9 outdated salary negotiation tips you need to ditch to increase your income

It’s time to stop viewing salary negotiation as an option.

Salary negotiations today are the norm, not the exception. Too many employees still view salary negotiations as a combative experience, and many people – especially those new to the workforce – shy away from these conversations as a result,” says Jennifer Henry, SVP, Career Services at 2U.

“Instead, think about salary negotiations as opportunities to engage your manager or supervisor in an open discussion about your professional future, and as invaluable practice for how you communicate your value proposition.”

Having those conversations is key when it comes to increasing your income and quality of life. And, while employers expect you to advocate for yourself, they are not going to be the ones kicking off the conversation.

“To the employer, it’s not personal. Payroll costs are often the largest line item on a company’s balance sheet. Employers are prepared to pay you and to pay a fair wage,” says Michaela McDonald, financial advice expert and CFP at Albert.

“Often, the hiring manager is given a salary range for a position and will offer an introductory amount right in the middle or slightly below the average. It’s your job to speak up and know your worth, to negotiate your salary above the salary average.”

Wondering how to broach the topic of negotiating your salary? Avoid doing more harm than good by listening to outdated advice. The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the workforce quite drastically too, so you want to arm yourself with negotiation tips you’ll actually be able to use now.

“We’ve seen how much workplace norms have had to shift in response to the pandemic. This means that employers are more flexible than they’ve been historically, so employees should consider what other things they value beyond salary – maybe that’s flexible hours for working parents or remote working opportunities for people who live further away,” says Henry.

Here are nine outdated salary negotiation tips you need to ditch to increase your income, straight from the experts.

1. Expect an awkward conversation

A lot of well-meaning people will tell you to expect discussions about compensation to be a bit awkward and tense. But the truth is, they really don’t have to be. And entering the interaction bracing for a difficult exchange can put you in the wrong state of mind.

“Your employer is trained to have this conversation, remember that! They are prepared to work with you to find a benefits package that makes sense for both you and the employer. Don’t think of the negotiation as ‘you vs. them.’ Think of it as a working conversation with a common goal,” says McDonald.

2. Focus on winning

You want to walk away feeling like you won the deal, right? Wrong — it’s about creating a win-win, not thinking about getting as much out of your employer as possible, according to Henry.

“This is a problematic framing, as it sets the stage for a combative back-and-forth instead of a productive conversation focused on finding the win-win. Salary negotiations done in good faith can reveal what matters to your manager—like what they value in your work, and the vision they have for your career pathway—while setting the foundation for strong working relationships moving forward,” she says.

3. There are times you can’t negotiate

Even the most seasoned professionals make the mistake of assuming there are times when you simply can’t ask for more. “I’ve talked with many friends and clients who didn’t negotiate because they ‘really needed the job,’” says McDonald.

You can — and should — always negotiate your salary. Yes, even while unemployed during a pandemic.

“For those candidates who are unemployed, they should not assume that they need to take a pay cut. In spite of the pandemic, their skills and values offered are the same and thus they should negotiate the salary offered,” says Henry.

Worried you’re gonna come across as greedy or untrusting if you decide to negotiate? That’s a myth it’s time to ditch, says McDonald: “Remember that you’re playing the long game, the work you put in during the negotiation phase will put you on track to earn more while keeping happy and motivated for years to come.”

4. Don’t show your hand

Negotiating your salary is not like playing poker. Being too mysterious can actually backfire.

“So everyone has their own style, but keeping your motives secretive during a salary negotiation can come off, well, strange!” says McDonald.
Don’t forget that you will most likely be working with the employer a few days after your conversation. Keeping things transparent will reflect well on you. But transparency does not equal zero strategy.

“That said, keep your strategy airtight. Know your motivations, your must-haves and your weak points. To sum it up, be less secretive and more strategic with your conversation,” says McDonald.

5. Don’t appear too money-hungry

According to McDonald, negotiating your salary isn’t seen as money-hungry — it shows you’re savvy and breeds respect.

“In fact, it shows off a range of professional competencies. If you negotiate well, it signals to your employer that you are confident, communicative and serious about the position.”

So if you’re feeling a little nervous about broaching the topic, remembering that you will strengthen your reputation by bringing it up can be just the reframe needed for an extra dose of courage.

6. Money talks

Yes, money is important. But it’s absolutely not the only factor involved in a fruitful compensation talk, so do yourself a favor and ditch that old-school mindset.

“If you’ve found the perfect match that gives you a great boss and colleagues, hours that work for you, challenging work, and career mobility, consider these factors against the offer, even if the salary band is lower than you expected,” says Henry.

“Time and opportunity costs are real things, and if you can balance a comfortable living with a career that lets you really enjoy your life, go for that.”

Not to mention the fact you can get really creative with other requests. “Think, tuition reimbursement, vacation days and most importantly — flexibility,” says McDonald.

“For example, if you are turned down on your salary negotiation, counter with a flexibility request. This could look like an option to work from home or the ability to work an adjusted schedule.”

7. Mention your other offers

Mentioning you’ve got another offer on the table is a tactic still used by many professionals, and while it can work it can also leave a really bad taste in your employer’s mouth or, even worse, ruin your relationship.

“I don’t necessarily think this is a tactic that won’t work in today’s job market, but I have seen some instances where it has resulted in an offer being pulled. Salary ranges seem to be a bit more static than dynamic in our current landscape, says Henry.

8. Be rehearsed and methodical

Negotiating without having built a solid case around what you want and why you should have it would be plain silly. But it’s important not to listen to advice that leaves you feeling unnatural and rehearsed.

“Now, you do need to have your reasoning in order but don’t psych yourself out by scripting yourself,” says McDonald.

To make yourself more comfortable, she recommends staying transparent in your motive and openly saying that you are looking to negotiate your salary and benefits package. Then, with clarity, you can begin to have a more relaxed and open discussion.

9. Show your value based on the past

On that note, mentioning your past accomplishments is a smart move for sure. However, that piece of advice doesn’t account for the fact that demonstrating how you’ll contribute in the future can be equally crucial.

“When discussing salary or compensation packages overall, don’t only focus on your past performance. Also, be sure to demonstrate a growth mindset and your desire to keep learning so that it’s clear how much you’re committed to growing,” says Henry.