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Negotiate the Terms of Employment before Accepting the Offer

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Home free! or are you? Your job search does not end when you receive one or more exciting offers. It's not over until you have agreed on the terms of employment, accepted a job, thanked all those who have taken time to interview you or help you in your search (including organizations that turned you down), and gracefully declined other offers.

NEGOTIATING THE TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT

Knowledge and negotiating skills are your major tools for forging a solid employment contract. You can lose literally thousands of dollars in the last few minutes of your job quest if you fail to take advantage of them.



Knowledge

You should know two things before you start negotiating the terms of employment:
  1. The average salary range in the industry for the work you will be doing.

  2. Your own minimum requirements.
You should have developed a firm knowledge of both through your research and self exploration. When you have a specific offer to consider, however, you might want to take your salary research a step further. The kind of research outlined will provide you with a general idea of salary ranges appropriate to your position. But you will probably have uncovered a relatively wide range, and you may now want to narrow that range to determine what is reasonable for the geographical area, kind of organization, and level of responsibility of the particular jobs you are considering. Salary ranges for systems analysts, for example, vary widely depending on the size of the organization, the kind of organization, the complexity of its systems, the managerial responsibilities that may be involved, and the analyst's prior experience. A systems analyst with two years of experience in the field who is working for a university in the Southwest can expect to earn considerably less than a systems analyst with five years of experience working for an international bank in the North east. The titles of the positions may be the same, as may the formal descriptions of duties and responsibilities, yet typical salary ranges will differ significantly.

One of the best ways to get the more specific information you now seek is to get on the telephone. Pick from 4 to 10 organizations similar to the one whose offer you are considering in the geographical area where the position is located. If your offer is for a position as senior financial analyst at a large insurance company headquartered in northern New Jersey, for example, check the New York City and Northern New Jersey yellow pages under insurance. You will find many pages of listings. Pick several companies, call their switchboards and ask to speak with someone in the appropriate department.

When you've gotten into the right department, ask to speak to one of the senior analysts. Explain to him or her that you are evaluating a job offer and want to get a sense of how much people in comparable positions at other companies are being paid. Promise to share the information you gather, which will be helpful to the person at the other end of the line the next time he or she is negotiating a raise. You may get some refusals, but most people will be eager to help because the information you gather will be valuable to them, too. Inquire also about benefits, bonuses, and perks, which can amount to half or more of your salary in many positions. Once you have collected your information, prepare a short report on the results for the people who supplied the information.

Networking contacts, particularly those associated with professional organizations, can also help you narrow your sense of an appropriate range for the specific kind of position you are being offered. Use the technique outlined above, being sure to follow through on your promise to share information.

Negotiating Skills

Negotiating is a game. Some writers on the topic of negotiating refer to win! Win situations, claiming that the proper aim of the negotiating process is to reach an agreement that is just, fair, and benefit maximizing to all by identifying common ground and mutual interests. This claim is great in theory and may well describe how negotiating should be approached in an ideal world. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. In the real world of organizations, negotiations are almost invariably treated as games, and games are played to be won, not to reach a fair and mutually satisfying outcome.

Games are interactions with the following characteristics:
  1. One or more of the individuals involved is role playing. When playing games, we assume roles that do not represent or express our true selves our individual beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and values. The tackle in a football game does not necessarily bear any personal animosity toward the players from the opposing team he attacks. His aggression is determined by his role, not by his personal inclinations. Likewise, he may behave cooperatively and non aggressively toward members of his own team whom he despises. Again, his behavior is determined by his role as a team member, not by his feelings.

  2. The aim of the interaction is to win the game or to gain as much as possible, not to uphold truth, justice, or the American Way. In games, rules carry far more weight than fairness or justice. When playing Monopoly, we go to "jail" when the rules of the game dictate incarceration, not when we have done something deserving of punishment. Other players will rejoice at our misfortune because it increases their chances of winning, not because they believe we deserved our fate. Game players are eager to win, even when they have nothing real at stake. No real money or benefits will accrue to Monopoly players, regardless of the outcome of the game; still, they will play vigorously to win. (The only winner in real terms when we play Monopoly is the company that makes the game.)

  3. The interaction proceeds by turn taking and by allowable moves and counter moves. In a game, you make a move when, by definition according to the rules of the game, it is your turn to move. You can take a turn at play only when the rules say you can, not when you spontaneously feel inspired to participate. Furthermore, when it's your turn to play, your moves are restricted by the rules; again, you cannot simply do what you are inclined to do at the moment. A chess player cannot move his or her rook anywhere on the board; a tennis player cannot serve from anywhere on the court; a football player cannot run anywhere on the field any time he wants.

  4. The moves permissible in a game are not dictated by logic, reason, fairness, or the characteristics of a particular situation. They are dictated by the rules, which the players themselves generally do not make or explicitly agree upon at the outset of play but take as givens. After hitting a home run, a baseball player must run around the bases and touch each, even though doing so makes little sense because the outcome is predetermined. Players who challenge the rules in the middle of play are likely to be thrown out of the game or severely penalized. To some extent, players are allowed to question the application of a rule to a given situation, but not the rule itself.
Playing organizational and interpersonal games is more complex than playing the games used as examples above. Most of the rules of organizational and interpersonal game playing are implicit, whereas the rules of football, chess, tennis, baseball, and Monopoly are explicit and can be explicitly cited when disputes or questions arise. In addition, the fact that an interpersonal or organizational game is being played is generally implicit and is often explicitly denied. You know when you are playing tennis or Monopoly, but you can be in the middle of interpersonal or organizational game playing without knowing that a game is in progress, much less which game.

You will be most successful in negotiating the terms of employment if you recognize that you are engaged in a game and play it to win.
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