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November 30, 2015

Negotiating Salary & Benefits – the Importance of Reasons

ReasonDid you know there’s one little word that will help you get what you want in salary and benefits negotiations?

The word is “because.”

If you read last week’s post you know that I went on the internet radio show Career Confidante recently with a discussion entitled No-Fear Negotiation. It’s a method for negotiating your compensation package effectively while reducing the (small and preventable) risk of damaging rapport or losing the offer.

At the end of the interview, program host Marie Zimenoff added a story that shows the importance of backing up your requests with good reasons.

Here’s the story, which happens to be about negotiating benefits (vacation time, in this case).

Two candidates applied for similar engineering positions at the same company. One candidate asked for an additional week of vacation without giving any particular reason. The candidate was hired, but the company said no to the additional vacation time.

The other candidate also asked for an additional week of vacation. He said, “You offer an additional week of vacation after five years. Well, I already have five years of experience, it’s just not here.” This candidate was given the extra vacation time he requested!

Was his reason a good one? I’m not sure it made a lot of sense, since the vacation policy was based on tenure with the company. But his stated reason got him an extra week of fun in the sun!

A famous psychology experiment now known as “The Copy Machine” demonstrated how small changes in the wording of a request can make a big difference in the response.

The experimenter stationed a person near a copy machine in a busy office. When someone began copying, this person would come up to them and interrupt, asking to butt in and make copies. About 60% of the time the interruption was allowed. But the permission was granted almost 95% of the time if the person stepping up to interrupt not only asked, ”May I use the copy machine?” but added the reason, ”because I have to make copies.”

Is that a compelling reason? Not really – it goes without saying that they had to make copies. But it worked.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you rely heavily on meaningless reasons. I do think better reasons are more likely to give the impression that you are an intelligent, reasonable person, and that’s important. Give the best reasons you can come up with.

Examples of good reasons:

“I’m looking for something closer to (desired salary) because my 10 years of experience and my success in achieving (blah blah) results make me worth that much, and because it’s in both our interests to put together a competitive package appropriate to the value I bring.”

“I’m looking to start in two weeks rather than this Monday, because I haven’t had a vacation in two years and I believe we’ll get the best results if I start the job feeling totally refreshed and re-energized.”

“I want to telecommute because the hours I gain back from commuting will give me a boost in work-life balance that will help keep me 110% engaged and delivering the best possible results for the company.”

So the lesson is: in salary negotiation – or negotiating benefits and perks – always offer a reason.



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