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Negotiating a Job Offer without Sounding Greedy

Negotiating your terms at a new job is both exciting and stressful, because most people get very uncomfortable asking for money
Illustrative photo of a work contract (Credit: AntonioGuillem, IStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative photo of a work contract (Credit: AntonioGuillem, IStock by Getty Images)

You have made it to a third interview. That usually means that if it hasn’t been raised already, the issue of compensation will be on the table.

For most people, this is both exciting and very stressful. Exciting, because it means that you may have landed yourself a job after an arduous search; stressful, because if you are like 90% of the population, asking for money and negotiating how much you will make at your new job makes you very uncomfortable. It makes some people so very uncomfortable, that they will accept a salary offer that is less than what they are worth, simply to avoid the strain of negotiating.

The fear of sounding greedy or selfish lies at the bottom of many people’s discomfort with compensation negotiation. Add to that the fear of losing out on the position, the fear of painting oneself into a corner, and the fear of any conflict generally, and you just may feel paralyzed.

Get informed

The first step toward escaping from any type of paralyzing fear is to get informed. Knowledge is power; and in this case, knowledge about salaries in your field and in this company in particular can make or break your negotiation success. You will need to find the answers to three questions.

Question one:  what is the salary range for someone with your training and experience in your industry? Today this information is readily accessible through a variety of websites that offer trustworthy information, taking into account seniority, titles and even geographic location.

Question two: what is the pay scale at the company that you are interviewing for?

The reason this is relevant information is that even if you are worth X on a national scale, if the company considering you pays that amount to its CEO, you are unlikely to get it for a more junior role. This information can be tricky to come by; if you are applying for work at an NGO, salary information must be made public by law, so you are in luck. If you are applying for work at a for-profit company, getting this information will mean doing some detective work through friends and colleagues who currently work there or have worked there in the past.

Question three: what are the acceptable perks and work condition for someone with your experience level in your field, and what are the standards for these kinds of perks at the company that is considering you? Remember, there is more to compensation than salary. You will want to consider vacation days, pension and savings plans, car, computer, cell phone and other perks as part of your package. Here too, do your research so you can come armed with objective information to back you up.

Refresh your vocabulary

Change the language you use to speak about compensation. Use words that don’t smack of greed but rather of professionalism and appropriate compensation. Express yourself in a manner that makes it clear that you hope to reach an agreement that is satisfying to both sides. Some people find that thinking and speaking of the interaction as a conversation instead of a negotiation helps focus them and calm their nerves. If you find that a specific word or phrase makes you uncomfortable, prepare a synonym to use instead so that you don’t stumble, stutter or blush. For example, if you don’t feel good using the word “salary”, you may feel more comfortable with the word “compensation”; if you don’t want to use the words “fair” or “unfair”, try saying “reasonable” or “accurate”.

Know your BATNA

This is a great acronym, coined by the authors of Getting to YesIt stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. When you are negotiating a new position, having clarity about what you are willing to accept as compensation and what offer will simply be too low for you to consider, can lower your anxiety significantly and also move your thinking from worrying about greed to considering your real needs.

Of course, you hope to get more than your BATNA in your negotiation. But if you have internal clarity about your own red lines, negotiation won’t feel like a wild swing to get whatever you can, which can (justifiably) feel uncomfortably greedy. Instead, you will be focusing on getting what you deserve, and cool headedly walking away if the compensation is too low for your predefined standards.

Negotiating salary can raise many deep seated anxieties, and one of the most prevalent is the fear of appearing greedy or selfish. This fear can work against you in a negotiation, pressing you to accept a lower salary or package in order to appear “nice” and not money hungry. However if you come armed with objective information, use vocabulary you are comfortable with to discuss compensation, and have clarity about your boundaries and red lines, you should be able to negotiate a fair package and still feel like a gracious and likable person.

About the Author
Gila Weinberg, CEO of Mikum Consulting, is a recruiter and a career coach. She helps organizations and companies find great employees, and helps great people figure out their next career move. Gila is also the author of Not So Grimm: Jewish Fairy Tales, a comparison between tales from the Talmud and classic fairy tales.
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