Negotiation might not come naturally to everyone, but having a plan can help land a deal. (Photo: MGNOnline)

Many people don’t attempt to negotiate when they get a job offer, even though companies may expect it.

“Whatever the company offers…A fairly significant number of people don’t even consider that they ought to ask for more or something else to go with the salary,” professional facilitator Bradley Humbles, who founded Chattanooga’s MAP Negotiation, said.

Fear, lack of information about how to do it, company and societal culture, and gender can affect a person’s willingness to negotiate, experts said.


Humbles and colleague Melissa Hereford, who founded California-based Negotiate with Confidence, teach people how to navigate salary offers and other deals.

Negotiation is complex, they said. But there are skills that can help people improve.

Humbles and his Hereford provided insight into how gender and assumptions affect negotiations.

Why people don’t negotiate salaries
Although some business leaders are open about pay, other companies have a culture that prevents employees from feeling comfortable asking for more money, Humbles said.

Some people want the job badly and are afraid to lose it.

Lack of negotiation can also be a cultural matter. In some countries, it’s considered rude not to haggle, Humbles said.

But in American culture, some people have grown up with the idea that it’s gauche to talk about money or ask for more.

And for people who have never done it, negotiating a salary is uncomfortable.

Hereford is currently working to pinpoint what makes some people more comfortable negotiating.

“It’s not an intuitive thing to do, especially for women,” she said.

And there are a variety of reasons why women aren’t as fearless about it, she also said.

One explanation is that women are more conscious of whether they are seen as likable because they fear being viewed as difficult, both Humbles and Hereford said.

“The studies absolutely support that women who are more aggressive in going after what they want are seen as bossy and too aggressive,” Hereford said. “So we have to walk this fine line of being able to ask for what we want. Because—it’s really interesting—over 80 percent of employers expect you to negotiate.”

Going into a situation with just that piece of information can make a difference, she said.

How to negotiate a salary offer
Step. No. 1: Give yourself permission to negotiate, Humbles said.

This means getting away from the idea that it isn’t appropriate to ask for more and outside the mindset of “I really want this job.”

“You’ve given up all the power as soon as you fall in love with the job,” he said. “What leverage do you have?”

Step No. 2: Think about what there is to lose.

It’s unlikely a company would rescind the job offer, Humbles said.

Hereford had heard of a woman who asked for what she wanted from a university and got a response that they didn’t want someone so demanding.

But they both said the key point here is—do you want to work for a company that reacts that way?

In the situation Hereford mentioned, she said it was a good thing that the applicant got that response because it likely wasn’t going to be a good match.

Step No. 3: Think about answers to three questions and have a plan for how you will react.

—What do I do if they offer me a lot less than I was hoping for?
—What do I do if they offer a lot more than I expected?
—What do I do if they offer me about what I was expecting?

The answers depend on the specific situation, but Humbles said there are some general probable responses.

If an employer comes in with a low offer, you could just walk away. But the smarter option may be to negotiate, Humbles said.

“I’ve seen people that were miles apart [on offers] make deals,” he said.

To start that negotiation, ask questions. Be curious. Ask them how they got the number they offered, he said.

“These are all things you can plan out and plans vary a great deal but you have to have one,” Humbles said.

If an employer offers more than expected, keep cool. Don’t jump on it, he said.

“Then the other person is going to feel like no matter what they offered—if you pounced—they should have offered you less…Inside, do your happy dance all you want but keep your poker face on,” Humbles said.

Part of negotiating is creating a situation in which both people come out feeling satisfied.

If the offer comes in high, you can say something like, “That wasn’t what I was expecting,” Humbles said. And go back to the question, “Where did you get that number?”

Then you can ask for more or for other perks, such as more vacation time or telecommuting options.

If the employer offered about what you expected, you might say, “That wasn’t quite was I was hoping for,” and work to get more.

And Humbles said you should try to negotiate even if the company tells you they don’t negotiate.

People are afraid of being told no, but Humbles said the negotiation hasn’t started until you get your first “no.”

“You want to push yourself to a level of discomfort because you’re in a situation where you’re negotiating and you’re going to try to settle someplace close to reasonable,” he said. “If you haven’t pushed boundaries, you are going to go to the low side of reasonable.”

Hereford has a script online to help guide people through the process and Humbles’ business offers public and private workshops on negotiation.