A few years ago, I was looking to hire a copywriter. My budget was around $65-$70K.
A few weeks into the process, I found an excellent copywriter who had a lot of great experience and had proven her ability to write truly concise and impactful copy. I had a good feeling about her, and sure enough, she went on to quickly become one of my most effective writers.
When it came time to start talking to her about logistics like benefits and salary, I asked her how much she was looking to make. She sheepishly said, “$35,000? Is that too much? Is that in your range?”
With a budget of $65K, I could have easily played her and made her feel like her request for $35K was pretty steep, but that I would try and make it work. But if you’re going to build a relationship with a new employee on the foundation of a lie, it’s not a very sturdy foundation.
Instead, I assessed what I was paying my other writers and put her squarely in the middle with an offer of $66K. She was excited and grateful and worked hard every day to make sure she was worth every penny.
In a similar negotiation a few months later, this writer asked for a salary more in line with my budget range. In this case, I employed another long-term philosophy. When she asked for $70K, I offered her $71K. She, too, was happy and worked hard.
In both cases, I took a long-term view of the situation. When someone starts at a company, they’re never going to be in a better position to negotiate salary than when they first start. If you look out a year from now, when the company is giving you a two or three percent budget lift to spread across your team, you can guarantee there’s going to be little excitement upon hearing about those raises.
But if your employees can look back at when they initially negotiated their salary and recall they were given more than they asked, this will help blunt the impact of the tiny raise.
When you have an amazing employee, you want to do everything you can to avoid the distraction of salary dissatisfaction. Your best opportunity to do that is right when you hire them – unless you have the opportunity for a lucrative promotion down the line.
In the first case, my writer knew they could trust me because I gave them a salary commensurate with my department budget. I didn’t stick them just because they didn’t know how much money I had.
In the second case, the writer knew that I was invested in their success and they rewarded me with excellent and reliable work.
All of that can be erased with poor or unnecessary negotiations. And if, for some reason, you missed on the hire, you can always part ways and try again. I know that sounds careless to say, but if it comes to that, it’s always best for both parties – eventually, if not immediately.