You Might Be Thinking About Salary Negotiations All Wrong

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Hey, congrats! You’ve made it through the hell that is networking, listed all the right things on your résumé, and managed not to say anything too dumb during the job interview, and now the powers that be have rewarded all your hard work with a shiny new job offer. All that’s left is to talk specifics.

That doesn’t mean the hard part is necessarily over, though. There are plenty of tricks you can use to finagle a higher salary out of your new employee — you can ask for a range rather than a specific number, for example, try cracking a dumb joke (“I’d love a bajillion dollars”) — but a better strategy might be to reconsider the way you think about negotiations in the first place. As Kristin Wong recently wrote in Mental Floss, there’s a right way to approach the situation, and there’s a wrong way: Thinking about your boss as a partner will get you a lot farther than thinking of them as an adversary.

“A major reason why so many of us find it difficult to negotiate is because it seems so confrontational,” she wrote, but research has shown that the most successful negotiations are often the least confrontational ones. A concept called “principled negotiation,” outlined in the 1981 book Getting to Yes, asks all parties involved to “separate the people from the problem,” “focus on interests, not positions,” and “invent options for mutual gain.” To put it another way, principled negotiation requires the negotiators to approach the issue at hand as a team, with all members working together toward a common goal: reaching a solution in which everyone is happy.

It can also be helpful to take that same idea a little further, moving past teamwork and toward something like friendliness. In a 2002 study in the journal Group Dynamics, Wong explained, researchers found that unrelated small talk before the main negotiation session helped to move things along more smoothly:

[R]esearchers had subjects “schmooze” on a telephone call by revealing a small personal detail about themselves that had nothing to do with the negotiation, like where they grew up. “Schmoozers felt more rapport, their plans were more trusting (although no less ambitious), and their economic and social outcomes were better,” the study says.

Specifically, when subjects only exchanged names and email addresses, they reached a deal less than 40 percent of the time. But when they shared extraneous personal information, they reached a deal 59 percent of the time.

If you ever needed more incentive to brush up on your small-talk skills, here it is: A boss who’s been suitably schmoozed is a boss who’s more likely to give you what you want. You may be past the networking and the interview, but chitchat, unfortunately, never stops being important.

You Might Be Thinking About Salary Negotiations All Wrong