Don't Make This Common Salary Negotiation Mistake. It Can Easily Backfire – inc.com post

What common negotiation advice tends to ignore.

By: Betsy Mikel


Many of us view negotiation as a Win/Lose situation. I have to win at your detriment (or vice-versa) or loss. There may be a better way to look at it. There is at least a different way to look at it.

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The most-touted salary negotiation advice boils it down to a few simple steps. 

Receive job offer. Negotiate.  Push hard. Don’t leave any money on the table. Take what’s yours. Get what you want.

Then you start the job, and everyone lives happily ever after. 

Yet this aggressive negotiation advice often glosses over a very important next step. The people you’re negotiating with are your future co-workers. Going hard at the negotiating table can start this relationship off on rocky footing. And it can have serious impacts on your job performance.

When hard negotiations backfire 

A study conducted by a professor and a postdoctoral researcher from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggests a different approach to negotiating. Maurice Schweitzer and Einav Hart’s research encourages a softer approach that takes into account the relationship-building aspect of the transaction. They published the results of their study in the journal SSRN.

You might ultimately get what you want salary-wise. But consider that a short-term gain. If you went head-to-head during those negotiations, your future co-workers won’t forget it. Conflict begets conflict. You’ve already set the tone for your working relationship before you’ve even started the job. 

“These relationships can have long-term implications beyond the negotiation table,” Hart explained on a recent episode of the Knowledge@Wharton podcast. 

Hard negotiators proved to be less productive workers 

The research also found that wage negotiations can influence performance and harm productivity.

Schweitzer and Hart examined the outcomes of two cohorts of workers. One group of workers negotiating their wage with the employer. The other group of workers received a set wage that wasn’t negotiated. Whether they negotiated or not, both groups were paid the same.  

Even though they were receiving about the same wage, one group was less productive once they started the job. Negotiators did substantially less work when compared with the workers who didn’t negotiate. 

Schweitzer and Hart’s hypothesis is that negotiators were more likely to view their employer as their competitor. They had something to “win” in the negotiation process. That process brought forth competing interests that then continued into the workplace. Because negotiators don’t see their interests as aligned with their employers’, perhaps they aren’t as motivated when it comes time to do the work. 

A case for not negotiating your salary 

So should you just skip the whole rigmarole? Schweitzer would like you to consider it. Of course, it all depends on the offer itself and your specific situation. The Wharton researchers aren’t saying you should never negotiate. 

Above all, Schweitzer and Hart encourage you to understand the implications baked into your negotiation style. 

“The key idea here is that we can’t assume that when we negotiate, the negotiation process ends with an agreement and we start fresh right after that,” Schweitzer explains. “Rather, the negotiation process is part of a broader relationship that we have.”

Remember, you’re not negotiating the price of a piece of furniture. Once all is said and done, you’ll still interact with your negotiator in a work setting. In many cases, the person on the other side of the negotiation table is your future boss. Think carefully about how you want to start that relationship. ​


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Published by Don Oehlert

Over the last 15 years we’ve coached over 700 people. Many have come back to say “thank you – I really believe your approach worked!” I believe that when you're in job search, you're in sales. I'd really like the chance to show you what that means, and how we suggest you go about that.

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