The 7 Deadly Sins of Negotiating

Negotiating is not always an easy thing to do. In our survey, 45 percent of respondents said they fear to negotiate for their salary due to “lack of negotiation skills” while 18 percent said they do not negotiate because of a “perceived lack of skills.” In the past, I’ve talked about what TO do in a negotiation. This blog is about what NOT to do — what I like to call the seven deadly sins of negotiating.

Pride: Don’t be blinded by it
Negotiating is an art. Each side wants something and the goal is to find a middle ground. I talk a lot about knowing your worth and asking for it, but that doesn’t mean entitlement. When entering into negotiations, you should have a clear picture of what you will and will not accept, but make sure it’s realistic. No matter how perfect you are for a job, no hiring manager is going to respond well to a candidate who thinks they are above the process. Don’t get so caught up in you that you don’t highlight the benefits you can bring to the organization — this is especially important for women. Lay out your strengths and ask for what you want in a respectful and professional way.

Envy: It makes for a useless comparison.
When talking about a salary or raise, don’t compare yourself to another person. It’s important to remember that when making individual comparisons, it’s easy for a manager to find excuses for discrepancies. If you’re concerned you aren’t being paid equitably, arm yourself with external market data. Speak in very general terms about internal numbers, so you are comparing yourself to an average rate rather than one individual’s paycheck.

Lust: Always be professional — even if your interview isn’t.
Maintaining professionalism is paramount to a successful job search. If an interview is going well, or you have an inside reference at the company, it may seem appropriate to let your guard down a bit. However, always err on the side of caution; your professional discretion may determine whether or not you get the job. No matter how well the interview is going, or how comfortable you feel, bringing up personal issues, disparaging past employers, or acting unprofessionally are always unacceptable. This also includes what you wear to an interview and body language. Dress conservatively, even if the office is more casual, and be aware of your body language at all times so you don’t inadvertently give off the wrong impression.

Gluttony: Control what you ask for.
Your list of terms should be long, but only for purposes of flexibility. Don’t get caught up in the smaller details that don’t matter, such as title disputes or an extra vacation day. These may not be worth quibbling over, turning down an entire job, or worse, botching your negotiation. When you create your list of “wants” for a job, make sure to highlight those that are critical, and ones that would be nice, but aren’t deal breakers. Prioritizing what you need and being willing to concede on a few things you may just want could make a major difference in the outcome.

Anger: Always keep your cool.
Negotiations are not always going to go your way, and that can be a little frustrating. But it’s never an excuse to become angry. Anger will only make you think irrationally and is the quickest way to be get yourself eliminated from consideration of a job. No one wants to hire a candidate with no self-control. The best negotiators take nothing personally, and remain calm and collected through the entire process.

Greed: Be honest about your worth.
When we are negotiating for a new job or raise, there is money on the line, sometimes a significant amount. It’s important to remember that just because you did your homework and have a number in your head, it won’t always be possible for your employer to meet it. That’s why defining your ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement: the maximum of the range from your employer and the minimum of your range) and BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement: this is the threshold value that any acceptable agreement must exceed) is so important. Even if the negotiation is going well, don’t get greedy. Stick with asking for numbers that are reasonable for your skill set and consistent with the market. Asking for $20,000 above what a position is worth, for example, isn’t a bold negotiation tactic – it’s a move that may close the door on you.

Sloth: Don’t take shortcuts.
Never show up unprepared. Doing your homework is an essential part of getting the job and being successful in negotiations. No matter how quickly you can think on your feet, come to every meeting with a potential employer, or current manager, properly informed. Don’t trick yourself into thinking a killer resume will make up for lack of preparation for an interview. I recently spoke with a hiring manager who interviewed two candidates for a graphic design position. One was fresh out of college, the other had 10 years of experience. They ended up hiring the recent graduate because they demonstrated a vast knowledge of the company, while the experienced candidate showed up at the interview obviously unprepared. Don’t be lazy about preparation – it can seriously pay off.

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