11

I recently faced the following situation after passing through a company's interview process. Although the process was long, the company seemed like a good fit and they had even given me the chance to speak to some "average Joes" within the company and get a more ground-level perspective about day-to-day operations. Overall, I was pleased with the process and ready to accept an offer should one be made.

My last interview was basically a "any last questions?" thing where everyone got on the same page before an offer was made. The hiring manager (HM) then made an offer, leading to the negotiation process I describe below. For clarity, I am in the USA. Let MR be the market rate for the position I was seeking.

HM: "We would be glad to bring you on board with a salary of MR - $8k."

Me: "I think based on my experience in the field I think pay of MR + $2k is appropriate."

HM: "We will revise our offer to MR - $10k."

Me: "Uh, isn't that less than the original offer? I don't think..."

HM: "Our original offer was a little generous but seeing as you could not recognize that I lowered it to a more standard value.

Me: "I am willing to lower my original offer but I don't agree with your assessment. Perhaps we can compromise at MR - $2k."

HM: "Our final offer is MR - $11k."

I was pretty mind-flooded at this point and could see the conversation going out the window so I accepted the offer to get it over with. Yes, this makes me a doormat but I did like the job for the other reasons I described and was eager to leave my current job besides. Generally speaking:

Other than just walking away, is there a better way to handle this type of negotiation strategy? Also, how widespread is this practice?

  • 7
    I think you accepted too soon. You should have waited until you had to pay them. Then the decision would have been taken out of your hands, and you would now be seeking a position with a different asylum. – A. I. Breveleri Apr 22 '17 at 16:40
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    Not really convinced that this was a real negotiation... sorry. Sounds more than a little made-up. – PeteCon Apr 22 '17 at 18:31
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    You should have done your own inverse negotiation. No, seriously. So you go, MR + $4k, $8k, and so on. That would tell the recruiter clearly that 1. Salary negotiation is not a game show. 2. If it is a game show, two people can play that game. – Masked Man Apr 22 '17 at 19:08
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    Why did you even accept? They obviously have no interest in treating you in any way that even remotely comes close to "fair". I recommend you run. Run as fast as you can. – Martin Tournoij Apr 22 '17 at 19:13
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    this is a troll question. – Sarge Borsch Apr 23 '17 at 11:11
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First I've heard of this (in many dozens negotiations).

I think your best shot would have been to stop the negotiation. "I'm confused by your behavior. I don't think that we converge this way, so I will discontinue this conversation. I'm still really interested and excited about this opportunity, so please call me back if you are willing to communicate in good faith." This may have ended it right then and there or you would have successfully called the bluff earned some respect.

Your new job is off to a bad start: the hiring manager took advantage of your inexperience in negotiating and apparently enjoyed doing so. Chances are that he/she will display similar behaviors in your work, so be prepared for this. Set clear boundaries at the earliest sign of pressure or bullying.

I would give it an honest chance but be prepared to be assertive when needed and it wouldn't harm to keep your eyes open for alternative jobs.

  • This is good advice. It's obvious they are trying use fear as a mechanism to encourage you to take an offer. Being assertive will show that you are not afraid. If they really aren't willing to negotiate in good faith. Walk away. – Ronnie W Apr 24 '17 at 15:08
11

Other than just walking away, is there a better way to handle this type of negotiation strategy?

Assuming this question is not just a big joke, this exchange is so ridiculous and insulting it's impossible to know whether the HM was being serious.

If he is serious

If he is serious then your attitude should be that you can't consider working for someone who can be so casually insulting.

I mean, ask him how he would like it if, after you were hired, whenever you were asked to provide an estimate of the time required to complete a task, you negotiated like this:

HM: I need you to create features A, B, C, and D.

OP: I can do that in 5 weeks.

HM: Is there any way you can do it sooner than that?

OP: No, I'm going to need 7 weeks.

HM: Can we compromise on 6 weeks...

OP: No, it's 8 weeks.

HM: I give up. 8 weeks then.

OP: But it's only going to have features A, B, and C.

(As @acpilot says, you wouldn't get to do this more than once.)

You do not want someone, who thinks he may do this but you may not, to be in control of your livelihood. This will be especially painful for you since you really like all the other aspects of the job, so you will stick with it until your health and self-esteem are all but totally destroyed before finally saving yourself.

It were much better for you, in the long run, to walk away now.

BUT you specified "Other than just walking away". So don't just walk away. Walk away with style and grace. One really good way to do this is to mimic his actions with your own inverse negotiation until it all breaks down. (Bonus ego points for you if the HM has to be the one to point out that convergence is impossible.)

Now you will have have saved yourself from a destructive situation, and handled yourself well in a very difficult circumstance. You would be amazed at how much better you will feel going into your next negotiation.

If he is just testing you

Perhaps he is throwing this strange negotiation in your face just to see how you will respond. If he is just testing you then you should rise to the occasion and adopt an even more fantastic position. You will have to keep up.

I recommend that you begin to mimic his actions with your own inverse negotiation. Watch carefully for the first signs that the HM realizes that it is up to him to get this runaway conversation under control, and play along with any gambit that seems to lead to a graceful exit.

