23 Apr 2021

Negotiate What You Deserve

“Are you the best at what you do?” Your belief around that question might impact my second question: “Are you a good negotiator?” I recently asked those questions to a ballroom full of mostly women and got some pretty halfhearted responses. If you don’t have the confidence to believe in your value, you probably don’t ask for what you’re worth in salary or fees. Here are some ways to leap forward.

He said, She said
“Men naturally expect to negotiate salary and raises; women need to know it’s expected,” says Jenny Keil, professor emerita of economics and management at Hamline University. Keil advises everyone do their homework before you get to the table. Research every available fact you can about pay in your particular job market or job function. For a new job, Keil recommends, “You ask the employer for a salary range rather than trying to pin down the exact number” in your first or second interview encounter. She urges you to “identify your brand and why you should get the top salary.” If you can’t articulate that, it’s reasonable a new boss won’t think you deserve it.

Sticky Questions
Compile data points about the people with whom you’re negotiating. The more you know about their mindset and tendencies, the more power you have when you get to the table. If you’re going for a new job or promotion at your current firm, be ready to respond to questions about why you are a good fit. If you have tough questions for the interviewer, use language around “good fit” to help them understand why you are probing. Keil also recommends you use language to describe the work you’re doing in the most powerful way possible. For example, “Medical coder has more power than nursing or health care,” when you describe your experience. You certainly don’t want to lie but do know how some labels are perceived by your target. I call these subtextual messages.

If you’ve been paying attention on the job, you are likely in tune with the subtextual messages of your boss or colleagues. Keeping these in mind will help if you are shooting for a promotion or more benefits. Keil suggests thinking in terms of “a lattice idea instead of a ladder. Maybe you want to get experience in another zone of the company so you are zig-zagging instead of going up the ladder.”

Don’t be afraid to hear “no.” It’s short and to the point and gives you data for your next steps. For example, is this a “no but maybe later,” a true no or the kind of no that makes you think you’d better start looking for another job? Listen to the language that comes alongside the “no.” You should hear details about why your request won’t work in plausible and tangible terms. If you don’t, that means maybe there’s room to rephrase and brainstorm other items to which they could say “yes.”

Blind Spots
Keil says there are key blind spots she sees when advising people about crucial conversations at work. Thinking your employer owes you more because of your personal situation for example. It’s not their responsibility if you have to pay for childcare or a parent in a nursing home so don’t reference these in your negotiation.

Letting Emotions Get the Best of You
One way to handle the emotion aspect is to create a talking points sheet for yourself. In it, list all your job-related accomplishments from the previous year. Also include what Keil calls your “getting to yes” points. Define the interests of both you and your employer. Then list the options for both you and your employer to get to the yes you propose.

Roshini Rajkumar is a C-Suite strategist and coach, talk show host, and mainstage speaker.  Reach out:





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