10 pitfalls to avoid in salary negotiations

10 pitfalls to avoid in salary negotiations
21 October 2012

YOU’VE done your homework, tuned into the office grapevine and been through all the required due diligence. The evidence is overwhelming in your favor: you are underpaid and deserve a payrise.

Don’t jeopardise your salary negotiations with an unnecessary bluff, ultimatum, poor preparation or any other common negotiating mistakes. Before you walk into a negotiation with your manager take note of these 10 common pitfalls… 

1. Don’t be unprepared

Your success at the negotiating table will be directly correlated to how well you have prepared your case. Back up what you’re saying with accurate industry salary information: Bayt.com has accurate salary figures, submitted by various professionals themselves.

You should also prepare well-backed counterarguments to every objection that could be thrown your way.

2. Don’t reveal all your cards

Revealing your bottom line too soon will almost always result in limiting your upside. Listen more than you speak and make sure when you do speak it is to articulate a set of very carefully pre-prepared arguments that support your cause.

3. Don’t get emotional

There is no room for the personal and the emotional in work. Keep your emotions in check and the details of your personal life out of the way.

Aim for a friendly but professional tone and keep the end goal in sight at all times. In the event your boss acts hostile maintain a calm, cordial and detached air and refuse to get drawn into the hostility.

4. Don’t issue an ultimatum

Ultimatums are a clear indication that your negotiating skills are lacking – a deficiency in any role – and that your judgment may be somewhat impaired.

Do not use an ultimatum as a weapon; aim instead for a fertile playing field in which you can brainstorm and bargain and balance your interests with the needs and interests of your boss.

5. Don’t forget your backup plan

Be clear on what your options are if the negotiations fail. Will you stay on in the company and try to get a raise at a later date? Perhaps you can get a firm commitment on this at this stage, in terms of both timing and quantity.

Will you try to get a job in a different division? In a different firm? Perhaps you will simply ask to work on a different project? Look into all the possibilities and educate yourself on what the alternatives are.

Make sure that if you do decide to quit in the event that negotiations do not produce any fruit that you are financially, psychologically and logistically prepared to do so and that the timing is right.

6. Don’t leave matters open-ended

Do not walk into the negotiations looking for ‘a payrise, any rise’. Be very specific in defining the salary range that is acceptable to you and all other aspects of the package including the trade-offs that you are willing to consider such as added perks, benefits and bonuses in lieu of increases in fixed salary.

If you incorporate future performance reviews and salary increments into your agreement, make sure the dates are firmly specified and that you get this in writing.

7. Don’t circumvent the chain of command

If you approach your boss’ superior, he or she will inevitably find out and will only get infuriated. The last thing you want to lose is your boss’ trust.

Whoever the final decision-maker is, your first discussions regarding a rise should be with your immediate boss. Your boss can then make any decisions he or she needs to and refer the matter to the appropriate parties.

8. Don’t be adversarial

Adopt a cordial but assertive tone. At the end of the process you want to secure the desired rise while making your boss feel that you have arrived there as a result of a co-operative consultative mutually beneficial process.

9. Don’t lie

Without in any way downplaying your own achievements, past and expected, be as accurate as you can about any figures you use to support your case.

10. Don’t aim too low

Remember that even if you are uncomfortable and amateur at the negotiating table, your boss is not, and he or she will seek to further the company’s interests.

Aim as high as you can without being too unrealistic in order to leave yourself plenty of bargaining room and be very enthusiastic, confident and persuasive in presenting your case.

Whatever figure you aim for, make sure you have supporting facts and arguments. The more convinced you are that you firmly deserve the rise and that the company will ultimately gain from retaining you at the higher salary the more successful you will be in convincing your boss.

Pic credit: freedigitalphotos.net

How have you fared around the salary negotiating table? Tell cashy...


  • Colin

    The Atlantic discusses another aspect of salary increases and points to a recent study "Do women avoid salary negotiations?" The conclusions indicate that women need to be invited to negotiate whereas men are willing to instigate negotiations - does this seem right?

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