Why you should negotiate your salary

When I talk to people about negotiating their salaries (or negotiating anything, really), one of the most common objections I hear is, “I don’t want to seem too greedy/too selfish/like all I care about is money.”

Today we’re going to break that thought pattern.

While there are many societal and psychological factors at play in negotiation, it’s important to remember that while you are about to be on the same team as the place that offered you a job (or are on the same team for your existing company) … the company is still in it for themselves.

This is why it’s still uncommon to see salary bands in job posts and why recruiters often dance around the money question in initial chats. Most companies* want to see how much productivity they can get out of you for as little cost to them as possible
*not all companies, though!

In the interview and negotiation phase (especially in larger companies where HR/recruiting are often distanced from the department they’re hiring for), the new employee can become a commodity.

Think about when you go grocery shopping. If the store has two identical red peppers in size, quality, organic-ness, etc. but one is $3.99 and one is $1.99, you’ll likely choose the less expensive one so you can either save your $2 or use it on something else (like, IDK, a candy bar!).

So negotiating your salary keeps you from becoming the $1.99 red pepper, and keeps you from becoming just a commodity.

Here’s another fun fact-a-rooni for you:

Negotiating is also part of the interview/skills test. Yup, if they made you a job offer you might feel like you’re in the clear, but the truth is that your negotiation skills can also show how you’re a worthy candidate and a good team member. (That’s right. A good team player — not selfish at all.)

If you’re preparing for every other stage of the new job (or annual raise) process, you should be working on your negotiation skills too. Here’s why:

  1. If you’re willing to negotiate for yourself, then you will be willing to use those skills for your organization once you join the team. Good negotiation skills mean you’ll be able to problem-solve with vendors, contractors, and other merchants. It also means you can get what you need from other departments internally and resolve conflicts with team members.
  2. A rising tide lifts all boats. Making sure you get paid what you deserve means that you’re setting the bar for others to also get paid that market rate based on their skills and what they bring to the table.

Plus, at a very minimum, negotiating sets the baseline for your whole career. Not to be dramatic, but like… your whole life can depend on it. This is especially true if you plan to stay with one company for a while.

Data shows that job-hoppers actually earn more over time because companies are forced to pay market rate for a new hire (at a minimum). When you stay at a single company for multiple years, raises are often percentage-based* so that starting number is absolutely critical.
*though there will be upcoming newsletters about how to negotiate at your existing job, so stay tuned

A 2019 study by ADP found that, in general, when you stay at your current job, you’ll get a 4% pay increase. However, when you switch jobs, you’ll likely receive a 5.3% salary bump. That percent is probably even higher now that the job market is hot. 🔥

This means that it’s imperative to negotiate any new job or annual raise with your future in mind (not just the right now). If your dream company really does have a cap that’s below what you know you deserve for a role, then it’s important to remember that anything is negotiable*. So figure out exactly what you need to make the jump to a new place (or to want to stay at your current role).
*not sure how to negotiate things other than money (or what you even CAN negotiate?) we’ll cover that too in upcoming editions!

So back to our original objection: “I don’t want to seem too greedy/too selfish/like all I care about is money.”

Advocating for yourself, your needs, your department, your happiness, your employees, your values, your work/life balance, and more is never selfish or greedy.

Plus, at a very minimum, negotiation is a good life skill to use in any situation: with your spouse, with your mechanic, with your kids, with your farmers market seller, etc.

This means it’s time to practice those skills. Here’s a quick list of ways to get started:

  • Reframe confrontation to conversation: Not every disagreement has to be uncomfortable. It’s just a conversation to see each person’s side and find the best solution for everyone.
  • Practice advocating for yourself: It can sometimes just be easier to go with the flow, but at work or at home, practice small acts of advocacy for yourself. Don’t rearrange your schedule to accommodate someone else’s. Stop saying yes to early/late meetings. Say no to play dates you don’t have time for.
  • Get comfortable with “no.” Part of negotiation is getting told no. It’s a fact. And it’s hard not to take personally. “They rejected my presentation idea, so all my ideas must suck!” When someone at work or home tells you no, take a breath and focus on the idea that it’s not a “no” to you as a human. It’s not rejection. It’s a “no” to an idea. We can always rework an idea to get a yes later.