Negotiating Can Be Sweet: 7 Tips to Help you Get a Bigger Piece of Pie

Negotiating Can Be Sweet: 7 Tips to Help you Get a Bigger Piece of Pie
April 6, 2022 Terri Wein

It’s dessert time and a family gathers around a yummy pie, all eager for a piece. 

  • First kid says nothing, assuming the parents will be fair and the sparkling clean garage speaks for itself.
  • Second kid shouts “I am hungry so I should get the biggest slice. If I don’t get it, I am moving to another house where I will get a huge piece of cake.
  • Third kid says “I have had a productive day helping you clean out the garage and am looking forward to working on mowing the lawn tomorrow.. I have been asked over for dessert by several neighbors, but prefer to stay with you. I would like a big piece please.

How do the parents dole out the pie?

Surprisingly, it usually ‘pans’ out that the first kid gets the smallest piece – you don’t ask, you don’t get. The second kid gets a slightly bigger piece to keep the squeaky wheel quiet. The third kid gets the biggest piece to reward a job well done and ensure that a helpful family member stays at the family table.

This is really all about negotiation, one of the hottest topics in the workplace. You need to negotiate when you are interviewing for a new job, as well as when you are asking for more at your current company. There are so many nuances to this process, including expectation setting, self-advocating, knowing the current market and one’s value add, supply/demand for labor, setting the right tone, and having the nerve to ask for more. 

In an ideal world, a current or prospective employee wouldn’t have to be a sleuth to find out what a company is willing to pay for a position. Lack of pay transparency has enabled employers to pay people inconsistently, penalizing underrepresented groups, including women, and contributing to the gender pay imbalance. In the past, hiring companies asked candidates during the interview process about their current compensation. This is now clearly a no-no question, and many states have enacted laws preventing employers from asking. 

To get around the new laws, many companies ask candidates ‘What is your compensation expectation?’ This forces the candidate to put a number down first,  essentially creating a ceiling on the compensation offered. Candidates box themselves in, even if the company was planning to offer more. When a company is not transparent about pay, those who ask usually get more while those who don’t ask, don’t get. Employees and job seekers need to speak up and self advocate. 

Here are seven helpful tips to help you negotiate:

Know your market value

Consider the supply/demand balance (or imbalance) in the job market. In the current market, there is a labor shortage. Job seekers are in the driver’s seat because there are more jobs to fill than people to fill them; they wield more power in the negotiation process. Do your research and find out what the market really is.

Ask firmly, but nicely

Successful negotiation is an art. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t use up political capital by negotiating. Compare this to the process of buying a house. No matter what the listed price is, there is a negotiation, for both price and terms. Everyone hates negotiating for themselves. Get over it and do it anyway, just like you would do for your house purchase.

When asked about your compensation expectation, avoid answering

Have a few soundbites that avoid an answer, such as “It’s a bit early to talk about compensation. Let’s focus on whether this role is a good fit.”  Or “I am interested in hearing what the compensation is for this role.” Let the company put an offer down first so you don’t negotiate against yourself.

Don’t over explain

When negotiating, state what you want and stop talking. Use silence to your advantage.

Plant seeds in advance for a promotion/raise at your current company

Signal early that promotion and comp are important to you. Start whispering in your manager’s ear way in advance that your goal is a promotion and you are looking forward to a raise. Brag without bragging – It was exciting to be an integral part of such a successful transaction or I love seeing my vision come to fruition with the team….

So many things are negotiable

Companies often have wiggle room, especially when a company can’t find a candidate in this tight labor market. Wiggle room can be in the form of a higher base salary, annual bonus, equity, commission, signing bonus, higher title, flexible schedule, and more. 

Don’t negotiate in the moment without thinking through your counter ask

Listen to the offer, then circle back with your counter. Say “I am excited by the offer and am looking forward to going through the details. Let’s circle back later today.”

So let’s get back to dessert. Your compensation is not the icing on the cake, it is your reward for cleaning out the garage … and your deserved piece of the pie. Ask for and enjoy the fruits of your labor.