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It's Always Good to Negotiate

It's Always Good to Negotiate

You should always negotiate. There isn’t a situation so problematic that you can’t solve. There isn’t a specific time or set of circumstances or type of counterparty that signals you can’t negotiate.

Here are three scenarios which might make some people back down - but not you, fearless negotiator.

1) You accepted a lesser offer already.

Say you already accepted a job offer or you’ve been at your job for a long time and only now are realizing that you are underpaid. Sure, the best time to negotiate is at the start of something or when there’s new information to introduce. A new job offer is an example of both – you’re starting with a new employer, and you both are getting to know each other. This is what makes a job offer the best time to negotiate salary, benefits, scope of the role, and resources.

However, you’re always learning new information, so depending on how disruptive the information is, that could be the perfect opening to restart a negotiation. For example, you quoted a lower salary expectation than you now want because the scope of the job is much bigger than you estimated. Well, you don’t have to remain beholden to what you said – explain to the prospective employer that the job is different and therefore the terms have to be different. 

If you accepted a lower salary and then the job turns out differently than advertised, that’s new information and grounds for a new negotiation. If you have been on the job for a long time and learn that your salary has not kept up to market value, that’s also new information! (Here are four tips if you are underpaid.)

[Related: How to Answer the "What Are Your Salary Expectations?" Question]

2 ) You are negotiating with someone who always says no.

I hope you’re excited for any opportunity to negotiate. But what if you’re facing a curmudgeon – e.g., that manager who always says no? If it’s not about money but about process (e.g., you want to work a different schedule or change up your weekly report), you may not have to ask. Just make the change, and be prepared to ask for forgiveness if you get called out and negotiate the request at that point. But maybe you won’t even have to.

Otherwise, make it in the curmudgeon’s best interest to say yes – i.e., focus on what’s in it for them. Or craft your position in such a way that they come to your conclusion but it’s their idea. For example, if more money can be tied to more sales or other performance improvement, brainstorm with your manager about improving the group. Ask a leading question around how to incentivize the group, not just you, to stretch for more. The discussion might lead to your manager deciding that a compensation restructure is the best solution.

Or, appeal to their hero complex and ask for help. They may give you negotiation tips that you can turn around and use on them. Or, in their zeal to solve your problem (and be the hero), they may acquiesce to what you’re asking for.

[Related: Three Common Negotiation Obstacles and How to Overcome Them]

3) You think you have no leverage.

Really needing a job is one example of not having leverage. You feel you can’t negotiate, and because you can’t walk away, the other side has all the power. In this case, having financial security would increase your leverage. 

Having another job offer in hand is another way to increase your leverage. Anything that gives you more confidence and capacity to stand your ground increases your leverage – e.g., a strong pipeline of leads to land a job quickly, a supportive network that could lead to jobs or at least consulting offers.

Anything that could make the company want you more and therefore more readily say yes to your requests is also leverage. This might be you having special expertise or skills that the company needs right away because the position you would fill is a high priority, and the company is losing money by the day.

Negotiation is about sorting out points of disagreement, so expect some pushback (otherwise you’d just agree, and there would be no need to negotiate in the first place!). Just remember that pushback isn’t necessarily bad, hostile, or mean-spirited. Get curious, get creative, and get what you deserve!

[Related: 7 Common Career Fears and How to Move Forward]

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime Ellevate member, Senior Contributor to Forbes Leadership, and career coach. Her mission is helping experienced professionals find work they love and earn more doing it. Visit the Dream Career Club to learn more and receive a free checklist of the 25 Career Mistakes Even Smart Professionals Make.


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