Article #11 From the "What If ..." Library on Salary Negotiation

What If ...

It's a Slow Economy
Salary Negotiations in a Slow Economy
Lately, a lot of people have been asking questions about whether they should negotiate at all when offered a job. After being out of work for too many months, they are relieved to have an offer-any offer. They fear that if they negotiate, the employer will get angry. They cringe at the thought of being told, "Hey, buddy, there's a long line of people who'd love to have this job. If you don't like my offer, take a hike."
It feels like groveling is the order of the day. Of course, the playing field has changed has changed dramatically in recent years. For example, it wasn't so long ago that long ago that a major business magazine carried an article about the negotiations of some new college grads with great computer skills. Companies were so desperate to get "tecchies" on board that they would agree to practically anything. Negotiations often sounded like this: "You want a masseuse to give you a rubdown twice a week? No problem. You want to bring your parrot to work? Sure, how does the bird like his steak cooked?"
Today, even people with years of experience and sterling track records are having a tough time getting any offer. Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't negotiate. Just because the playing field has changed, doesn't mean that you should just meekly accept whatever they offer. Negotiations are part of the hiring "game." If you meekly say "OK" to whatever they offer, it will hurt your paycheck (obviously), and may also make the employer value you less.
Think of what happens in another setting where negotiations are expected: the garage sale. Suppose you're selling an item that isn't hard to find, say a clock. It works. It's not a bad-looking clock, but it's a common item. That's like the low-demand job market. You put a low price tag on it, you don't negotiate, and maybe even offer to throw it in for free with another purchase. Your communication affects the potential buyer's feelings about the clock, and the buyer may even refuse to take it if you offer it for free.
On the other hand, if you're selling that great-looking expensive leather jacket that doesn't fit you any more, you will be a tough negotiator. You padded the price a bit to give you a little wiggle room because you know people like to bargain at garage sales. By tough negotiating, you communicate that the item has high value. If you set your price too low or come down in price too easily, the buyer may wonder if there's something wrong with the jacket.
Likewise, by tough negotiating, you communicate your own worth. Good companies expect you to negotiate for your value. Far from hindering your job search efforts, the ability to negotiate helps you get the respect you need to get hired for good positions or to get better raises.