Saturday, October 23, 2010

Negotiating Strategy (4): The Curious Case of The Non-Negiatior

Our last job offer bargaining strategy consists of not bargaining at all. To be a bit colloquial, this “non-strategy” entails giving up any negotiating power you have to the will of an external source, the hiring company and sometimes a recruiter. It’s easy to write this off as being a passive or even demeaning strategy, because in this scenario you have an opportunity to influence a major part of your future, and you just let the opportunity go by. Is there any value in this seemingly passive approach? Or is it a total surrender tactic? Or, maybe, in certain situations this is all you can do and the best you c can expect? Here we delve a little deeper into this non-negotiable mindset of the job candidate, considering why one would adopt such a non strategy and the long term affect on not negotiating one one’s career success, particularly compensation. Furthermore, because the person who chooses this strategy decides to not actively engage in negotiating job offer, our intention is, unlike in the other scenarios, not to offer “almost” any direct advice. Rather our agenda is to describe and analyze this non negotiating posture as another way one may one receive a job offer.

Well, first of all, in certain governmental, military, educational, day labor and institutional jobs, there really isn’t much room for negotiating the terms of a job: you either take the job or you don’t. In fact I would surmise that there are as many, if not more jobs, in this pre-set non arbitrary pay and benefit policy. Moreover, before the mid twentieth century, very few people had the option of negotiating their compensation and this was the modus operandi, and is still the case in many of the world economies. However, with the rise of the unions and then professional middle class, many employees gained the often empowering capability for compensation negotiation. So the notion that the job offer process always, or at least almost always, includes some negotiating room is always a myth.

In fact, for some people predefined compensation can even provide a sense of security and certainty In his book “The Paradox of Choice” Barry Schwartz says that one of the sometimes most psychological disorienting aspects of modern life is that we have seemingly unlimited choices in our lives. This can evoke a sense of instability and uncertainty if we are indecisive, or perhaps, more commonly, overwhelmed with the universe of things and situations to draw from. So having the certainty of a job with a pre-defined compensation structure could bring a sense of certainty and stability in one’s life. Would this strategy with a negotiable job package lessen anxiety? Maybe in the short run for some people, but generally the knowledge you could possibly negotiate for a better deal, and you don’t, is more disturbing than not.

However, in this venue we are more concerned with people who have an opportunity to negotiate, or choose but simply don’t. What is going on with them? Well you could speculate that when one takes what is offered with no reservation they may have less pressure, because they might feel under pressure to prove their worth to the company. In other words, there is never a risk of over promising and under delivering as is the case of the person of negotiates prom a position of strength or from a more symmetrical vantage point. However, in today’s high stress work environment this advantage may not mean quite, depending on the company and their area of expertise, particularly if their job category is subject to outsourcing. Also, they may be shy or, at times, totally lacking in assertiveness; or the non negotiator may suffer from a relative low self esteem or a negative sense of self worth. Although these psychological issues are common in those avoiding job negotiations- or a in avoiding any anxiety provoking situation” But can the much in vogue, often disempowering, psychological determinism be the major factor in refusing, or being incapable, to negotiate, Then what else could it be? Perhaps they, in some cases, enjoy their work for works sake, and compensation is a secondary issue for work that may intrinsically, or what my Psychology professor in graduate school, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, called flow. However, in a recessionary environment like we have been stuck in for the last couple of years most work has been too precarious to be called flow jobs. Finally, age may play a role in whether one negotiates or not for their job offer. Younger workers with with fewer responsibilities and often more options may be more likely to bargain, while older employees with more responsibilities and fewer options may be less likely to negotiate.

An alternative scenario involves someone who has been out of work for a while, like a person bargaining from a position of weakness. Moreover, this person may be so thankful to have a job that any type of negotiations seems possibly risky. Of course, this could be a function of how long they have been unemployed, or if they are at an age that reduces their hiring prospects. So we might still conjecture that the person had been experiencing anxiety, fear, or depression, but it could be more situational than endemic. With the media, and friends and family all generally having a very pessimistic attitude regarding them taking what you can get doesn’t seem that farfetched. But as with the person who tries to bargain with an inflexible employer from a position of weakness, passively accepting a lowball offer (at least, and usually, more than 5% less than their last or current compensation) can be multiplied over one’s entire career, which can be a significant amount of money easily exceeding six figures of potential lost income (e. g., 7k over 30 years adds up to 210k). So with such a significant amount of money being potentially lost, it might behoove the frightened job seeker to hire a career coach or gom to a job search agency to help them develop, and hopefully carry out, a more proactive strategy.

