Salary Negotiation Tips: Executing the “Lockdown Maneuver”

What is the best way to continue negotiating from an existing offer if it doesn’t meet my minimum requirements?


Q: The company offered me the role I interviewed for at $5K less than my minimum requirements, but I’m afraid to ask for more for fear of losing the offer — what should I do or say?

A: Do what I call the “lockdown maneuver.” It’s not ironclad — nothing is successful all the time. But it’s your best defense against losing the offer because of negotiating. In my salary-making rules, #2 is to go first under some circumstances, second under others. In this situation, you’re definitely in “other” circumstances: having the job is more valuable to you than the extra $5k you could make in negotiating. Let them go first.

So when you’re in a situation where having the job is more important than a few thousand dollars, you need to lock in the offer before you do anything. It gives away a little negotiating power, but it gains you safety in return.

The lockdown maneuver goes something like this: “Thank you for the offer. I appreciate the $50k — it sounds like it’s roughly in the competitive range. But I think I’m going to be above average. I’d like to talk to you about that and maybe a couple of other things in the package, so let me ask you: is this a firm offer as it stands?” Then you want to pause and wait until they say yes.

If you want to do a double lockdown maneuver, then after they say yes you want to say, “Good, because I wouldn’t want to jeopardize what I have by discussing a few points, and that wouldn’t happen, would it?”

If, after you start negotiating, they reverse the offer saying “Uh, you know what, never mind, clearly we’re not going to be able to get you what you want so let’s just end it here,” the company shows a lack of integrity — walk away. I repeat: if three minutes ago they told you, “No, you won’t jeopardize the offer by negotiating,” and then you begin negotiating and they pull the offer, that’s not a company you want to work for.

The lockdown serves as what’s called a “gentleman’s agreement.” The actual legal details are if they make you an offer and you say “let’s negotiate something else,” then you have technically declined that offer and they’re no longer obligated to honor it. But it’s an unwritten rule that if they say you can talk, and you do, then it should not undo the offer they made you.