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This is an answer I get quite often since I am "relatively" new to Canadian job market. In particular, when I am asking for a better offer compared to the initial package. I usually ace the technical interviews, and brag a bit (just a bit) about my professional background which reflects a good sense of adaptation. I also demonstrate what I can practically bring to the company in terms of improvements, and hence I really expected that I could negotiate a bit more my package but putting aside the number of annual leaves, it seems I do not have much bargaining power.

90 percent of the time I get the answer as follows:

Sorry we really cannot do that, you have to understand that this can lead to a terrible situation where your co-workers are going to be jealous of you and destroy or break the harmony within the team.

This is also the case when I show them that I got a better offer somewhere else (but still really cheap).

I have tried different types of counter moves:

  • Don't you think that increasing the number of annual leaves is equally shocking for my future co-workers?
  • Out of curiosity, the package I have is not supposed to be at my entire discretion? How come my work colleagues are supposed to know about my package...?
  • Do you purposely hire puerile personalities (it was not really phrased like that but that was the gist) cause the recruiter was saying that he is currently facing jealousy issue and it was really hard for him to handle the situation... (honestly, I feel it would be hard whenever you hire someone who is not trustworthy)
  • One harsh but sadly true: in my past experience sometimes for the same position, we got till 5k euro annual difference, it didn't really bother anybody we were helping each other and working together... so can you tell me what the actual reason is?

I confess that these are not the best options, but I haven't found a way out to change their minds when they come up with this excuse (cause I do believe it's just a "little" white lie to keep the package as low as possible, ...or... or this is actually the case and there is something here in Canada that I don't really get)

Any idea?

[Edit]
I managed to get something really decent even though it was harder than what I originally expected (probably due to the smaller size of the job market here). Actually, at some point I realized that most of those companies who were using those (cheap) excuses were generally not the best... I cannot really say "Please don't waste your time and don't go with them" but think twice before accepting their offer. Based on a dozen of offers where I got this excuse I almost systematically noticed something wrong for 10 out of 12, be it:

  • Unprofessional attitude
  • "Dirty" employment contracts, unclear clauses
  • The walk away trick triggers
  • Being insulting when refusing their offers
  • Giving me that long silence when arguing that their excuses are not legitimate and talking about my previous experiences where a salary gap from 5 to 10k annual was certainly not a big thing even when employees talk and share about how much they make. I agree that this can legitimately happen with companies that are using a fixed and rigid grid system but when it's not (i.e. heavily administrative) this is just a sign of getting you at the cheapest price and a clear sign that they are not really willing to invest in their employees...

Honest companies would rather tell you something along those lines:

  • You don't have enough experience to deserve / get this package

  • This salary is for our managers / team lead positions not for software developers

  • We are a startup company and therefore at that stage of our growth we are a bit short on the budget

Even if you can still argue about those reasons, they are at least more reasonable and legitimate than just saying that you would break the so-called "harmony" within the team or the whole company (even cheaper that one), salary-wise.

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    Isn't it obvious? If you can't negotiate a higher wage and you aren't happy you don't take the job... – Martin Dawson Jul 20 '17 at 8:45
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    Most of the time, this is a really cheap negotiating tactic – Magisch Jul 20 '17 at 8:46
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    Tell them you are perfectly ok if they raise your coworkers salary so they are in line with yours and "harmony within the team" is preveserved. Equality can be achieved either at the bottom or at the top... – SJuan76 Jul 20 '17 at 9:12
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    You want me? You pay me! There's really nothing more to add there, unless you really want that job so bad that you're ready to negotiate. Their argument is a poor one, if they hire jealous people, or people that can't negotiate, that's their problem, not yours. – Laurent S. Jul 20 '17 at 11:32
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    Your tale reminds me of something I always rediscover when job-hunting. Some (many?) positions are open for a reason... like the employer not being willing to pay what it's worth to hire someone capable of doing the job competently. ...and that not getting a job is preferable in many ways to getting a miserable one. – HopelessN00b Jul 20 '17 at 23:15
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It's not really up to you to solve that problem for them, it may not even be true and they are just using it as a negotiating tactic.

