Salary Negotiation Tips: Honor Thy Wealth and Prosperity

If you’re not at least a little embarrassed by the size of your first proposal for compensation, you’re not negotiating right.

The Ten Commandments of Salary Negotiation (Part 10): Salary expert Jack Chapman offers 10 lessons on salary negotiation in the vein of the Ten Commandments.

When shopping for a house once, I was told by a realtor that if I wasn’t at least a little embarrassed at how low my offer was, it was not low enough. Similarly, answering the salary question or negotiating a raise, if you’re not just a little red-faced at your ideal number, you’re not thinking high enough.

It has to pass the “laugh test,” however. If it’s ridiculously high, they’ll just laugh. Likewise, an employer’s offer must pass yours, lest you laugh because it’s ridiculously low.

Once, my daughter asked for my negotiation advice and (surprisingly) followed it. She had been a star document organizer in a nationwide class action lawsuit with 800 trials pending and mountains of e-paperwork to track, file and retrieve at a moment’s notice. She lived in Manhattan on her $35,000 [= $17.50-per-hour] annual salary. After she left the firm, for reasons other than salary, they ran into trouble. They called her back and asked her to consult with the remaining paralegals to show them her organization and retrieval system.

My daughter and I figured that $150 per hour would be fair. Once they had agreed on her consulting role, timing, independent contractor status and the other details, her old boss said, “I suppose we can start at the usual $35,000.”

She laughed.

They flunked her laugh test.

When you present your number, don’t share a small number; share your ideal. Your “Wow!” number. (Quick reminder, though. Remember Commandment 1. Wait until you’re sure they’re ready to make you an offer.) Your ideal number should make you blush a little (or it’s not high enough).

Make sure, of course, it’s bolstered by a solid value proposition. (See Commandment 5.) Let them know the rationale behind the numbers, and you can soften the economic blow by saying, “This may be just a bit out of reach, but I think I owe it to you to tell you what would really excite me. It’s [_].”

Think about it. Why would you start negotiations any lower?

There’s a curious phenomenon. In negotiations, the first number you put out will act as a magnet and pull their number toward it: the higher your number [assuming it passes the laugh test], the stronger the magnet.

The only worry in going first and going high is that you might catch your employer off guard and the ideal number has such strong magnetism that s/he agrees to overpay you. However, if you feel bad/guilty for taking advantage of his/her poor negotiation skills, you can always give it back! You can always say, “You know, I think I was a little too demanding in the negotiations, and while I expect to be your star employee, I want you to feel good about my earnings. Why don’t we take 10 percent of my earnings and give them to a charity we can both agree on?”

To the best of my knowledge, no one’s ever done that, but just in case you’re too timid or embarrassed to go for the gold, remembering this might help you engage that last little bit of motivation to “Honor Thy Wealth and Prosperity.”

Read other installments in this series:
Part 1: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Not Speak Too Soon
Part 2: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Not Regret Salary Disclosure
Part 3: Salary Negotiation Tips: Let the Employer Make the First Salary Offer
Part 4: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Not Agree
Part 5: Salary Negotiation Tips: Know How Much Money You’re Worth
Part 6: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Covet Thine Own Benefits and Perks
Part 7: Salary Negotiation Tips: This Is the Job Thou Coveteth
Part 8: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Not Worry about Earthly Economy
Part 9: Salary Negotiation Tips: Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of Thy Salary in Vain
Part 10: Salary Negotiation Tips: Honor Thy Wealth and Prosperity