Question: Last week you talked about preparing a compensation negotiation. I have followed your advice and have developed a logical reason why I deserve greater compensation, researched and determined a specific request, and chosen a good time for all concerned. Now what do I do?
Answer: Here are some tips that will serve you well during your negotiating conversation:
- Start with plan A, which is 100% of what you want, or more, if your manager likes to haggle. Have Plan B and C ready, in case your employee can’t or won’t agree to Plan A. Remember that your compensation package is composed of salary, bonuses, benefits and perks. Benefits, bonuses and perks may be a part of your request as well. In fact they are often easier to get than immediate cash.
- Listen carefully to your fellow negotiator. She may develop some options that you hadn't considered that will work well for everyone.
- Don't suggest or accept a potential option you don't want. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you may be tempted to do this. Always give yourself a day or two to decide if Plan D makes sense.
- Look upon your conversation as a collaborative compromise. Both of you will probably give up something along the way, but each should be pleased by the final outcome. Remember, you will be working with this person on a daily basis for a long time, and she has a great deal of control over your career path.
- If you can't reach a satisfactory agreement, tell your manager you are very disappointed you weren't able to work things out. Don't threaten or issue an ultimatum. Just act genuinely disappointed and let her sweat. Now she will begin thinking about what you might do. Given the circumstances, you might lose interest in your job, become a morale problem or even move to a competitor. Can she live with that?
- Deliver an ultimatum and you may be shown the door. People backed into corners often come out swinging. Of course, you may get what you want over the short term, but you could create a long-term enemy who will bide his time and seek revenge when you least expect it.
A True Story
I once worked with a client who managed a privately-owned art gallery. When she first started, she was a trainee who knew little about art, but had a real interest in it along with excellent small business management skills. After a year, she was running the entire operation and selling more paintings and sculptures than the owner sold. When she asked for a raise he gave a variety of reasons why he couldn't afford it. She was disappointed and told him so. Two days later, he met all of her requests and added a few perks of his own. He had decided he needed her more than the money. Smart choice!
A View from the Top
Mina Brown, former CFO and COO of Aviall, Inc. and currently the President of the Positive Coaching Group, has hired and managed thousands of people in her rise to the Executive Office. When I asked what would convince her to give someone an impromptu raise, she made the following observations:
- This person must have either completed some credential or mastered a new skill that would make her much more valuable on the job.
- Her contribution to the company must be truly outstanding or far beyond the requirements of our original contract.
- If her job isn't easily quantifiable, she will need to devise some measurable criterion tied to revenue/profit by which I can see a tangible difference between her contribution and expected performance.
- It's unlikely I would make a monetary counter offer to one from another company. I would be more inclined to suggest we find a way to enhance her responsibilities or develop a better job fit.
- If someone came to me comparing her compensation unfavorably with her internal peers, I would check her performance versus theirs. Chances are she doesn't deserve what they are making.
- I would enjoy brainstorming how a person could add value to the company in her current role. When she had achieved the goals or measures we set, I'd be happy to give her a raise.
Mina and I agree that a good company rarely falls significantly behind the compensation curve. Sharp executives know that keeping good people requires paying them what they are worth. This is particularly true of Gen X and Y. If you need to ask for a raise, this may be symptomatic of greater problems than your compensation alone. Or it can be an ideal opportunity for a teaching moment when your management learns to be more cognizant of its employee’s expectations.