You negotiated. You won. Now how do you feel?

This thread grows out of a conversation I had with a friend of mine over her annual review at work. There were various things on the table, such as job title, salary, hours, etc etc. And she commented to me afterwards how crap the review made her feel, because the attitude from management was along the lines of ‘ok, justify yourself. Tell us why you’re worth <appropriate deal>. Because our starting offer is <lowball offer>’.

My friend is by no means a shy violet, and well used to fighting for stuff she wants - infinitely better than me, in fact. But we both agreed that it was pretty essential in a working relationship to feel like our employer wanted to give us an appropriate deal - that they would feel bad about exploiting us if they gave us less than we were worth, and that they know enough about our abilities to know if they were doing so. And that winning a negotiation essentially robbed us of that feeling - if you have to force them to give you what you’re worth, do they actually value you at all? Or, even worse, are you actually not worth that, and only fooling yourself?

It strikes me, however, that neither of us is the Universal Human, and that there’s at least one other possible emotional response to the process of winning a negotiation which is along the lines of “Hey - I won! I am so boss I can make my managers give me stuff! Also - extra money. Woot!”

So, let me put it out there. How does it make you feel, to win at negotiating?

I once negotiated a salary increase and won. And I was thrilled, but I also felt something else. Maybe ‘cynical’ is the right word? Like, the whole thing made me realized that my employer is banking on its workforce’s passivity and ignorance*. So I knew it wasn’t so much that I was “boss” for standing up for myself. I was just finally waking up to reality.
*It has been my experience that government employees tend to assume salaries can only be negotiated once–upon hiring. However, at least in my state, that’s not true. But it’s not like HR is going to tell you this at orientation. That’s why being privy to office room gossip isn’t always a bad thing.

I’ve participated in several rounds of salary negotiation. When I won I was thrilled that I won. When I lost I was pissed they didn’t see my value. I left my last job because they couldn’t replace me and wouldn’t pay me more to reflect that and in the end they replaced me with someone who knew nothing about the job or my industry who had been hired as my assistant two weeks before unfortunately they shut down the business for 10 weeks while trying to teach him to do my job.

I haven’t negotiated a salary directly, it has always been a collective agreement negotiated by a small group of employees in conjunction with a couple of (weak) unions. The reality is that we are paid the minimum necessary to retain a workforce. Sometimes we slip behind a bit and sometimes we make some gains, it all depends on how easy or hard it is to recruit. I laugh when I read our draft list of claims because a lot of it is pie in the sky stuff. Last time around we made some significant gains, particularly for our first officer pilots. This time around I expect we will get CPI increases for the duration of the agreement and no more.

In general I kind of feel bad when I get everything I ask for (e.g, negotiating a price on a car) because I wonder if I didn’t ask for enough. I also feel bad when I don’t get what I asked for because it makes me feel like I suck at negotiating.

Well, you can’t really negotiate in an annual review, because in order to negotiate successfully you have to be willing to walk away. So…I guess you could, if you were willing to say something like, “This annual review didn’t meet my needs, so here’s my notice.”

In the one instance in my life where I was willing to say that concerning employment, I did get what I asked for. And it turned out I should have walked away anyway.

It works much better for cars. I don’t have to have a car. If I get what I want, I will be happy; if not, I’ll walk*.

*away from the deal AND as a transportation option

One of the benefits of collective negotiation is that it is possible for other people to leave thereby getting the point across and raising the salaries for those remaining. I have done very well in the past by just being too lazy to move on.

Since I am a hard worker, I would LOVE the opportunity to tell them all about all the hard work I have been doing.

And I would feel normal after getting the raise I expected. I work hard and expect to be compensated, so nothing unusual for me (to “win”).

I once had to negotiate a job description. I just felt exhausted afterwards. We didn’t have one, and out managers kept adding “one little thing” to our duties, until they’d increased our workload by about 6 hours a week. We needed it to stop before they had us working 70 hour weeks. One of our two managers was a workaholic, who thought nothing of 16 hour days, and didn’t really understand why the rest of us didn’t want to work like that as well. Fortunately, the other manager was an an actual human, and very reasonable, who went to bat for us with the workaholic (if we’d been dealing with two like her, we would have had to go over their heads).

In spite of having one of them on our side, and immediately seeing the reasonableness of what we were asking, I still came away feeling like I’d been banging my head against a wall. I’m also not sure how I got elected to be the leader of the people in my slot, but it happened somehow.

“Justify your right to be compensated” is not quite the same thing as “Justify your right not to be abused with indentured servant-like schedules,” but in both cases you still have to step up and say “I’m worth something,” so yeah, I think I get it. It was bad enough that we were put in that position by a supervisor with personal problems. To be deliberately put in that situation is unprofessional.

The few times I’ve had to negotiate my compensation, I pretty much didn’t feel anything at all after I received and accepted an offer that met my expectations. My perspective is that I have a range of compensation for which I would be willing to do a particular job, and my employer has a range of compensation he would be willing to pay me to fill a particular job role. I expect that my employer would prefer to pay me at the lower end of his range, and I assume he expects me to prefer the upper end of my range. If our two ranges have some overlap, great. If not, we both move on. Nobody needs to be disrespecting anyone; the negotiation is just another part of the process.

That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever received what I considered to be an unreasonably low offer, just offers lower than what I wanted/expected. If an potential employer were to make an offer that I felt was unreasonably low, that is, an offer than no reasonably qualified person would ever consider accepting under normal circumstances, then that probably would be a sign that I would not want to be working for this person.

I felt bad once, when I negotiated a used boate sale into a great deal, then ran into someone that knew the guy. He knew what he needed to get for the boat and said the seller regretted losing money on it.

I felt like saying that I was willing to pay more… but the guy accepted the first offer! Who does that?

Negotiating is an odd thing anymore. It’s a dying art in the USA anyway. If I see something like a used boat selling for 21,500 , then I might offer 18k… and we (seller and buyer) find something acceptable, and 21,500 sort of tells me you would like around 20k at the end of the day.

I felt bad for offering 18k and him accepting it. Later found out he really needed about 19,700 to settle his loan and was cash strapped.

He could have had the 19,700. I mentally was prepared to pay 20k.


I go through every time I have an annual review. My employer’s reviews are zero-sum, in the sense that if one person gets a high rating, someone else has to get a lower rating. These ratings, of course, then decide who gets to stay employed. So, invariably, I get to have a conversation where someone tells me, “Well, we thought you deserved the top block but we couldn’t give it to you, because of [insert bullshit excuse here].”

It doesn’t really matter what flavor of carrot you are talking about. If they think you are worth X, they should give you X. If they offer <X, then they either believe you are worth <X or they think you are a chump who will do X work for <X carrot.

FWIW, if I had to live my life over again I would MUCH more selfish and aggressive when it comes to this kind of thing. I think I’ve often made a mistake in my life of just settling for what people offer without really fighting for it.