Article #7 From the "What If ..." Library on Salary Negotiation

What If ...

I Want it in Writing
 
So you got the job offer. Great! And the boss agreed to a number of benefits and perks. Better! But, while you're happy with what you agreed to, you feel that maybe you should get it in writing. But it feels awkward. What if the employer gets angry and feels like you don't trust him? When should you ask for the offer in writing?
 
I say you should ask to get it in writing anytime the offer is more than salary and a standard benefit package. This is for several reasons:
 
1) Clarity. The boss has many things on his mind. He's having conversations with the finance department, human resources, the CEO, various customers, the sales staff-on top of whatever is going on in his personal life. What are the chances that he will accurately remember the details of your conversation a month from now? Plus, it's important to make sure there is actual agreement. Recently, a number of sales people were negotiating with a company that was hiring a sales staff for the first time. One pushed the issue of a company car, got the agreement in writing, and actually got the company car. The others got a vague promise of a company car "in the near future," but the company never followed through. Months later, they were still driving around in their own cars.
 
2) Transitions. With turnover being what it is today, realize that the boss who hires you today may not be your boss in six months or a year. An oral agreement is tough to enforce with a new boss. Consider the experience of our client, David, who was hired to move to another state and open a new restaurant. David negotiated a round-trip plane ticket every six months to visit family and friends. The next year, there was a major reorganization, and his boss was let go. At first, the new boss was indignant when David asked about getting a free plane ticket, but fortunately, David was astute enough to have gotten the offer in writing. The new boss honored that agreement.
 
3) Human relations. Could there be a worse way to start your new job than to have a disagreement with the boss over your negotiations? It's bound to cause hard feelings and could undermine the employment relationship. Don't let it happen. So, how do you ask? Just say, "This sounds great. Should I write up the agreement-or will you?"

Suppose the boss says, "What's the matter? Don't you trust me?" You could then say, "I know that well-meaning people can hear very different things in the same conversation. I certainly wouldn't want to get our employment relationship off on a bad footing by having a misunderstanding about what we agreed to here today." You worked hard to get this offer, and you negotiated well. Now protect your hard work by getting the offer in writing.