The idealized “Win-Win Situation” that most aspire to reach in salary negotiations is a lazy compromise, explains former entrepreneur and negotiations expert Kurt-Georg Scheible. According to Scheible, the best way to win in a negotiation is to stay tough. Brutally tough.
The classic “Harvard Concept” for negotiation recommends that both parties strive towards reaching a “Win-Win situation.” The goal is to create a constructive and peaceful environment in an otherwise conflicted situation. The best possible outcome for each side should be kept in the foreground. But expert negotiator, author and university lecturer Kurt Georg Scheible would disagree.
Mr. Scheible, the world-renowned Harvard Concept aims for a Win-Win situation, and a constructive and peaceful environment in conflict situations. From your perspective, why do you oppose this?
Scheible: All too often, a “win-win” situation is understood as, “Let’s meet in the middle.” This only works in theory. If a victory for both sides isn’t reached – which is usually the case – then both sides harden, and it comes down to a lazy compromise, or a break-down in communication. No one wants this. For this reason, each side should be equipped to win in their negotiations. A more important aspect is to negotiate at eye-level, even with seemingly powerful adversaries like your supervisor.
Why is it important to negotiate at “eye-level” with your opponent?
Scheible: First, it’s important to see the other person involved in the negotiation not as a partner, but rather, as an opponent. Before and afterwards, you can be best friends – just not at the negotiation table!
In addition, it’s very important to be aware of your own strengths. When someone sits down at the negotiations table, it’s only because they believe they have something to gain. He wants something from you, some utility. And you can give it to him. For this reason, you need a good preparation for your negotiation to make it clear that you offer value. Then, you negotiate hard – at eye level.
What are the deadliest sins in salary negotiations?
Scheible: The absolute worst case for me is extortion – if you come to me with another job offer to try and get more money, I’m immediately inclined to let you leave. A supervisor can never allow himself to be pressured or pushed. Another technique that doesn’t work, but is frequently attempted, is to try to use one’s personal circumstances to push for a raise, like a new car, buying a house, or getting married. This is of no interest to your boss. The third worst is mentioning a previous achievement. As I always tell students in my class: a higher level of education, like a Master’s degree or another qualification, is a good idea – but it doesn’t automatically entitle you to a higher salary. It’s also extreme when age or professional experience are used as arguments for earning more. This would mean, then, that just because someone is older, they should earn more than someone younger than him, regardless of how much value he brings to the company.
What are the most important success factors for salary negotiation and a higher pay?
Scheible: The joy of negotiation, and the relevant skills are the most deciding elements. Those who have never negotiated, and don’t care for it, will be assuredly less successful when it comes to negotiating salary. To prepare for your salary negotiation, familiarize yourself with the utility and value that you bring your company, and your supervisor. Create a list titled “10 Reasons Why I’m Worth the Money.” Put yourself in your supervisor’s position, and convince yourself to pay you more. This is the easiest when the value of your work is higher than what you’re asking to be paid. It’s also helpful to consider what sets you apart from your colleagues.
Try to stick to the money as closely as possible. Estimate your value in Euros (or dollars). And consider the saying, “Ask and you shall receive.” So ask for more than you want. When it comes to your request, don’t just think about the money, but also alternative ideas. Oftentimes, your boss may not be able to offer much financial compensation, but in other areas he may have more options. So add things like further education and trainings to your list, including travel costs and other miscellaneous items. Essentially, consider anything work related that already reduces your monthly net income – from healthcare costs to gym memberships, to professional clothes and travel expenses.
You say, “Leave the negotiation as a winner!” How far can I go, as an employee, to push my own interests without angering my employer?
Scheible: Most importantly, this refers to your state of mind. When you enter a conflict or a negotiation – which is the same to me – with the belief that you have nothing to gain, then you’ve already lost. When you don’t yet have your boss’s “yes” in writing, then you can park the negotiations and pick them up at a later date. And for the next appointment, prepare yourself better. Avoid hasty concessions, and quick refusals. When you had no success in the first negotiation, and you panic and tell your boss, “Well, then I need to look for something else,” then you need to act on the threat that you brought to the table. When you only come with one demand – a higher salary, for example – it can easily happen that you leave empty handed. So have more requests prepared – not just money, but perhaps something different, like better insurance, or a free parking spot. What’s important in a negotiation is to collect points, and not to leave the negotiation as a loser, empty handed.
About the Author
Markus Hofelich is a journalist specializing in economics and finance. He lives with his family south of Munich. He gained his experience in journalism as the Editorial Leader of the DIV, the German Industry Publisher, as the Editor-in-Chief of Cash, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the economics magazine “Unternehmeredition,” from GoingPublic Media AG. Markus Hofelich studied at the University of Passau and the Sorbonne in Paris.
His newest project is a website, SinndesLebens24.de, an online magazine for philosophy, happiness and motivation, and is always open for new opportunities.