Monday, September 19, 2022

Don't Lean In

How about a change of pace, for today, at least? How about some information that you can actually use? It does not come to us from an advice column, but this essay lays out how you should strategize when you have been hired for a job and find that the salary offer does not meet your expectations. 

It’s a lesson in negotiation, in behaving like an adult. It is precisely the opposite of the knuckleheaded notion that you should lean in. We note in passing that more than a few people have damaged their careers by asserting themselves too forcefully in salary negotiations. And we also note in passing that the Queen of Leaning In, Sheryl Sandberg herself, feminist heroine that she is, just quit her job in order to sustain her new marriage. Having buried husband No. 1, Sandberg decided that, given the choice between being a wife and mother, and trying to be all things to all people, she chose the former. So much for feminism!!

Anyway, J. T. O’Donnell explains what you should and should not do when you receive a a job offer with a lowball salary.

Her first two points are completely on point. 

First, don’t take it personally. You do not know what has gone into the decision, so you should never, never, never believe that the lowball offer is a personal insult.

Second, don’t get emotional about it. Considering that every half-witted therapist out there tells you to express your feelings, regardless of how much it makes you look like a fool, it is good to read O’Donnell’s advice. Step back, take a deep breath, think it over, and plan your next move.

Keep in mind, you are in a business situation, not in a community theatre. Your interviewer does not care how you feel. If you make a spectacle of your feelings you will be showing him that you are not ready for prime time.

Didn’t we just witness as much with the illiterate fools who chose the occasion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II to regale us all with their intemperate emotions. Tell me that you thought more of them for as much.

As O’Donnell notes, you want to show that you are someone who is easy to work with, not someone who is an aspiring drama queen.

Now, O’Donnell to her infinite credit has thought through the implications of each move. She says that if you know that the offer is too low, then pick up the phone and call the interviewer. That means, don’t text and don’t even send an email.

Why the phone?

You want them to hear the sincerity and professionalism through the tone of your voice. Also, conversations involving money are sensitive, and doing it over a call can help avoid any miscommunication.

One is convinced that this rule applies to many other human transactions. 

Now, O’Donnell continues, the job applicant should be polite, but firm. One might question this, because some of it depends on how badly he needs the job, what his previous salary was, and what he is being called on to contribute. It also depends on the salary scale at the potential new employer.

She recommends this:

"First of all, thank you so much for extending an offer and for taking the time to consider me. I'm really honored that you chose me. I admire what your company is doing, and I truly believe I'm a great fit for this position.

That's why this call is so hard to make, because $50,000 is not within my desired salary range of $60,000 to $70,000. I understand that you might be working with a tight budget. But I know that I can go above and beyond in this role because [X, Y, Z].

I don't want to waste your time. If you're able to work with me to get within my range, I'd love to continue this conversation. But given my extensive experience, and the fact that my market value is much higher than $50,000, I can't accept this offer as is."

Note well that she recommends that the applicant talk about his market value, not about how much he feels that the offer demeans him. If he is a she, she certainly does not go whining about how she is being subject to sexist discrimination.

And, of course, the applicant can threaten to walk away if he does not really need the job and if he has other offers. Otherwise, it feels a bit like a bluff, and if you are going to bluff, then be prepared for the interviewer who calls your bluff.

That means that one of the possible outcomes is that the hiring manager says that he cannot go any higher. In that case, the applicant has boxed himself in and he must withdraw.

But, in another case, the manager decides to increase his offer and the applicant accepts it.

The third possibility is that the manager wants to negotiate. Here again, the situation is complicated and requires finesse:

Tyler needs to have some exact numbers in mind. He decides that $59,000 is his walk-away rate (he also calculated that it's the minimum amount he would need to pay his bills and live comfortably in the city).

Frankly, I think it is better for Tyler to have a sense of the value of his contributions. It sounds slightly strange to say that he wants more money because he wants to rent a larger apartment. If the salary is grossly incommensurate with the local real estate market, the interviewer knows it. He will not be offended if Tyler rejects the offer, but even then I think it better for him to say that he thinks he is worth considerably more-- based, not on his wish fulfillments or how many times he can afford to eat at a fancy restaurant, but on his contribution to a previous employer.

But, O’Donnell is correct to say that Tyler should have a number in mind. And, being strategic and not leaning in, he should think of other ways that the prospective employer can sweeten the offer, even if it does not involve a larger draw:

Additionally, he's prepared to give an exact number of what he wants, because this is something employers often ask to get straight to the point. And since that number — $69,000 — is significantly higher than the company's original offer, Tyler knows he'll need to get creative with other compensation or perks to close the gap.

That might be a signing bonus, access to a company vehicle, more vacation dates or flexible working arrangements.

Remember, if a company is willing to budge and go above their original offer, it means they believe you will add value. So instead of having a "me vs. them" mentality, work together as a team. It's the best way to come to an agreement that both sides will be happy with.

So, no more leaning in. No more hostility and antagonism. The better approach, outlined intelligently in this article, has the applicant working together with the interviewer, remaining professional at all times, and acting as though he belongs to the team.


370H55V said...

In most of my checkered career, I was coming into a new job from unemployed status, so I didn't have a whole lot of negotiating room. Once I did so after a stint of over two years in such circumstances, and the salary offer was less than what I had made two years earlier. My new boss, who was not involved in the salary process, told me I should get whatever I could because it would be hard to make it up later, but I didn't want to screw it up because I didn't want to spend another two years unemployed either.

Sometime later I got a call from another company asking if I were interested in working for them (something that had never happened to me before). I went for the interview, and the ultimate offer was barely more than what I was making at my current job, so I turned it down. I had never done that before either.

And more recently I went for an interview set up by a headhunter. The job and location were a perfect fit. The company paid for my trip, and then sat on it for five months, so I told them where to take their job. I understand it took them more than a year to fill it, with a guy who stayed a lot less time than I would have. I don't know why employers do these things, so when I hear about candidates ghosting employers, I'm not sympathetic to the latter.

Brewmeistr said...

Had a somewhat similar situation very recently.
I semi-retired 5 years ago. I've been doing 1099 work and other side hustle stuff.

Got a call from a former employer, now with a new company, chatted me up and asked me to apply.

I did and for 'desired salary put a number about 10% higher than my last corporate salary. Interviewed and offered me the job at my requested salary.

I instantly thought I left something on the table.


Good new gig for my requested salary and lots of additional perks.

Need to just set the 'money on the table thing' aside and get to work.