Negotiate a Better Salary With Lessons I Learned from Working on M&A Deals

  1. Information is power. As part of working on M&A deals, I performed due diligence and got to see a lot of detailed company data. The most interesting piece of information to see in any company? The salary file. These files, password-protected and kept hidden from all but a few senior employees, list everyone’s job, current salary, bonus and history of raises and promotions.* Armed with the knowledge of what other people got paid, I could be way more confident asking for money, knowing that I wouldn’t be the first human in history to get paid that much. Most people don’t know what the right amount is to ask for, and don’t want to come off as greedy, so they tend to under-ask. If you know what other people get paid, trust me you’ll be a lot more confident in your own worth. You’ll also be a lot more comfortable knowing that your request isn’t crazy, egregious, unusual, or any of the other worries swirling in your head!
  2. People want to feel like they “won” the negotiation. So you need to leave room for back and forth rather than jumping straight to your best and final position. This means, if you are making the salary ask, don’t ask for what you actually want, ask for something higher. Leave room for your boss/future boss to feel like she worked you down to a lower number. Alternatively, if an offer is made to you, don’t take the first offer given. Assume that your boss has built in some cushion by offering less than the highest amount she can actually pay, which means you should ask for more.
  3. Most people are uncomfortable saying no. If you directly ask your boss for a raise with clear, well explained reasoning, chances are he won’t be comfortable just giving you a flat out no. People don’t like to say no and most will avoid it. What they will do is blame-shift by claiming that they would say yes, but they just can’t because [insert excuse here]. You can anticipate the blame-shift and be prepared to re-ask for something that puts the burden back on them. For example, if they say “HR just isn’t allowing any raises right now”, you can say “Let me write up my request for you — all I ask is that you send it along to HR and set up a conversation for the three of us.” Another thing you can do is just keep asking. If it was hard for someone to say no the first time, it will be even harder to say no the next time. (News flash to the ladies, in my experience as a manager, men do this all the time and women rarely do. If men get a no they ask again, whereas women tend to accept the first no and leave it there. Persistence may feel annoying, and in fact often IS annoying, but it actually works!)
  4. There is more than one way to get value. You will come away with more if you think creatively about what to ask for. Don’t focus only on base salary, think about other ways you could get value: higher bonus potential, a bonus guarantee, a signing bonus, a better job title, extra vacation days, flexibility to work from home…to name a few. If you ask for more than one thing, you make it easier on your boss by giving him options to work with. Chances are that some of those things will be easier for him to give than others, smoothing the path to giving you more of what you want. You also give him the flexibility to say yes to some things and no to others, allowing him to feel he has won something in the negotiation (see #2 above!).
  5. The best deals are the ones where everyone feels good at the end. This is really important, especially in salary negotiations, where your relationship with your employer is ongoing and (possibly?) the most important one in your life day to day. No one likes to be strong-armed or feel that they’ve given up more than they wanted. Once the negotiation is done, make sure you thank your boss and convey how much you appreciate being treated fairly and how you intend to ensure that your work will live up to the value given in the increase. And, you need to feel good too. If you don’t emerge from a negotiation feeling like you were treated fairly and paid adequately, it’s time to look for another job at a place where you will be valued.

--

--

CEO of PresenceLearning and Author of The Good Boss: 9 Ways Every Manager Can Support Women at Work. Mom of 2 girls. @eberlewalker

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kate Eberle Walker

Kate Eberle Walker

CEO of PresenceLearning and Author of The Good Boss: 9 Ways Every Manager Can Support Women at Work. Mom of 2 girls. @eberlewalker