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EXCLUSIVE: 6 tips from a negotiation expert on how to fatten your paypacket

Right: Negotiation expert, executive coach, Loyola Law School director of executive education, Harvard graduate and former investment banker, Hollywood executive and lawyer Hamilton Chan . (Photo: Getty, Coaching for Startups)

You’ve received the job offer of your dreams, but the stipulated salary is lower than someone with your experience and qualifications would expect.

Or perhaps you’ve taken on a heavier workload, pulled late nights, and exceeded expectations on all accounts.

You’re sure you’re due for a pay-rise, but actually making the case for it is a whole other matter.

Being well-prepared for salary negotiations is vital, according to an executive coach who has taught negotiations at Harvard Law School.

Here are six key negotiation tips to successfully secure that salary bump, from Hamilton Chan, Loyola Law School’s director of executive education and former investment banker and lawyer:

1. Start with gratitude

“Even when done with the greatest of tact, salary negotiations are prickly,” Chan said.

But this doesn’t mean you should quit the game altogether – it just means being “hyper-sensitive” and taking greater care when making requests.

“Always show gratitude for the offer first, emphasize its generosity, and then proceed with the requests,” he said.

2. Break down the walls

Don’t enter into the negotiation with the ‘me vs. them’ mindset of pitting yourself ‘against’ your boss. “Negotiations become about Right vs. Wrong, rather than Valid vs. Also Valid,” Chan said.

Rather, the expert negotiator build a connection with the other side. Strip down the polarity of the two positions and emphasise commonality. “It’s helpful and strategic to extend an olive branch,” he said.

“By emphasising commonality rather than difference, the other side can feel a connection and reciprocate. We melt away the caricatures of each side, and they become more human.”

3. Get creative with bartering

If you’re caught in an impasse, it might be because the negotiations are centering on only one thing that has become the be-all-and-end-all.

“Resolving a deadlock is all about finding other negotiating chips to throw onto the table. Being creative and thinking outside-of-the-box for creative solutions is critical,” Chan advised.

How do you do this? Find a compromise: trade items you care less about for items you care more about.

“When stuck in a difficult negotiation, aggressively expand the number of things you can trade. Encourage the other side to do the same.”

4. Sit on the same side of the table

It’s largely psychological: sitting on the same side of the table will frame the negotiation as mutual problem-solving and dissolve a metaphorical and literal divide, Chan said.

“It pulls each side off their positions and uses creativity to end deadlocks.”

5. Be realistic

When you’re asking for a pay bump, reaching too far past a certain threshold is unlikely to win you any favours.

“It would be highly unlikely for the employer to go for more than a 15 per cent pay increase, with 5 per cent being a much more reasonable expectation,” Chan told Yahoo Finance.

“Anchor high if you must, but I wouldn’t recommend asking for more than 15 per cent of what was offered.”

Be prepared to make concessions to end on a good note, he added. “I like to end most of my negotiations with a give. Push for what you want, but end with a concession that you can make.”

6. Keep an eye on the other side

The art of negotiation is subtle – by ‘playing nice’, you could end up with the raw end of the deal, Chan warns. You’re trying to do two things at once: connect with the other side while protecting your own interests.

“These tactics need to be employed with a wary eye towards the other side. The path to resolution requires both sides to lay down their arms, but if you drop your sword and the other doesn’t, it will be disastrous for you.”

For new hires

Before you get into the thick of things, it’s important to kick off negotiations by explicitly express gratitude, Chan advised.

Then and only then can new hires ask the following question: ‘Is there any flexibility on the salary?’

“By asking this first, you are essentially asking if you can even enter into a salary negotiation,” Chan told Yahoo Finance.

As a new hire, your offer isn’t necessarily a done deal yet, so tread carefully.

“Certain employers may bristle at any attempt to ask for more money, so you want to know first if they are even open. It’s like dipping your toe into a pool before jumping in.”

Perhaps if you’re after perks rather than more financial remuneration, ask nicely and frame the request as a question.

“Is it possible to get [fill in perk here, e.g. gym reimbursement, paid parking, one day working from home a week]?”

If it’s not possible, it’s likely that no one else at the company receives that perk.

For existing employees looking for higher pay

If you’re an existing employee negotiating higher pay, asking the following two questions will put you in a positive light:

“How can you help you more in your job?” Asking your boss how you can make their job easier will make you seem more selfless than selfish.
“I’d love to hear what you think is my most important contribution at the company.” Make your boss your biggest advocate and get them to use their own words on why you’re valued at the business.

For existing employees with a back-up offer

This one is tricker. You can ask: “My strong preference is to stay, but this other firm is being very aggressive in trying to recruit me. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do?”

Tone is very important here, Chan notes, but you’re asking for advice, not making demands here. You’re also casting your boss as a problem-solver and giving them a chance to counter.

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