Salary Negotiation Recap

I recently found myself negotiating new job terms. I’m fascinated by different negotiation processes, and so I’m going to break down how things went:

What worked well for me during the negotiation:

  • Mentioning a (relatively) high salary I had received in a previous job. This was powerful as I had taken a pay-cut to start this job (in order to learn new things).
  • Describing that my priority still remained to grow and develop, but that my salary needed to be sufficient so that it was not a distraction.
  • Mentioning excellent healthcare benefits in previous jobs
  • Pushing for the option to be paid out of the UK, despite the fact that I will be employed in China – this allows me to receive a UK annual leave allowance (much more generous).
  • Pushing to have the office continue to pay for my Mandarin tuition. Whilst this sounds like a minor issue, I did the Math and this kind of thing really adds up. Consider that I have 3 private lessons a week at around $25 each. That’s $300 per month. After tax, that’s worth about $4000 a year.

What worked well for my boss during the negotiation:

  • As described in Thinking Fast and Slow my boss set the ballpark salary from the beginning by very rationally describing how they had done research into the type of role I would be doing, and gathered data on the industry standard range of pay for that type of role. This was a strong opening gambit which I will copy when I am on the other side of the table.
  • Cunningly offering me *more *than the ‘industry range’ they had cited, therefore appearing to come across as generous, and hence making it difficult for me to push for more without appearing unreasonable.
  • Highlighting the value of my health benefits, and then agreeing to maintain them.
  • Projecting a powerful combination of valuing my contribution and yet having to operate within certain constraints.

Key Errors I made during the negotiation:

  • Not mentioning my health benefits as a key priority – I had wrongly assumed they were guaranteed to stay in place. Although we ultimately agreed they would, the fact that I had not seized this territory first meant that my boss was able to ‘offer’ me something I already had.
  • Not emphatically stating that I would be uncomfortable with any reduction in health benefits. I was prepared to offer this as a bargaining chip, but I volunteered it too quickly, when it wasn’t necessary. This was because I was pleased with the salary on offer and hence lost focus.
  • Being too friendly – I actually like my boss(!) but should have been colder.

What I’m not sure about:

  • I do not know if I could have got a better salary if I pushed for it. I didn’t push for it, because the offer was generous and I respected the person making it. When those two factors are in play, I don’t feel inclined to get pushy. This may prove to be idiotic.
  • I asked to work from home one day a week. My boss agreed (he’s the MD), but my manager was *way *less enthusiastic saying that it would send a bad message to the team etc. I absolutely do not regret asking about it – some might say that it ‘sends the wrong impression’ etc. I don’t care. If I’ve upset my chances of promotion through requesting something totally reasonable in the 21st Century, then I’m not interested in the company. Tim Ferriss was right about this. In the end we settled on me being able to work from home on a ‘case-by-case’ basis – so at least that is something which I might have not received had I not pushed for it. I maintain my view: You don’t ask, you don’t get.

As I’ve written about before in my post on interview preparation, I had my preferences and desired salary range already decided before this meeting, so there were no surprises…well actually that’s not true. It still surprises me how easy it is to listen to that little voice in your head which says: ‘don’t ask for anything else’. It’s important to be ready for that voice, so you can walk away with no regrets.