As far as negotiating a better salary is concerned the only leverage you really have is that you are prepared to walk away because you have other options. So if they come back and say that you need to say:

Sorry, as much as I think I am a great fit for the role, given my skills and experience I think that my time is worth X amount and given the market I know that is achievable for me.

If they really want you they will come back with a counter offer, otherwise be prepared to seek another opportunity. This may not apply to government jobs because they might actually be dealing with an inflexible pay scale.

If you really want the job then maybe you could suggest things in lieu of salary, such as extra paid time off or other benefits.

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Sorry we really cannot do that, you have understand that this can lead to a terrible situation where your co-workers are going to be jealous of you and destroy or break the harmony within the team

Most of the time, this is a (really cheap) negotiating tactic. But you don't have to fall for it. Understand that the leverage you have in such a negotiation is to either take the final offer or not. And if you don't, just don't take the job. There is really no reason to justify yourself, you need to know what you want and be prepared to walk away if they don't offer it.

If the company really wants you suddenly all these excuses will disappear and they'll offer a decent salary.

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    It's a really silly tactic too, since it just reveals that they A) underpay others and B) don't intend to correct the situation. – Brian Knoblauch Jul 20 '17 at 18:36
  • "If the company really wants you suddenly all these excuses will disappear and they'll offer a decent salary." The manager who wants to hire you is often given a maximum salary that they can pay for your position. No matter how much they want you, upper management can prevent them from hiring you at the salary you want. – Brian Jul 21 '17 at 17:11
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    @Brian Then the company doesn't really want you that badly. You're not just signing on with the manager, you're signing on with the company. This sort of behavior is indicative of their corporate culture. More importantly, either they can meet your requirements or they can't -- the reason is almost never relevant to you. The exception might be non-profit companies, but you're still choosing what's enough for you under the given circumstances. – Bloodgain Jul 21 '17 at 17:23
  • It's more a case that they just claimed the communistic values of the Twentieth Century Motor Company, and asked you to subscribe to them so they can pay you less. The right response is to call them on that bulloney - walk out, saying "Who is John Galt?" – Harper Jul 22 '17 at 17:08
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Just as you should never use your coworkers' salaries as the reason why you should get more, a recruiter should not use your potential coworkers' salaries as the reason why you should get less. What you are worth depends on you - not on what others make.

Unfortunately, this happens often.

It makes no sense to argue the point with the recruiter, or to try and dig up statistics, etc.

You should tell the recruiter that you really don't want to know what others make but that you know what you are worth and the value you would bring to the company. You could choose to negotiate other parts of the offer package (benefits, vacation, bonuses, stock options, etc), or you could just concentrate on salary.

And if the company doesn't want to meet the salary level that you feel you deserve, you move on in your job search and find a company that will.

It doesn't matter why this company won't meet your salary demands if some other company can and will.

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How to negotiate a better salary in a job offer when the recruiter says that he or she does not want to create a salary imbalance within the company

You apply for a job at a different company.

Their answer tells you several things about the company, none which bode well for you.

  1. They are not willing to compensate for performance. It is more important to maintain "fairness" whatever that means.
  2. Do they care if you have higher bills than your peers? (No, they don't.) So, why should you care if you will be getting paid $x more than your peers? (You don't.)
  3. They are not willing to be competitive in a free market. They'd rather underpay and lose talent, than to pay justly and retain talent.

In essence, while it is understandable to maintain an equitable pay scale--it would be odd for a junior to make more than a senior--it is not really your problem. It is up to the market to decide your salary, commensurate with your experience, performance, and capabilities; not the compensation of your immediate peers.

"Sorry we really cannot do that, you have understand that this can lead to a terrible situation where your co-workers are going to be jealous of you and destroy or break the harmony within the team"

(I am updating here, because technically their excuse is valid.)

This is a really stupid poor excuse. This is their concern, not yours--meaning, this statement has no bearing on you seeking higher salary. What it does indicate is a fundamental flaw in how the organization is compensating employees.

Furthermore:

  1. Pay is almost always treated as confidential. So how do they suppose other employees know other employees salaries?
  2. It is HR's job to manage that confidentiality (so it's not your problem, sans the duty you have to keep your mouth shut). So if there is a problem with salaries getting discussed, then HR is failing at their job.