Eventually you can point out that (as @Carpetsmoker says) this is a childish game that might be funny in a sitcom, but not appropriate in a real-world professional environment. After that you can expect to settle down to a serious real-life negotiation.

Either way

In any case, you should negotiate something like this:

HM: "We would be glad to bring you on board with a salary of MR - $8k."

OP: "I think based on my experience in the field I think pay of MR + $2k is appropriate."

HM: "We will revise our offer to MR - $10k."

OP: "Well, I'm willing to come down to MR + $4k."

HM: "Our final offer is MR - $11k."

OP: "I'm sorry, but I can't possibly survive on less than MR + $5k."

etc.

Notice that in order to use this approach, you do not have to know how serious the HM actually is. You simply respond in kind until he eventually tells you. (@michi calls this "pacing".)

Your goal is to secure the job, but only in a way that does not set you up for an expensive and excruciating failure. You must stand up to the HM somehow. I think there is no better way to do this than to mirror the HM until he gives up.

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    This is a childish game that might be funny in a sitcom, but not appropriate in a real-world professional environment. – Martin Tournoij Apr 22 '17 at 19:07
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    @Carpetsmoker While I agree with your comment, my desire for working for this company would be lowered by their outrageous negotiation tactic. As a result increasing my demands seems logical. (I'd probably just thank them for the offer and say my good byes. There are other opportunities.) – Roland Apr 22 '17 at 19:28
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    Yes, I'd walk (no, run!) away as well @Roland. But if your goal is to actually get the job, then this is not the way to do it in my opinion. It's like the Philip K. Dick quote: "do not argue with an idiot, they'll only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience" :-) – Martin Tournoij Apr 22 '17 at 19:33
  • This is a very effective communication technique called "pacing". It can be described as an option of staying in the conversation and keeping "eye level" (not following the implicit invitation to succumb) at the same time. I agree one might label this as "childish", but from the perspective of modern communication theory, it makes absolute sense - specially if the other person doesn't respond to meta-communication, e.g. "I feel confused by your way of negotiating (...)". – michi Apr 22 '17 at 23:35
  • Just loving how the upvotes and downvotes are running neck-and-neck. - Imma amplify my answer with supporting explanation and incorporate your comments. – A. I. Breveleri Apr 23 '17 at 0:12
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You appeared weak, the negotiator capitalised on that and you lost out.

Once things start going backwards for me on a negotiation I automatically freeze (and then usually increase) my demands and refuse to consider anything less politely. I'd actually make an effort to end the interview and let them chase me if they want me. This may lose your the chance at employment there, but anything less is asking to be shafted.

"I'm sorry, everything else sounds great, but that just doesn't work for me, sorry for wasting your time. Everyone else has offered me substantially more." Then I'd get up and leave. They have my contact details, they can contact me if they have something reasonable to offer.

4

"Me: "Uh, isn't that less than the original offer? I don't think...""

Well, at that point you lost. "I accepted the offer to get it over with." That's where you absolutely lost. I hope that Sarge is right and you were trolling, because you can absolutely not start at this company. The story will get round, and you will be the joke of the company forever.

Your first ask was hopefully a good number, and that's where you should have stayed. At the point where his offer was down to $0, it would have been time to say goodbye to him, walk to HR and tell them that with lots of indignation that you have never talked to an idiot like this, and if they have someone else who can make the offer you are willing to start for the amount you want.

2

Look at this picture? What do you see?

That's right: whole lot of red flags. Do not take this job.

Ignore the crappy salary.

Ignore the passive-aggressive way HR conducts itself.

Even ignore the general entitled mindset of "if you need a higher salary to work here, you don't appreciate what a God-given opportunity we are".

Just realize that almost all of your future colleagues would have submitted themselves to the same degrading processes you are going through. Perhaps you are in some special circumstance that makes you more receptive to such a distasteful offer, but statistically, most of the other people weren't. They were mediocrities who didn't have a lot of other choices.

Decline and, if you feel like it, send a letter to the CEO, saying politely that you would have liked to have worked there, but the unprofessional behavior of their HR department kept that from happening.

0

I have never met this, and don't know what I would have done in practice. With 20-20 hindsight, it is a mistake to go beyond the first reduction.

If the reduced offer is better than not getting the job, accept it.

If not, walk away. Optionally, tell them you might be open to reconsidering if you are still available when they are ready to negotiate.

-1

Well, the first what I would think: "a*e". The second is very clear: either you are ok with MR-11k, or not. If not, leave. And probably you aren't.

This guy tried to psychologically pressurize you. It is a very bad strategy, on this way the company will find only slaves. Anybody capable to depart a real negotiation, will at this point simply leave. If they base their negotiation strategy on psychological pressure, and not to the market realities, then exactly the successful, productive workers are they filtering out, until only the the market-uncapable slaves remain.

Your choice is to accept to be one of these slaves, or you get away.

If you don't have a better option, accepting the MR-11 can be okay - but while you are working for them, don't forget, where are you now and how you got this "position". And look for the better options behind their back.

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