What Is Your Salary Negotiation Style?

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Many of us are underpaid simply because we don’t know how to handle the final stage of recruitment – salary negotiation. We want to try and help you with this, but first you need to know where you will probably go wrong when it comes to this last hurdle.

This short quiz we’ve adapted from Edinburgh Business School will allow you to identify whether you are a donkey, sheep, fox or owl. Write down your natural response to each question without skipping ahead to the answers.

The Questions

You subscribe to a service that your company pays for, which you rely on to do your job. However your boss threatens to stop the subscription to cut costs. Do you:

A. Offer to look at a cheaper package?

B. Warn your boss that essential business outcomes could be affected

without this subscription?

C. Suggest that you talk about why it has to be cut

D. Tell them “fine” but warn that you are paying a good rate, and may not get it back again if you want to re-subscribe later

You have been working on an important project with a colleague and the

deadline is fast approaching, but your colleague tells you that they are too busy to work on it with you anymore. Do you:

A. Suggest that you re-negotiate the amount of time your colleague puts into the project?

B. Ask your colleague what they’re working on and suggest that you could help each other?

C. Go above them and complain to senior management

D. Tell them that you are well aware of this ploy and that they won’t get away with it?

You are a package tour operator negotiating with a hotel chain on the terms for next season’s holiday bookings. The price they are asking per person per week in their hotels is $45 higher than your current offer. They offer to ‘split the difference’ 50–50. Do you:

A. Agree to their offer?

B. Say you can’t afford to split the difference?

C. Tell them it’s non-negotiable

D. Agree, if it is 75–25 in your favour?

You have been working only three weeks in a new job and had planned

to get married on Friday 18 August (which you did not disclose at the job interview). Your ‘intended’ spouse expects a proper honeymoon vacation of at least a week in Bermuda. It’s now 16 August and you ask your boss for leave for the wedding day and for the vacation. She is visibly not happy with your request and asks stiffly how long you were ‘thinking of being absent’. Do you reply:

A. The wedding day only?

B. This wouldn’t happen – I would have disclosed it

C. 3 days?

D. Two weeks?

Your Result

Mostly As: You are a sheep. You believe that whatever you get is acceptable and will probably be grateful for whatever salary you are offered. You don’t desire to (or even know how to) fight for your own interests and are therefore likely to be underpaid. It’s wise to value your relationship with your prospective employer but not above the outcome of a salary negotiation. Remember you have bills to pay! Consider asking for what you deserve and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Mostly Bs: You are an owl. Wise enough to spot the long term benefits of building a good relationship with your prospective employer whilst looking after your own interests, you are always aware and prepared for the opportunities and threats provided by a salary negotiation. Research is your middle name and you always enter salary negotiations armed with the information you will need to succeed. You have a healthy respect for prospective employers as well as yourself and you are fair, which earns you trust. Remain an owl and you will do well, just be careful not to stray into fox territory.

Mostly Cs: You are a donkey. This means you often can’t see what you could gain from negotiating your salary. Are you perhaps a little stubborn sometimes? You are likely to take an approximate wage on a job description as the final sum, and make a decision whether or not to apply based on that alone. Take more time to research industries, ask questions and consider what salary or non-cash elements you would settle for. Remember – salaries and benefits are usually negotiable.

Mostly Ds: You are a fox. Cunning and ruthless, you believe that you deserve whatever salary you demand and will probably take as much as you can get. You are likely to lose yourself in the excitement of the negotiation process instead of considering what an employer might stretch to and what you would actually accept. You are incredibly pragmatic and confident, but sometimes you only succeed because of quick-wittedness and over-promising. When this happens your success is often short-lived, so it would be wise to learn the value of building trust and mutual respect with your employer from the beginning by driving for a win-win negotiation outcome.

The Answers

You subscribe to a service that your company pays for, which you rely on to do your job. However your boss threatens to stop the subscription to cut costs. Do you:

A. Offer to look at a cheaper package?

Now that is an invitation, isn’t it? You should feel sheepish because you may well have been tricked into a panic price cut.

B. Warn your boss that essential business outcomes could be affected without this subscription?

Much better. Owls need information before they react to possible ploys. Comments like this are more appropriate and would encourage your boss to evaluate the situation against business goals.

C. Suggest that you talk about why it has to be cut

Sounds like a case of sour grapes, doesn’t it?

D. ‘Tell them “fine” but warn that you are paying a good rate, and may not get it back again if you want to re-subscribe later

A clever fox is trying to call their bluff! This is a dangerous tactic if your boss stops the subscription anyway, as you may never get it back.

You have been working on an important project with a colleague and the deadline is fast approaching, but your colleague tells you that they are too busy to work on it with you anymore. Do you:

A. Suggest that you re-negotiate the amount of time your colleague puts into the project?

Sheepishly hasty, even if you need to meet a deadline. You have let your colleague get away with it!

B. Ask your colleague what they’re working on and suggest that you could help each other?

Owls collect all the information available before they act or suggest solutions. By asking your colleague what they are working on, your are discovering whether or not they are telling the truth about being busy.

C. Go above them and complain to senior management

If you want to maintain a good relationship with your colleague, this is not the best way to solve the issue as it will make them feel undermined. Use this as a last resort.

D. Tell them that you are well aware of this ploy and that they won’t get away with it?

Very clever of you to spot their ploy to get out of working with you, but threatening them won’t help to resolve the issue.

You are a package tour operator negotiating with a hotel chain on the terms for next season’s holiday bookings. The price they are asking per person per week in their hotels is $45 higher than your current offer. They offer to ‘split the difference’ 50–50. Do you:

A. Agree to their offer?

Never. If you show negotiators that you practise ‘split the difference’ compromises they will give you bigger and bigger differences to split.

B. Say you can’t afford to split the difference?

By far the negotiator’s best owl-like move. Why should you split the difference, whether you can afford it or not? By making this offer they expose that their price is padded by at least $22.50 a person (and probably much more). Conceding to split the difference on $45 on 10 000 holiday weeks costs you about $225 000. Does this compromise look so equitable when grossed up?

C. Tell them it’s non-negotiable

Newsflash! You are currently in a negotiation – that’s what we’re doing here.

D. Agree, if it is 75–25 in your favour?

This is definitely better than agreeing to the offer and quite a reasonable offer for a fox. A possible move for an owl much later, after you have tested the padding.

You have been working only three weeks in a new job and had planned to get married on Friday 18 August (which you did not disclose at the job interview). Your ‘intended’ spouse expects a proper honeymoon vacation of at least a week in Bermuda. It’s now 16 August and you ask your boss for leave for the wedding day and for the vacation. She is visibly not happy with your request and asks stiffly how long you were ‘thinking of being absent’. Do you reply:

A. The wedding day only?

No. An abject surrender which you will spend the rest of your married life sheepishly trying to justify to your partner.

B. This wouldn’t happen – I would have disclosed it

An owl would never start a new job without previously giving details of any booked holiday, especially so close to the start date. You can be smug.

C. Three days?

That’s just weak.

D. Two weeks?

Good. Start

boldly and work down if you have to. Your boss will respect your courageous assertiveness eventually. A move for clever foxes.

Next week on the blog we will be diving into how to calculate your salary expectations. We’ll be sharing advice and guidance to get you feeling ready to answer that dreaded question about your salary expectations.

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