5 negotiation myths that hold you back from more money
Updated: Apr 14
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5 negotiation myths that hold you back from more money
Why “don’t negotiate during a recession" is bad advice for job hunters
By Kelli Thompson, Quartz
PublishedMarch 28, 2023
“I had my salary negotiation conversation today. The company bumped my offer up to manager level to match my proposed salary,” my client, Sandra, wrote to me over email the other day.
Sandra started working with me as she was anticipating a layoff from her previous role. A couple of weeks ago, after several rounds of interviews with a promising company, we had a coaching call about her salary expectations. Since Sandra actually worked at this prospective company a few years ago, she believed that she had a baseline number to work off.
“If I was earning $90 K a year back then, they should be able to pay me a little bit more than that, right?” Maybe. Maybe not.
When I was a 20-something career seeker, I was offered a role at the bank I’d stick with for the next 12 years. I was thrilled that they offered me 30%more than my previous job and immediately accepted the offer. That starting salary—which I did not research or negotiate—set the trajectory of my pay for the next 12 years.
It’s not uncommon to carry some myths into our money conversations that inevitably arise when we are looking for a new role. Anchoring her salary expectations on experience instead of data meant that Sandra was at risk of making a similar mistake. Let’s debunk the myths that hold me, Sandra, and possibly you back..
Myth 1: It’s rude to ask
In my years of working in HR, including during the 2008 recession, I never withdrew a job offer because of a bad negotiation. In fact, even during the recession we engaged in negotiation discussions and gave employees salary raises. I also noticed that men disproportionately negotiated job offers in comparison to women.
Sandra is a big-time rule follower. Since negotiating her salary went against her “default settings” of believing it’s rude to ask for money, we worked together to clarify her values and anchor her negotiation decisions within these. Sandra values honesty and family and this allowed her to identify her nonnegotiables (for example, if the company wasn’t prepared to have an honest discussion about salary expectations—this signaled a value breach).
Ask yourself: What are my values? How do I want the person I am negotiating with to feel? How do I want to feel?
Myth 2: I should talk about my life situations to get the number I want
I once had a prospective candidate tell me that he needed a higher salary since his wife had left full-time employment to look after their child. While his personal needs may be relevant to him, they usually don’t hold any negotiation power for a company. (I didn’t withdraw his offer but I wasn’t able to meet him at his desired number.)
Most companies operate according to market data. Research your own at a number of reputable sites.
Ask yourself: What are the fact-based ways that I can advocate for my salary? What shared goals do I have with the organization? How will I help the company increase its revenue, reduce risk, and/or facilitate change? How can I articulate my value proposition while basing it on data, results, and shared goals?
Myth 3: I shouldn’t talk about money and benefits until the end
“When do I ask to see their benefits package?” Sandra asked me. She was several interviews into the hiring process for the role she recently accepted. My answer was simple: “Right now!”
Talking about money can feel unnatural—particularly among women who have been socialized to shy away from the topic. However, a helpful reminder is that for recruiters, talking about money and benefits is as natural as discussing the weather. After our call, Sandra sent a message: “Is there a place on your website where I can take a look at the comprehensive benefits package?” The recruiter immediately responded with a yes and a link.
When opening conversations about money and benefits, it can be helpful to keep the discussion open and conversational while keeping your values in mind. For instance, if they responded negatively to a question about salaries, does this conflict with any core value—like honesty—you have? If the answer is yes, this might be a sign that this role isn’t a value match for you.
Ask yourself: What would it look like for me to be genuinely curious about the company’s salary and benefits package? How can I approach this discussion in a professional and curious way?
Myth 4: If it’s more than what I currently make, I shouldn’t negotiate even higher
As I mentioned earlier, anchoring your perception of the prospective salary in anecdotal experience can hurt your entire salary trajectory. Fortunately, Sandra did her homework and researched salary ranges for similar positions. Not only did the company match her desired salary, but they also bumped up her title to a managerial position. There are numerous sites that let you do this including Payscale, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and OpenComp.
Ask yourself: What is the market data for this role? What quantifiable value am I bringing to the role? What level of experience am I bringing to the role? Can I reach out to any trusted people in my network in similar roles? (Sample question: “What is an appropriate pay range for someone with X years of experience applying for X title in an X-sized company?”)
Myth 5: Money is the only thing that I can negotiate
When Sandra got clear on her values, she identified that spending time with family meant valuing work-from-home flexibility and enough PTO (paid time off) to enjoy vacations. With her research in hand, along with quantifiable data on the value she was bringing to the company, she achieved her desired salary, enough work-from-home flexibility, and increased PTO.
Your salary is never the only thing you can (or should) negotiate. You can also negotiate your job title, commission percentage (if you work in sales), retirement benefits, PTO, remote work flexibility, and an education allowance.
Ask yourself: What negotiables align strongly with my values? Am I prepared to compromise on my desired salary if these requirements are met? If I don’t get the benefits I desire, will I walk away from this opportunity?
Bonus: salary negotiation script
The salary negotiation script that I share with my coaching clients:
Thank you so much for your offer of ________ and generous benefits package.
In my research, I’ve found the current market rate is _________, __________, _______.
In addition, I bring the following in experience:
·Experience 1 that will generate XYZ results for your
·Experience 2 that will generate XYZ results for your
·Experience 3 that will generate XYZ results for your
I believe a fair salary for the role, experience, and results is __________.
Can we discuss this a bit more?