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Moves and Countermoves in Negotiation Game

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Remember that games involve turn taking. After the other player or team makes a move, you always have an opportunity for a counter move until the very end of the game. If a disappointing salary is named and you are told, "This is absolutely as high as we can go," keep in mind that you have not yet reached the end of the game the ball is simply in your court and you have the next turn. Taking time out is a move allowable in almost every game, and after an offer has been made, calling for time out is generally a good move.

In How to Make $1000 a Minute,' Jack Chapman recommends responding enthusiastically to the offer, but not accepting the job at this point. He suggests asking for the offer in writing by saying something on the order of, "That sounds good to me. Would you write it down and mail me a copy so we're both certain we're clear? I'll get back to you on it as soon as you need to have an answer. What time frame would be good for you?" Conveying enthusiasm for the job and the organization is crucial when making such a request, as is displaying sensitivity to the organization's needs. You do not want to appear to be hesitant about the desirability of the job.

Rarely will you be met with a demand for an instant decision. Players in organizational games don't want to appear to be bad sports or dirty players (often they don't want to appear to be playing a game at all). In a selection process that has spanned several weeks or months, demanding an on the spot decision especially after a perfectly reasonable and highly professional request to have an offer in writing would strike any one as foul play.

In the time you have gained, consider the offer, your options, and your needs carefully. Remember that salary is only one aspect of a total employment agreement, so be sure to consider the whole package before reaching a decision. If you feel the offer is unacceptable, you might as well take a last stab at getting an increase. Call and reiterate your enthusiasm for the company and the work and your certainty that you would be a good investment for the organization. Then explain why you cannot afford to accept the offer and ask whether there is any possibility of the organization coming up to $__If the original offer is truly unacceptable, you have absolutely nothing to lose because the worst that can happen is that the offer will be withdrawn, which is no loss if you intended to reject it anyway.

It is highly likely that after calm consideration, the offer will not seem totally unacceptable, unless you have other, better salary offers in hand. It will still seem disappointing, but you still have a turn coming, and you are in a relatively strong position because the organization has shown its desire to employ you, while you have not yet shown a comparable degree of commitment.

A good rule to observe in negotiating games is not give ground on a point without getting something in return. If you agree to a salary below the minimum of your range, you are making a concession and it is appropriate to seek a concession in return. If you play the game well, you may actually be able to win concessions that will be worth more to you in the long run than a higher salary. As noted above, salary is only one aspect of a complete employment agreement. As you evaluate an offer and prepare for further negotiations, consider asking for concessions in the perks and benefits listed below, and use your imagination in figuring out how you can use them to substantially increase the value of the offer:
  1. Bonuses and commissions

  2. Use of company cars

  3. Insurance

  4. Expense accounts

  5. Tuition remission

  6. Opportunities for in house training

  7. Severance pay and benefits

  8. Health club memberships and corporate dining privileges

  9. Possibilities for promotion and advancement

  10. Timing of performance reviews

  11. Payment of fees for professional memberships and subscriptions to journals

  12. Vacation time and provisions for leaves of absence

  13. Child care

  14. Pension plans

  15. Stock options

  16. Relocation expenses
Negotiating a performance and salary review every six months instead of a year gives you twice as many opportunities for raises. Sometimes you can win an automatic pay raise, providing your performance is good. In your first year of employment alone, this move can net you several thou sand dollars.

Stock options or any sort of equity in exchange for your work are often more affordable to organizations than cash, especially when cash flow is low. Equity can offer you a high return over the years, and you may be able to win it cheaply from an organization that cannot afford a higher salary.
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