How to Be an Ace Salary Negotiator (Even if You Hate Conflict)


However, thanks to the National Labor Relations Act, “that’s illegal in nearly all private sector workplaces,” according to Cynthia Estlund, a professor at the New York University School of Law. Certain types of managers, especially in the rail and airways industries, might be excluded from the labor relations law, so do a touch of research before asking around. But the majority of American workers are free to speak about their wages, Ms. Estlund said — and don’t be shy about it.

“There’s this peculiar American aversion to talking about these things,” she said. But research has shown that salary transparency leads to greater “wage compression,” which Ms. Estlund said is another way of saying “equality.”

“It means there is less difference between the bottom wages and the top,” she said.

Sites like Glassdoor, PayScale and LinkedIn, as well as trade organizations, can also help you figure out where your salary should be. These sites, while not perfect, may be your best resource if your company actively bars employees from comparing notes on pay.

Follow a script

The AAUW website offers tools that will help you write your own script, but a basic outline for a salary negotiation goes like this:

  • Finally, ask about how you can ensure your compensation matches your skills and responsibilities.

  • And don’t forget to practice: Find a friend and ask them to poke holes in your résumé and push back in interview practice “so you’re prepared for different scenarios,” Ms. Churches said.

You can’t always get what you want

If you get what you want on the first try, congrats! But if your boss can’t commit, you still have a few options.

“You can ask, ‘How close do you think you can come to my number?’ ” Dr. Babcock said. This puts the decision back on them. If they still balk, ask how you can gain the skills needed to take you to the next level. Dr. Babcock said letting a boss in on your lofty aspirational goals can help them see you as an employee worth investing in.

Whatever happens, don’t keep picking and picking at the no.

“Listen to your gut on how much you can go back and forth, then make some decisions,” Ms. Churches said. “It takes two parties to negotiate,” and if the other party isn’t interested in keeping the dialogue going, you need to figure out how to move on. “You can do a Hail Mary and try one last time, or you can start looking elsewhere for employment.”

Whatever you do, according to Dr. Babcock, remember: “There’s no cost to being gracious, and if you’re colleagues, you’re in a long-term relationship with this person.”


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