Executive Salary Negotiation - Not Greed but Need

27 February, 2015

Strong résumé? – tick! Compelling interview performance? – Yep! Salary negotiation skills? - Gulp! Rightly or wrongly many Executives think that they have the basic tool kit of applying for jobs down pat.

Salary Negotiation, however, is another kettle of fish. I haven’t met any Executive yet who was confident in their current skills set in relation to attaining a fair salary.  And, as I work through the issues with them, I equally haven’t met anyone who’s said:  “You didn’t need to tell me that – I already knew.

I’d argue that it’s critical for an Executive to convey confidence and negotiating skill in the workplace.  The number of Executives who have told me that they just accepted the first offer laid on the table is quite disturbing.  What sort of impression does this make? 

Women score badly

Here, women executives appear to be the worst culprits.  The 2014 gender equality scorecard from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported that "men take home an average total pay packet 25 per cent fatter than that of women."

It gets worse in the high paying sectors of the economy. The report stated that "There is an enormous disparity between men and women in senior ranks, particularly in financial and insurance services, where the average gap in total remuneration rises to 36 percent."

R…E…S…P…E…C…T (as the song goes)

Interestingly, this is the one area of my work where I have no handout to give to clients.  I’ve started one every now and again, only to conclude that in order to cover the content of the one hour session the handout would be at least twenty pages long!

Let’s see how I go here….

The first point about Salary Negotiation is that it’s not about greed.  It’s about respect.  It’s about you ascertaining your worth in the market place and being skilled enough to attain it.  Done with the requisite skill, it starts your relationship off with your new employer on the right note – you present as someone who is strong, who expects to be and is treated with respect. 

Do your homework

Your starting point is the market rate for your skill set and experience.  This may be higher or lower than what you expect, but it is what it is. 

One of the most difficult areas to come to terms with is when you are leaving a role where you were paid more than the market rate.  I can remember working with employees of a multi-national, who would cheerfully announce that they knew they were paid more than 20% over market rates and that they would never get that money again.  They easily moved into new roles, with such a realistic attitude.  

If you were paid above market rates and head out into the market place insisting on matching your previous salary, you are playing a dangerous game, unless you are very good at persuading a prospective employer. 

The most likely outcome is that you pursue roles at this salary level for 6 months or so only to find that it doesn’t work.  It can be very difficult to regroup and maintain your confidence as you have to start your job search again at new, more realistic lower salary level. 

Take the Plunge

One of my favourite phrases is “All we can control in life is our own behavior”.  In relation to Salary Negotiation, you have no control over whether your perspective employer says yes or no. 

However, done with skill, salary negotiation is a huge advantage to you.  No reasonable perspective employer is going to say “Not only are we not going to give you what you’ve asked for, but we’re also going to withdraw the job offer because you dared to ask!”

Even if you aren't able to convince your employer to come to the party, you will know that you have behaved with skill and courage.  And each time you negotiate, it gets easier and easier. 

So start today.  Do your research, book a session with a good career consultant or seek the advice of an astute friend and next time you’re at the table, gather your courage, gird your loins and do it!  Negotiate for your future. 

Stay tuned for some tips on the techniques of successful Salary Negotiation…

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Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

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