Should I Negotiate Salary: How I Almost Made a $6,000 Mistake

should I negotiate salary“Should I negotiate my salary?” This is a question we will ask ourselves every time we get a job offer, especially for a job we want.    I recently had to go through this decision-making process, and I want to share my thoughts and what I learned with you.    

I think many of us can identify with the reasons why we don’t want to negotiate.  What many of us don’t think about are some of the great reasons we should always negotiate.  I hope this story will help you better answer the question, “Should I negotiate salary?” on your next job offer.   I look forward to your comments.

In late January of this year, I received a full time job offer. Best of all, it fit my criteria for my dream job:

  • My role must have a direct impact on customer and company results.
  • My job will afford me flexibility and work-life balance, since I have a family and this blog.
  • I will work with people I like and have a boss that is confident, does not micro-manage, and offers a working relationship based on rapport and respect.

This job met all three criteria.   Even the compensation package offered was fairly close to what I wanted.

“What’s the problem, then?” you may ask.

Well, as you may know from my other negotiation articles,  I believe that we should always negotiate, no matter what the first offer is.    The problem here was that for the first time, I seriously considered not negotiating.  I almost didn’t negotiate for five reasons:

  1. My total compensation package met my overall expectations.  The package had a lower base, but a higher bonus percentage than I expected.  I am confident that I will get the target bonus, as I know that I am an outstanding performer, and this company usually pays out the full bonus if you are above average.
  2. My research tells me the offer they gave me is fair, and getting anything more is unlikely.  I spoke to three friends at this company.  I knew exactly the compensation they were allowed to offer for this job level. One person who I know, who is also a good negotiator, said she tried to negotiate when she joined, but the company didn’t budge at all.
  3. Money is not the most important thing to me.  That is why compensation is not in my top three criteria for my dream job.  I know I can make more money, but my current lifestyle (time with family, time to work out, time to write this blog) is more important to me.    I would rather maximize my pay-per-hour than my total annual salary.   From that metric, the offer they provided was good enough.
  4. Another$5-10K will not change my lifestyle.  My husband and I intentionally built a simple, low stress lifestyle.  Their offer more than covered for that lifestyle, plus I can still save for retirement and college for my kids.
  5. I didn’t want to come across as greedy or difficult.  Since I had already communicated that compensation was not the most important thing to me, I wasn’t sure if I would seem inconsistent if I had asked for more.   I also didn’t want my future boss to think that I was difficult.

At this point, you are probably also convinced that I shouldn’t negotiate my salary.   Well, the reason I am sharing this story is that we would both be wrong in coming to that conclusion.  Luckily, I met up with my friend and fellow Executive Author for coffee the day before I was going to accept the offer.  I shared my logic for not negotiating my salary, and she completely changed my mind.

After speaking with her, I decided to negotiate for three reasons:

  1. My pay will not move up much more in the future.  While my compensation package was good, she told me this company is notorious for giving very low raises every year.  I forgot to ask about this in my research.  I later found out that annual increases are typically only 2-3%.   If I stay at this company for a few years, my compensation will be below-market.  This could affect my ability to switch jobs and be valued at the right level in the future.
  2. Negotiating will build my reputation instead of hurt it.   This was the biggest epiphany for me.  She said, by negotiating, the company and my boss will value me more instead of less, because they didn’t get me “easily.”  If I accepted without any counter offer, they may ironically wonder about my value.
  3. Practice what I preach.  Frankly, I realized that I needed to practice what I preach, even if there were risks.  We don’t have many chances to practice negotiating a job offer in our lifetime, so I should negotiate and practice every chance I get.  I know that there are ways to negotiate that will win me respect from my boss, regardless of whether I get what I ask for or not.

Long story short, the next morning, I spent 30 minutes devising my strategy and 45 minutes with my boss and HR to negotiate my offer.  The end result:

  • My base salary increased by $6,000 per year.
  • Both parties felt it was a win-win situation.

I started work on Feb 18.  So far, my new job is living up to my expectations.  My friend was right — it was definitely good for my reputation to negotiate.

I will share more stories about my new job in the future.  To find out about the strategy I used to successfully negotiate my offer, stay tuned for my next article – A New Negotiation Strategy that Worked.    

Your comments:  Do you always negotiate your job offer?  why or why not?  What did you learn from this story?  Share your comments below and let’s have a discussion.

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Best wishes to your career success!  I am always in your corner.


4 thoughts on “Should I Negotiate Salary: How I Almost Made a $6,000 Mistake

  1. Alana

    This was really helpful. I currently have a job offer, and I was debating whether or not to negotiate. Points #2 and 3 particularly spoke to me – if my friend was in a similar position, I would encourage him/her to negotiate. I also have to recognize my value, and practice what I (would) preach.

    Thank you for writing!

      1. Alana

        It went well! The HR recruiter I spoke with was very receptive, and increased the signing bonus instead of the base salary. The company is going to re-evaluate salaries across the board as well, so that’s why base salary is staying the same for now.

        I’m very happy that I asked for more, so I don’t have to think ‘what if?’ later on. It was also a chance to have a good conversation with my recruiter and future supervisor.

        Thanks again for your blog – it was the encouragement I needed!

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