Negotiations can lose momentum quickly when our
untrained, emotional habits and fears are exposed.
We saw this in our Negotiations Seminar. Four groups
were invited to choose one of three scenarios of negotiations
and set up a two party negotiation within their group.
The seminar had covered all of the elements of the
-offer in writing, job description in writing
-set up your process, enlist a helping team, set your family’s
priorities among the possible items and do thorough research
and due diligence
-develop and practice your strategy
-develop ideas for your BATNA
-execute and adapt to situations
We had covered the Negotiations Checklist.
A. One of the comments afterward was that there weren’t clear
instructions of what to do. The response is it is an applicant’s
responsibility to show that they can create order out of an
uncertain situation. Each group should have gravitated to the
process flow chart and checklist. This was a teachable moment.
B. Another interesting observation was that there was no
strategic thinking and establishing of a priority order of the list
of things. This was demonstrated by one proposal: Will the
company pay for my student loans.
Again the point is to find out leverage points. What are the company’s
highest needs? How can you the applicant meet and exceed them?
Listen carefully after exploring their wants to develop your
leverage in the negotiation. Then, the company representative is
more than willing to pursue their BATNA ideas to have you want
to join their organization. Another teachable moment.
Instead, the question showed an attitude that might only turn the
There are organizations– the Federal government, that have certain
loan repayment provisions for specific position hires. But your
responsibility in negotiation is to explore leverage points.
Good habits: Use the negotiation process
Know and implement the Negotiation Checklist.
A very recent PhD attended the Negotiation Process
seminar. This person seemed to be both pleased
This person expressed not being aware of the importance
of receiving a formal offer letter. The list of possible
items that could be negotiated and how to form and
conduct the process were quite valuable. However,
it seems, preliminary research work for this small
company had already begun without pay or even an
Let me indicate that this entry is not focused on the
offer letter and its contents. Please refer to excellent
entries in Sklover Working Wisdom.
This person asked: What should I do now, as I have
not heard from the small start up company entrepreneur?
The verbal job offer for the PhD was $50K/ year.
This is clearly an opportunity to put the negotiating
checklist and negotiating process to work. It is
important to ask for an in person meeting to seek
a written commitment stating starting date, title,
salary and formal benefits and any conditionals
(like, receiving a grant or funding or contracts).
The person should be doing formal due diligence on
this position and its competitors, should be forming
a negotiating team to help define and evaluate, should
be establishing BATNA and all the other process
steps and checklist items.
To start, going to the ACS Salary Comparator can
establish a ground state. It does not seem to me,
besides protests to the contrary, that $50K is a
reasonable starting salary for a full time PhD position.
The 2013 data assessment bore this hypothesis out.
SCENARIO Academic Commercial
Specific area N. E. outside of NYC and Boston
research Contract Profession
80 %ile $83K $109K $114K
60 %ile 73K 96K 100K
30 %ile 61K 80K 83K
10 %ile 51K 67K 70K
There is certainly room to seek a better offer just
The workshop provided 30 other negotiating factors
that in the best interest of this person should be prioritized
before the formal in person meeting.
In addition, a viable back-up plan needs to be developed
in short order.
Negotiation is not something people feel comfortable
doing for it can feel like moving from a certain offer
to a risk-laden proposal with an uncertain response.
Our minds are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Thus,
some people are shy to negotiate and aim to please the
other party (undermining their own family needs).
It is helpful then to have a working definition that
clarifies that negotiation is a process of “motivating”
another person to do something that (s)he at the moment
is not inclined to do.
The power you have to motivate is “leverage” to
excel and complete the tasks and projects assigned
to you. Thus, your approach is not “me-centric”
(ie. I want, I need….)
You can establish leverage by being likeable so that
both you and the other party feel comfortable in
sharing and more importantly listening to each other,
and clarifying interests and needs. We then agree to
understand the interests and meet and exceed
the needs which yields leverage in a negotiation.
Many successful negotiations are not “one-person
shows,” but result from team efforts, resources and
inputs to define priority needs to seek in the
Previous posts on negotiation
Using T-Charts to compare offer terms
Legal aspects of negotiations
Things to avoid
things to have– written offer
Things to ask and of whom to ask them