In a previous post, I covered common job search negotiation questions that came up during an American Corporate Partners negotiation webinar I led for female military veterans and military spouses. Negotiation is important for military and non-military alike. However, negotiation is not something you do only during your job search. You continue to negotiate once you get on the job and throughout your career. You negotiate with your boss on responsibilities, resources and deadlines. You negotiate with your colleagues to get help, to set boundaries and to sell your ideas. Here are five career-related negotiation questions from the same webinar:
1 – How do you negotiate flexi-shifts, e.g. arriving to work anytime or making back for it on another day?
Notice that this webinar attendee gave a couple of examples to clarify what she meant by flexibility – defining what you mean by flexibility is the first step to negotiating for flexibility, as people’s needs around flexibility vary. Once you are clear on what you want, you need to research the expectations and constraints of your employer, and be prepared to propose a solution that addresses all of the issues. You can see more detail on negotiating for flexibility in a previous post.
2 – How do we negotiate being treated fair, i.e. talking to your boss about a decision made that favors another employee, but impacts you?
Fair treatment is something you might take for granted, but as this question shows, equity at work isn’t guaranteed. I’m not sure what the specific situation is here, but let’s say that your boss gives another member of your team a certain schedule that requires you to shift your hours. Or your boss approves time off for your colleague that prevents you from taking vacation when you want. In both cases, your boss has made a decision that favors another employee in a way that impacts you.
Similar to flexibility, the first step in this negotiation is clarifying what you are negotiating for. Are you looking for your boss to reconsider their decision so you’re not impacted? Are you willing to go along this time but expect a similar courtesy down the road? Are you not upset with the immediate outcome but concerned that it reflects that the boss prefers your colleague over you? Once you know what outcome you desire, you can then craft the right approach. For example, if you want your boss to reconsider, you would need to build a case around why a reversal would make sense, not just for you, but for the company. If you’re more concerned about getting a similar privilege down the road, you’re negotiating for a change in policy. What matters most in any case is to maintain a positive expectation that you will be able to work out a satisfactory solution – if you’re upset and looking to complain, rather than work something out, that’s not negotiating in good faith! Get to a state where you have a clear outcome defined that you can work towards alongside your boss and colleague, not against them.
3 – I accepted a great job, but made the mistake of giving a salary first. I undersold my skills to get my foot in the door. Fast forward 2 years, multiple spot bonuses, excellent reviews and I have taken on 10 times what was originally agreed. I have been asked to hire to assist with the workload since we have moved to an international market. Traditional increases range from 2.5%- 5%, which is a drop in the bucket. Any advice on renegotiating my salary vs asking for a raise?
Your past salary is a strong anchor for determining future salary, but it’s not the only decision factor. Other factors include the scope of the job, the unique expertise and skills you bring to the job and the importance of the job to the company’s overall strategy. While your starting salary might have been unduly low, the other factors point to a renegotiation, not just a continuation of what you had been paid before.
Schedule a meeting with your boss to outline why a new salary is warranted. Your scope of responsibility has expanded – show proof of how your responsibilities have grown 10x since you started. You have gotten strong reviews, even spot bonuses, so that’s proof of your unique expertise and skill set to do this job. Finally, the company is prioritizing your role by asking you to take on a new market, further proof that you need a renegotiation, not just a raise.
This question attributes the low salary partly to the “mistake of giving a salary first”. However, just because you are the first to give a salary number (or range), it doesn’t mean you will automatically get a lower salary. It can be beneficial to go first and set the bar high, especially if the other person intended to lowball you. I’m not going to guess what contributed to getting the initial low salary in this case. The more important thing to focus on is that you can renegotiate salary even when you’re several years into the job.
4 – How do you ensure that your unique skills are still recognized/rewarded, if it’s an area where you have been an expert for some time?
In question 3, I advocate renegotiating salary even when you’re several years into your job because the job has changed over time. For question 4, you want to renegotiate salary because you have changed over time – your expertise and skills are further developed and arguably more valuable. This value is what you need to negotiate.
You have to be he one to keep your expertise and skills top of mind for the decision-makers who assign raises and promotions within your company. If you have been performing at a high level in the same role, your results might be taken for granted. Make sure your boss knows how much you have accomplished – if you can show specific bottom-line impact such as revenues generated or costs saved, that’s even better. In addition to keeping track of your individual results, keep track of how your area of expertise impacts the broader company. If it’s a key priority for the company, this is a strong argument that your work should be recognized and rewarded.
5 – How does self advocacy look different as a business owner?
It’s true that as a business owner you will also need to negotiate, and there are many similarities to what you would negotiate as an employee. You negotiate prices so you’re paid appropriately for your work, like an employee negotiates salary. You negotiate the scope of the services you deliver or the features or terms of the products you offer, like an employee negotiates their responsibilities and deadlines. You negotiate with your customers, vendors and strategic partners, like an employee negotiates working relations with their boss and colleagues.
The negotiation mechanics feel different – for example, negotiating with a customer is a different process than negotiating with a boss. As a business owner, you don’t have the constraints of a salary band, but you are still constrained by what your customers will pay. As a business owner, you are responsible for bringing in the work and can’t rely on a bimonthly paycheck coming in, but you also don’t have a ceiling on how much you can make. There are pros and cons to entrepreneurship and employment
Negotiation skills matter to your career, not just your job search
Focus on developing negotiation skills to use throughout your career, not just when you’re in job search mode and targeting your next job offer. Negotiate your work environment, your relationships and certainly your compensation over time.