This is the worst mistake you can make when negotiating a pay rise

Jay Bazzinotti
Friday 14 October 2016 08:45
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In response to the question "What's the worst thing a person can do to damage their prospects of getting a higher salary?", Jay Bazzinotti writes...

I actually had this discussion with the head of HR at a company where I worked. She told me the biggest mistake a person can make is to not negotiate at all and that it happens way too frequently.

It goes like this...


Hi, this Mary Smith from ABC Corp. Thank you for interviewing with us. We are happy to offer you the position of xyz for n pounds per year.


Thanks, when do I start?

Accepting the first thing the company offers, even if it is excellent, is a sign of desperation and lack of experience and acumen and puts the company’s decision to hire such a noob in doubt.

The best response is to say, “I am thrilled with the offer. I really am excited about the company and the offer. May I take a day to think it over?” To which Mary Smith is going to say, “Please, take all the time you need. Perhaps we can speak again on...”

And then hang up the phone, make a fist pump, think over the offer and then consider what MORE that you want. Even if they are giving you more than you ever dreamed you would get, they are holding something back and they EXPECT you to ask for more. If you don’t they lose respect for you.

So at a minimum ask for a little more money, even if it’s a token amount. ALWAYS ask for another week’s holiday. You can ask for a good parking spot; an office instead of a cubicle; the right to work from home one day a week; a cell phone or a company car — absolutely ANYTHING is on the table. Ask for it. Make a list. Pick the things that will make you most happy.

Then when you call them back you say,

Well, Mary Smith, I have thought about your generous offer to work at xyz and I am excited to get going as soon as possible, however, my feelings are that the salary needs to be n + y and because of the extra responsibilities I am going to need xyz.

I know what you are thinking: you’re embarrassed to ask for more. Get over it. They expect you to ask for more. Develop a cold, hard heart and ask. They aren’t going to say, “You ungrateful bastard! We change our minds! Get lost!” They will either counter with some of what you want or, if they are playing hardball, refuse anything you ask for. Then you must decide whether you want to proceed. A successful negotiation is one where both parties feel good at its conclusion. If you walk away feeling somehow cheated or duped or used it’s not going to help your motivation and it’s not the way to start a new company. If you screw them to the wall so hard that they feel you were being unreasonable then you better be ready to walk on water the day you start because they will be expecting miracles from someone who demanded so much.

And don’t forget - you don’t need to explain WHY you want what you want. That’s just whining. Never get into the “why”. Just get into the “what” of demands. Why you want it is no business of theirs.

I once was offered a job at a company where the pay was so far beyond what I was making at the time that my heart was pounding like a trip hammer. Nevertheless I asked for $5,000 more per year. My manager said, “We’re already at the top of the pay scale and I can’t give you any more money but I am prepared to offer more stock options and an extra week of holiday.” I took the job. The extra week of holiday was awesome and with the $5,000 extra shares of stock (reduced in the purchase of the company in a 6 - 1 reverse split) ended up being worth over $150,000. Yay.

And whatever you negotiate - make certain it’s in the offer letter. Do nothing on a handshake or the “word” of someone. If it’s not written down, it never happened. You got played. It happens all the time. Write it down, get them to sign it, store it some place safe.