Reading02: Negotiation, Huh?

Reading02: Negotiation, Huh?

I haven’t negotiated anything in my (admittedly short) employment history. My only experiences so far have been internships, and I haven’t heard very much about people negotiation the terms of their internship. I had a pretty laissez-faire attitude about the terms, though – I didn’t consider negotiation and decide against; I honestly paid little attention to the terms before accepting.

I think that’s pretty typical, though. As I apply and interview for full-time positions, I definitely think I should negotiate my contract to some extent. Knowing myself, I probably won’t be “playing hardball” by any means, and very well could end up doing a token negotiation before accepting.

That’s one of the reasons I’m very glad to have done these readings – a lot of it makes sense, and it’s clear that you can get considerable benefit by negotiating before accepting a job. I knew this beforehand, but I didn’t really think about how to go through the process and didn’t have any specific knowledge of things to look for or strategies to use. I’ll definitely refer back to these resources when I’m negotiating an offer (hopefully relatively soon!).

I mentioned earlier that I might end up doing a “token negotiation” before accepting. By this, I mean that I wouldn’t consider myself very assertive in unfamiliar or stressful situations, and so I don’t think I would be very comfortable negotiating terms of my employment. If I make some sort of counter-offer that gets accepted, even if it’s small, I would likely pat myself on the back for negotiating at all and consider it done, even if I was leaving a lot more on the table.

For this reason, I’d say that I could have a lower starting salary (or other benefits) than a hypothetical student with similar experience or abilities, but a personality more suited to negotiation. It makes sense, and I’d say this likely happens across the tech industry – people in a similar role or station might have different salaries due simply to how much they negotiated right at the beginning.

This obviously isn’t ideal – people should be paid according to the value of the work they should do, or the value of their skills. I think in a perfect world it would be a meritocracy, where salaries would be independent of negotiation, but that’s not realistic. This negotiation climate is the natural conclusion of the situation. Each party wants to maximize their resources, and so they are incentivized to be less up-front about the situation.

This would be much more acceptable if the two parties were in a position of equal power. They are not – the employer has much more than the prospective employee – and there are additional factors that could disincentivize an employee from negotiation. They’re in a strange situation, being in an adversarial relationship with their soon-to-be employer.

I would say it’s not ideal, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s unethical. It’s just another example of a time when the rewards aren’t tied to merit quite as directly as they perhaps should be, and there are much large issues that should be addressed first.