A client recently reached out to tell me she was “in a pickle.” She’d gotten a job offer with a salary that was 43% more than she’d made in her last position and she felt torn about whether or not to negotiate for more. She texted me, “My gut says NEGOTIATE and make Lelia proud, but my head says the salary is awesome and appropriate.”
This kind of “pickle” comes up often for my clients. There’s a tension between being happy with the offer and the instinct that they “should” negotiate. Here are three of my favorite strategies for deciding whether or not to ask for more.
1. Do Your Research
Women often base salary expectations on how much money they need to live on rather than their market value. I’ve done it too, kicking myself after the fact when, early in my career, I named my salary expectations based on the bare minimum I could tolerate. I ultimately asked for and received a raise, but there were some seriously stressful and lean months in the interim.
Instead of basing your salary expectations on what you were making previously or the minimum you can live on without eating ramen for every meal, you should expect to get paid based on your value to the organization.
Use salary calculators and conversations with trusted friends in your field to benchmark your offer and determine what’s fair given your experience, the responsibilities of the role and the size and type of company.
When my client looked at Payscale.com, she found that she would be making more than 70% of people in similar positions with her level of experience at similar companies in her region. Her instincts were on point – this initial offer more than fair. Hooray!
2. Recognize Your Motivations And Feelings
As you consider whether or not you want to negotiate, pay attention to what’s making you apprehensive. Think about the worst thing that could realistically happen. Clients often ask, “What if they rescind the offer?” While that’s very unlikely, would you really want to work for a company that didn’t want you to advocate appropriately for the salary or benefits you need to be effective and successful?
I have never had a client have an offer rescinded for trying to negotiate. In fact, the negotiation process can enhance your relationship with your employer because you’re demonstrating that you can professionally navigate potentially challenging workplace situations. I’ve had several clients actually get complimented by their bosses or HR people for how they handled themselves over the course of the negotiation process.
In this particular client’s situation, she was very conscious of the wage gap and gender dynamics in the workplace. As she worked through her feelings, she realized she felt a responsibility to negotiate. Even though this was a fantastic salary offer, the campaigns telling her to #ask4more made her feel guilt and self doubt about accepting it. These well-intentioned campaigns can make women feel like gender bias and ending the wage gap are their responsibility to fix, when really, they’re systemic problems we have to navigate.
Instead of telling everyone to ask for more, I propose: Do the important self reflection about your own priorities, and if you choose to, negotiate in a way that feels authentic and comfortable to you. But it doesn’t make a very good hashtag.
Be gentle with yourself, and do what’s right for you.
3. Consider Other Areas To Negotiate
That moment between when your employer makes a first offer and when you accept an offer is your best opportunity to negotiate any aspect of your position. Even if you don’t negotiate salary, you can use the timing to your advantage.
Especially if the salary offer is in line with market value, consider what other factors would improve your experience of the workplace or your quality of life? Some suggestions:
- Flexible schedule or the ability to work remotely
- Paid time off
- Paid professional development
Another area to negotiate is a future raise discussion after you’ve established yourself within the company. By asking to revisit compensation at a later date, you’re demonstrating that you want your salary to be tied to performance, which most employers are happy to hear.
My client ultimately decided not to negotiate salary. Since she was happy with the robust benefits package and most other aspects of the position, she focused on getting flexibility in her work structure and schedule. In addition to the big salary bump, she now has control of when and where she works.
Remember, sometimes the stress of deciding whether or not to negotiate can make the process draining and intimidating. Whatever you decide, congratulations on the new offer! Do what’s right for you and don’t forget to celebrate the new gig in the process.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.