🤦‍♀️ 7 Ways People Usually Fail at Salary Negotiations

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Avoid the common salary negotiation mistakes that cost you the most.

Maze in the bushes

Maze in the bushes

Photo by Benjamin Elliott

This is a guest post by Joseph Richards.

As very few of us are ever directly taught how to negotiate our salaries, the culture we are from determines in large part how comfortable we are negotiating.

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In 2012, LinkedIn conducted a survey of more than 2,000 professions that revealed the differences in attitude around the world towards negotiating:

  • Germans had the most positive outlook, saying they are excited about negotiating (21%) and felt confident (43%).
  • Indians were the most confident about negotiating (47%).
  • South Koreans were the most indifferent about negotiating (21%).
  • Americans were the most anxious about negotiating (39%).
  • Brazilians were the most likely to be frightened by negotiating (21%).

So if you are from a country where negotiations are uncommon, you are more likely to feel apprehensive about salary negotiation failures.

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7 things to avoid in a salary negotiation

1. Using Self-Defeating Language

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“I don’t know if there’s room for this in your budget, but…”

“I don’t know if you’d consider…”

“I hate to ask for this, but…”

In Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski points out that self-defeating language puts you in a weak position and makes it easy for the hiring manager to say no to you. Be confident. Ask for more than you expect to get, give solid reasoning for your request, and listen for their response as you smile.

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2. Taking The First Offer

NEVER accept their first offer.

Always flinch with shock and surprise when you hear it. For maximum effect, repeat their offer, “$50,000”, and be silent for 7-8 seconds. Then make your counter-offer.

Employers almost never start with their best offer and give themselves some wiggle room to negotiate.

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3. Talking Too Much

Charles de Gaulle said “silence is the ultimate weapon of power.”

Silence, especially in western cultures, can be very uncomfortable, which you can use to your advantage. Instead of immediately responding to your employer’s offer, take a moment of silence to think about it. The silence may cause them to be nervous and improve their offer without your saying anything.

Likewise, success in negotiations hinges on being able to understand what the other side values, and helping them achieve it. This can be accomplished by listening.

4. Drawing Hard Lines in the Sand

Taking firm, unwavering stances often makes it difficult to come to a solution both parties are happy with.

If the employer legitimately cannot meet your requests, you need to allow them to save face. Maybe they cannot offer you $90,000 per year, but they could give you a four day work week. Communicate that you are interested in a package of benefits, and there are many combinations that could be satisfactory. Being flexible increases the likelihood that you will achieve a win-win solution.

5. Low-balling yourself

Henry Kissinger said, “Effectiveness at the bargaining table depends on your ability to overstate your initial demands.”

You should always ask for more than you expect to get. This allows the employer to feel like they “won” because they got you to come down off your initial number. Starting with a higher number also raises your perceived value.

Always back up your requests with specific illustrations of how you are going to make or save the company money and how your compensation package will have a positive return on investment.

6. Appearing Desperate

If the other side knows that you have no other options and cannot walk away from the deal, you give up almost all of your negotiating power.

Even if you don’t have any other offers, you should project the attitude that you will walk away if you can’t come to a satisfactory agreement. Pre-determine what your walk-away point is, and stick to it.

7. Negotiating Over the Phone

Try to negotiate in person.

Research has shown that somewhere between 60-93% of communication is non-verbal. In order to fully understand what the employer is thinking and to communicate with them, you have to be present in person. Doing so allows you to connect emotionally.

With each handshake, smile, and joke you laugh at, they will become more and more attached to you, which you can use to your advantage.

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About the Author
joseph richards portrait

joseph richards portrait


Joseph Richards is a Salary Negotiation Consultant specializing in presenting compelling economic arguments to help clients receive maximum salary increases. He has represented unions, management, and individuals in wage and benefit negotiations. Follow him @SalaryNegotiators on Twitter.

An earlier version of this article was part of the Over $6000 in Prizes: It’s The 6th Annual JobMob Guest Blogging Contest, which was made possible thanks in large part to our sponsors:

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Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg is a keynote marketing speaker, marketing strategist, and the secret weapon for many successful entrepreneurs.

READ NEXT: Job Search Mistakes I’ve Made (Jacob: which includes a story of when I also failed at salary negotiation)

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