However, this non negotiation strategy is also utilized by people who are employed; just not as often. It’s easy to make the snap judgment that this person possesses a sense of low self worth so a lowball offer is a self fulfilling prophecy where diminished expectations lead to diminished results. Also unfortunately in a often “survival of the fittest” work environment, this non negotiator may find it hard to gain the respect of management or, in some cases, fellow workers who might be aware of this avoidance approach. In fact, some employees, if aware that the passive job seeker accepts less money for a job comparable to what they do, may feel that this may negatively impact their future bargaining power or job security. However, it is more likely that the non-negotiator may get the smaller reviews in the future and in some cases in a layoff they may even be one of the first let go because of their inability to promote themselves. Converse, this, at times, may work to their advantage because they are more “budget friendly” due to their lower compensation. This, in my opinion, is another more company, and employee, specific determination.

However, there are some people, who despite their passive, non-negotiating, position could be very competent at what they do, and because of good performance they could conceivably be respected and valued once they prove they are assets to their organization. Also a person may feel a bit hopeless from being out of work, but once they are on the job for a while their confidence starts to rebuild and they may start negotiating when review time comes around; or even they realize they are being taken advantage and leave for a more attractive position. In this case their company may quickly realize they are losing a valuable, often bargain priced, employee and offer them a large counter offer that could exceed the external offer and bring them up to what their work is competitively valued. Moreover, if a person chooses not to negotiate during the hiring process, this does not necessarily mean that he or she will be taken advantage of. Somewhere in this process the person will be asked what they are, or were, compensated at their former or current company. From this the employer may have a formula from which they make job offers to a reasonable job candidate, and this formula, at least for a potentially average performer, may not vary appreciably whether the candidate negotiates or not. Consequently, if company is wise enough to recognize that they want an employee to receive some incentive to potentially enhance job performance. Furthermore, when one’s job does not have a direct impact on the company’ s bottom line or involve negotiating, for example as a programmer or a graphic designer, then not negotiating for their job may not appear as much of an issue. On the other hand,. when the person’s job does involve negotiating, like in sales or purchasing, then not negotiating for their job may send a signal that the person does not have the right temperament to succeed at their job,

In conclusion, this last job offer negotiating, or non-negotiating, scenario on the surface may appear counter intuitive to most of American’s aggressive business postures. Moreover, the non negotiator may, in some cases, even lose the respect of their employers by not engaging in assuming a non-negotiating posture. However, if one is employed or nor employed may be a determining factor on whether one negotiates with their future employer: the unemployed person may fear that negotiating may harm their prospects of getting an offer, while an employed person has more options and feels more emboldened to negotiate. Of course, some people may lack the assertiveness or confidence to bargain no matter what their situation, and depending on the employer, the position, and job market this may or may not negatively impact on their job situation once, or even if, they are hired. On the other hand, if the non negotiating job seeker, like the person who negotiates from a position of weakness, does not receive what they perceive as a “fair” offer, then they might be more likely to look for employment elsewhere if the situation presents itself. Furthermore, they in some cases may be more likely receive and take a counter-offer because of their negotiating naiveté and lower salary. Whatever, in this case I would recommend the non negotiator at least consider seeking out professional negotiating assistance (e. g.; from a career coach, some recruiters, and even government sponsored job search skills training agencies), because by following this passive path they may potentially be costing themselves a substantial amount of money over time. Granted, at times, getting a job regardless of negotiating can be a matter of survival, but one may need to not passively sacrifice their self respect and dignity, unless not negotiating is clearly one’s only option. Finally, because non-negotiators tend to be at the low end of the salary scale, they may have a little more job security, particularly in a recessionary job market, because they tend to have lower salaries and be viewed as bargains if they are good performers.

This may be in employer’s best long term interest, to offer the non negotiator a fair offer, if they feel the perspective employee possesses skills that may be in moderate to high demand in a strong job market. However, this remains, because for whatever reason, the employer’s call in a situation where the potential employee may have the greatest opportunity to get a better compensation package than they had elsewhere. Finally, this totally putting power to negotiate one’s compensation in the hands of the employer may be the biggest minus in not negotiating the conditions of a job offer.

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