In the United Kingdom of the 1980s, there was a television drama called Boys From the Blackstuff, in which one the main characters would regularly deliver the line, "Giz a job. I can do that."
Yosser Hughes's tragi-comic plea for someone to offer him work was fiction, but it echoed reality for millions of people in an era of high unemployment. Like Yosser, they were desperate for a job, and they had no room for maneuver in a unfavorable labor market. Simply getting employment was the aim of the game. Negotiating a better deal once a prospective employer had made you an offer just wasn't on the table.
Go to the other extreme and you arrive at someone like LeBron James, a U.S. basketball player who, in 2016-17, netted $31 million for his troubles. Sportsmen like LeBron have skills or talents that lots of people are willing to pay lots of money to watch. And the stars' agents negotiate to ensure the best deal, for their clients... and for themselves. They use leverage. Bargaining power.
Somewhere in between Yosser of Liverpool and LeBron of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you'll find the likes of you and me. We're not going to be able to call on the negotiating muscle of LeBron but, looking on the brighter side, we are likely not in the dire straits that Yosser was in.
So, where do we stand when it comes to negotiating a job offer? Dare we ask for that extra couple of thousand dollars? Will they recoil at the request to work from home on a Wednesday? Is it worth pushing for an extra day's paid vacation?
Negotiating can undoubtedly be daunting, especially if you're not a super-talented sports star or a Hollywood legend, or even a humble hedge-fund manager. Many of us find the process such a stressful and unpleasant business that we avoid it completely. Or, if you are like me, you think you ought to have a go at negotiating, but the reality is that your strategy leaves much to be desired.
For instance, in one attempt to secure a salary raise after I had been offered a new role, I decided to pitch for an annual figure that matched my age, but in thousands of dollars. I was 38, and $38,000 a year seemed to be a reasonable number (to me).
When I explained this logic to my future boss, she looked puzzled. And, unsurprisingly, my tactic failed to raise little more than a smile from her. What's more surprising, though, is that, when I mentioned this story to a colleague the other day, she nodded and said, "Oh yes, my husband does that when he tries to get more money out of his firm."
So, clearly, I'm not the only one who could benefit from sharpening his negotiating skills. Mind Tools has lots to offer in this important area of communication.
Negotiation is an important life skill, whether it's you and your partner discussing where to go on your next family vacation, or you and your boss debating the merits of a product redesign.
But, when you are deciding whether to negotiate the terms of your next job offer, it's important for you to consider the whole package and to ensure that you retain a professional style throughout. So, it's probably best to leave behind my "dollars-for-age strategy" and read the Mind Tools negotiation resources before opening your discussions.
You're likely not going to be joining LeBron on the sporting greats rich list, but, if you negotiate confidently, from a sensible position and with realistic expectations, you may surprise yourself.
Enjoy that extra day's vacation!
What are your thoughts on negotiating? Have you ever managed to boost your salary, or do you find the process difficult? Share your thoughts in the box below.
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