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7 Things To Do If Your Salary Negotiation Fails

Written by: Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Have you ever been in the position of having to negotiate or renegotiate your salary? Whether you’re starting a new job or asking for a raise at your current firm, the process can be intimidating and invoke fear. After all, you’re asking for a higher salary, and believe that means you need to be able to justify your request. But what happens if your salary negotiation fails? Here are five things to do if your salary negotiation fails. From taking time to reflect, to continuing to network and practice negotiation skills, these tips will help you get back on track and prepare for a successful negotiation next time.

two men arm wrestling with money on the table in black & white photo.

Ask for Feedback

Asking for feedback can provide you with valuable insights into a company's thought process, budget constraints, or other factors that may have influenced the decision including financial problems a firm is having. Don’t you want to know about a firm’s financial problems before joining instead of after? I remember when I was still doing searches, I did a negotiation for a person I referred to a client. I made a strong case for why my client should increase their offer. “He wants to join, but you are $15000 under the market for her,” I told them. ‘These are very hot skills.’ “Jeff, we just received information from the CFO about a hiring freeze about to be implemented because of trading losses. I got the OK to keep this offer active, but they cut it back from what I recommended.” She and I agreed that this was not the time to join this firm.

Take Time to Reflect

First, take time to reflect on the situation. In most cases, if your salary negotiation fails, it’s not because you did something wrong. It’s because the hiring manager wasn’t able to offer you more. That doesn’t mean they don’t want you or don’t value your skills or experience. Sometimes, decisions like these are out of their control. Most importantly, taking time to reflect will help you stay calm and avoid making rash decisions that will only cause you to devolve into a spiral.

Upon reflection, did you miss cues that signaled you discussed this at the wrong time or, if this was for a job offer, that you were not speaking with the real decision maker? Were they mentally present or seemed distracted? Did you lack leverage and seem like you were begging?

There are many variables that can affect whether you can get the salary you believe you deserve. The more you can understand the situation, the better prepared you’ll be to move forward and use your experience to have a successful salary negotiation next time.

Gather Data and Resources

The next thing you should do if your salary negotiation fails is to gather data and find resources that will help you understand why this happened. Was it because you didn’t know how to properly negotiate your salary? Was it because you didn’t have enough data on the company you interviewed with or work for to understand how they operate? There are many reasons why a salary negotiation may fail. But the first step toward becoming a better negotiator is understanding where things broke down that were in your control. It is not unusual to feel like you now have too much information. Yet gathering it can help you identify ways to prepare better for future negotiations and help find levers to use the next time. One obvious example is if you gather data that shows the average salary for your work in your industry is $170,000, but you are currently being offered $145,000, you can use that information in your negotiations.

Try Negotiating Non-Salary Compensation

Try to negotiate other forms of compensation instead of salary because they come from different parts of a firm’s budget. Are they willing to give you a sign-on bonus? How about additional vacation time? Can you get stock options or RSUs (restricted stock units)? What about a flexible work arrangement that doesn’t require you to be in the office as much? Can you persuade them to increase the professional development budget for you if you can’t get them to increase the salary? Many of these are negotiable for you as an employee as well as for someone who is considering accepting a job offer.

Network or Continue to Network

Many people think that if their salary negotiation fails, it’s time to give up and stop networking. But the truth is, networking is even more important after a salary negotiation fails. Instead of networking to find a new job, focus on networking to find resources that will help you understand why your salary negotiation failed.

Reach out to former colleagues and mentors and ask if they can recommend any books or other resources that can help you better understand negotiating salaries and the factors that affect them. Get introduced to a coach with whom you can debrief and do a post-mortem of what happened to see what you could have done differently.

Remember if you failed to get what you wanted from your current employer, you can also network with people to find a better job. After all, people you know can introduce you to people they know whom you don’t know and who can provide introductions to people at another firm.

Practice or Continue to Practice Your Negotiating Skills

Continue to practice negotiating. After all, you will get into negotiating situations in the future. Read books, and articles, as well as watch videos about the topic. There are many salary negotiation books and videos that can help you better understand the process and help you succeed the next time. There are also attend seminars, workshops, and online courses about salary negotiation. Many local universities and community colleges offer these types of programs. Keep an eye out for opportunities from professional groups and associations you are members of.

Stay Positive. Keep Moving Forward

No matter what happens, stay positive and move forward. One of the most important things you can do after a salary negotiation fails is to keep a positive attitude. Negotiating a salary increase whether at your current firm or at a company you are thinking of joining is normal. You may feel bad that you didn’t get everything you want or anything you wanted above what you were initially offered. However, you’re not the first person to experience this and you won’t be the last. If your salary negotiation fails, don’t allow your mind to run wild with self-criticism. After all, if you are like most people, you didn’t have a lot of experience negotiating salary and they did. Look at it as a learning experience and use it to prepare for your next time.

As I’ve said many times, the skills needed to find a job are different from those needed to do a job. For most people, negotiating is a skill with which they have little experience. You are often going up against people who do it frequently and have heard every story imaginable for why they should increase the offer.

Like interviewing, salary and total compensation negotiations are things you do infrequently. Don’t hesitate to try to reengage in the negotiation even after they’ve said, “No,” to you. Sometimes, they’ll concede something to you because they just want this to come to an end. Sometimes, they still won’t budge.

And if all else fails, try saying, “I’d really like to join. It’s a great opportunity. I like the manager and the team a lot and the team seems terrific. (Pause. Look them in the eye and say) Can you do a touch better?”

I don’t know what a touch better specifically means but often it sounds so trivial that a firm concedes and increases its salary offer. That’s what you want.

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Jeff Altman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter, is a career and leadership coach who helps people with their careers, including job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading, and resolving workplace-related issues while being the person they want to be in life. He has written 9 books and guides to job search and hiring, including "The Ultimate Job Interview Framework" and "The Right Answers to Tough Interview Questions." He is the host of No BS Job Search Advice Radio, the #1 podcast in Apple Podcasts for job search with more than 2100 episodes, as well as on YouTube, Amazon, Roku, Apple TV, and 90+ smart sets. Jeff works with clients worldwide and is a popular speaker.


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