In conclusion, you'll have an easier time finding another job that will pay you justly, than to convince them to pay you more than your peers when they've already indicated an unwillingness to do that.

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    Note that the second half of your answer may not apply everywhere. In the U.S. it is generally illegal for a company to stop discussion of wages. One source: govdocs.com/can-employees-discuss-pay-salaries – Joshua Drake Jul 20 '17 at 15:41
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    This is good additional info. In my experience though, regardless of the legality, discussing pay is almost always frowned upon. But as you've pointed out, the legality and the definition of "confidential" is a different matter. – James Jul 20 '17 at 15:50
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    @JoshuaDrake's point is true in the UK too. Reference: acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1811 – AndyT Jul 20 '17 at 16:51
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    It may be illegal to stop you from discussing wages, but if the company doesn't want to give you more because it would cause an imbalance, and then you convince them otherwise against their concerns, then you would be expected to be quiet about it. – gnasher729 Jul 20 '17 at 19:00
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    @JoshuaDrake Employers can't stop discussion of wages, but they also can't participate in it (except with those who have a need to know). My co-workers don't have a need to know my salary, so unless I choose to tell them myself, there's no way they should know. I assume that's what this answer means when they say that salary is treated as confidential. – Anthony Grist Jul 21 '17 at 10:49
8

There are two acceptable reasons to offer a low salary: One, if they feel you are not worth more. Two, if they have no money. Of course the company being short of cash is a good reason to search for a job elsewhere, but as a reason it is acceptable.

"Your colleagues might be jealous" is nonsense. You say "I fully understand this, so I will definitely not tell anybody what my salary is". Problem gone away.

I'll tell you where your advantage lies: $1000 more or less is $1000 more in your pocket (after taxes). $1000 more or less doesn't make a difference to the recruiter, because it's not his or her money. He or she may get a bonus at the end of the year, but that bonus is nothing compared to the money you win or lose.

On the other hand, if you walk away, that's a lot of additional work for the recruiter. And it's unpleasant for the recruiter if your prospective manager really liked you and then finds out that the recruiter messed it up. If your manager needed help urgently and then has to wait two more months, that's not good for the recruiter.

So in that situation, you need to show confidence that you are worth more than offered, and that you will not accept what is offered. Remember, to the recruiter it's at most a tiny advantage if he or she hires you cheaply, and a big problem if you walk away at that stage.

  • By "recruiter", do you mean "third party consultant paid for finding new employees"? I have never had any experience of them deciding the salary. I think the OP means "employee of prospective employer, who is responsible for the hiring decision". – Martin Bonner Jul 21 '17 at 12:45
7

This might be a real issue for the company making the offer.

However "salary imbalances" exist only between workers at the same level (usually VPs make more than Directors who make more than Managers, etc).

So, the solution would be to get yourself placed at a different level or given a specialist title that is distinct from the lesser co-paid workers.

This strategy will likely only work if it is clear that you're worth the extra money. (Actually, almost any thing you try will only work if you're worth it).

  • This is pretty obvious, my post was more about 1)why this is such redundant excuse, cause often that is the case, 2) any strategy that can workout, as the matter fact, you stand firm and walk way, they usually give you what you want. I'm not saying there is no company where the budget might be tight or they follow a grid, but when it comes to the discretion of the employee and that during the interview you are more knowledgeable than your interviewer...and what can be improved in the company, I started to ponder what was wrong. – Ehouarn Perret Jul 21 '17 at 10:21
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    @Ehouarn You can't negotiate on behalf of the rest of the employees, you can only negotiate for yourself. Raymond's answer is unique among the others in that it offers a way forward without simply stonewalling, and it would probably better frame you as a problem solver than perhaps someone who will be too difficult to hire. – Aaron Hall Jul 21 '17 at 12:43
  • @Aaron Hall, agreed his answer is relevant, however, it depends a lot of on company organization/hierarchy/titles, I am actually planning to do that after my next job. – Ehouarn Perret Jul 21 '17 at 12:47
2

Just answer that since a "salary imbalance" could be an issue, you are politely declining the role as you'd also hate to create a "skills imbalance".

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