooting a random number might get the HR thinking you’re asking for too much or too little, and that won’t be good for you.
Here’s a tip on how to avoid that question politely. You can say, “I trust your company is very much reliable, and I'm very open to hearing from you what would be the reasonable pay/salary for that position.”
2 – Do some research. Research the salaries in that specific segment, company size, industry, and worker’s category because it varies from region to region. You can look at Glassdoor, even though it’s not very much reliable, you’ll be able to have an idea; there are also many other reliable publications. Google it and ask around.
3 – Think of your minimum for the role and be consistent. For example, if you're targeting a new job and decide that the minimum amount you will accept as salary is 50k, you shouldn’t take any offers lower than that. Otherwise, it will probably drive you into unhappiness in the future. So, if you know at least the minimum amount you could work for, you can have some margin for negotiation as well.
4 – Nowadays, it is widespread to negotiate ‘I deals,’ especially in the tech industry. It is a tailored arrangement for each individual, so not everybody in the company receives the same values, benefits, or bonuses that you are. It is applicable, especially if you have a high demand or difficult to find expertise in the job market. Usually, in these ‘I deals,’ the salary is not that high. You can still get stock options, a partnership in the company, or different calculated bonuses than the average personnel.
5 – Negotiate everywhere, every time. Why is negotiating so important? Because depending on the company, you can keep the same salary for years, so if you don’t negotiate by the time you’re to be hired, it’ll be a lot harder to do afterward. Start negotiating in the hiring process when you received the offer; don't ever accept the first offer.
If you are on the other track, which is the promotion track, you want to leverage your titles and salary. You want more income.
1 – Ask for more work and deliver high-quality results. Then, after that, you ask for a pay raise. I know it takes some time, but this will be giving you the correct justification for asking for more money.
2 – Never use your personal reasons for asking for a raise. Your employer has nothing to do with the fact that your family is growing or that you want a new house, a car, or whatever. Those can’t stand as underlying reasons for you asking to be promoted or asking for a raise.
3 – Benchmark salaries with your co-workers and colleagues. I know it may sound a bit invasive, but it works when you have good relationships with your colleagues. You can even tell them how much you earn and ask if they think you should ask for a raise, you know the ones you can trust. Most people have money blocks and are protective of their financial information. I respect that but try to get hints of data with people around you.
4 – Be transparent and communicate with your manager or leader before looking for a new job. It’s common for people that are not happy at the workplace and want a higher salary to start looking and applying for job positions on LinkedIn, then do interviews and change jobs without ever saying anything about that unhappiness to their current employer. You can avoid that by communicating with your leadership beforehand.
5 – Remember that it is reasonable for HR to harmonize salaries amongst teams. In large companies, there aren’t significant variations between the salaries on the same team. I'm saying that it will be tough for you to get paid more than your direct manager, for example. You need to have that in mind because if you think you deserve more money than your manager, maybe you need to work on a succession plan or try to make a shift to another department. It is valid basically for large companies, which is where I'm coming from; in small companies, there is not so much of harmonization of salaries and equalities.
To finalize, I want to address injustice and gender inequality. There is a book that I like from the researcher Linda C. Babcock called ‘Women Don't Ask.’ It is a compilation of several scientific studies restating that women ask for what they want on the less frequently. For example, if you are a manager, hiring manager, or if you work in HR, bear in mind that female employees don’t often ask for what they want, so you should help them by stimulating them to say what they want and how they feel. According to scientific studies, women tend to negotiate very well on others’ behalf, but they don’t do so well when negotiating for themselves. So this is a precious book.
The second reference I want to give is from the book ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’ with a specific chapter addressing how to negotiate your salary. This book is from the ‘70s, it's from an American author named Richard Bolles, and it’s revised and re-edited every year. Last year I had the chance to meet his son, Gary Bolles, in Silicon Valley (check the original post above). Go for that book if you want to go a little bit further. I've used Bolles’s techniques in my life for the last 10 years, and they definitely work.