Managing your emotions in a salary negotiation can have a real impact on the outcomes you create. In fact, you may be leaving as much as 12% on the table simply by the emotions you display. Here’s a bit of executive coaching on how to manage your emotions in a salary negotiation to get the best possible outcome.
Salary negotiations are often tense, stressful affairs. Often it can seem like your career hangs in the balance as you wait for an email to arrive, the phone to ring, or a letter in the mail.
If you’re like most people in the US, you don’t get a lot of opportunity to practice your negotiating skills. And unfortunately, the times you do have to negotiate tend to have big financial consequences: buying a car, buying a house or negotiating salary.
It would be different if we lived in most other countries where negotiating happens for everything from a bag of fruit to the cost of a taxi… but we don’t get that practice.
As a result, most of us do not have an intuitive feel for when to display certain emotions to get the outcomes we want.
Anxiety in Salary Negotiation
Take the most prevalent emotion in negotiation: anxiety. One study of 136 people found that anxious negotiators made weaker first offers, responded more quickly to moves their counterparts made, and were more likely to abandon negotiations early.
The net result: deals that were 12% less financially attractive.
Think about that. If you are targeting a role that pays $70k a year, that is $8,400 you may have left on the table due to your anxieties. That is real money!
How to mange anxiety in a salary negotiation
So how do you manage anxiety in a salary negotiation, especially when you only get to practice negotiating once every few years? Here are a few suggestions:
- Exercise – The evidence for exercise decreasing anxiety is everywhere. If you have a big negotiation coming up and are not routinely exercising, get some exercise as a way to prep for the big day.
- Meditate (or try the relaxation response) – Once again, there is great evidence for the ability of meditative practices to reduce anxiety. The most well known studies surround programs that are 8 weeks in duration, but my experience is that meditation can reduce anxiety much more rapidly. Check out the evidence here.
- Try centering – Centering is a mindfulness based exercise used in the martial art Aikido (among others). It can be extremely helpful to use in the moment if you are feeling anxious. Check out Mark Guidi’s website, and this blog article in particular for more details. Mark is a martial artist and executive who blogs about using centering in business.
- Practice negotiating – Most anxiety treatments involve exposure therapy (e.g. if you are scared of spiders, getting closer and closer to them until you hold one). As an career and executive coach, one of the things I do with my clients is help them practice having negotiation conversations. Rehearsal and practice makes them easier and much more smooth.
Anger in Salary Negotiation
Anger is something that you can generally control a bit more readily than anxiety. You can choose to react with anger to information you find upsetting (or hide that anger) and you can choose to display anger at certain times when you are not angry to influence others.
As I mention in the blog post Executive Coaching: One way physicians torpedo their careers there are times when displaying a bit of anger is good for demonstrating power. It actually has a time and place in negotiation as well.
In a one time, transactional negotiation with few opportunities to create value, an angry negotiator can drive a better outcome according to research from the University of Amsterdam.
However, there are significant costs to displaying anger, most notably the fact that a long-term relationship is likely to be damaged. This means that any future negotiation (or conversation for that matter) is unlikely to go well.
The problem is that showing anger immediately puts the negotiation in the context of an adversarial contest rather than as an opportunity for collaboration. Research has shown that anger tends to escalate conflict and bias perceptions.
In the context of a salary negotiation this is absolutely the last thing you want to do.
In fact, the only time you really want to show anger in a negotiation is when you are in a transactional, one time interaction and you want to take a cocky adversary down a peg or two to get more even footing… Otherwise, steer clear.
The crazy thing is that many people come to negotiations with a belief that an angry approach will give them an advantage, which is absolutely not the case.
How to manage anger in a salary negotiation
The ability to restrain your emotions is an absolutely critical skill in business and I have seen at least one individual’s career stagnate because an inability to manage his own frustration.
Was he right about what frustrated him? Yes. Smart guy? Yes. Capable? Yes. Able to keep his mouth shut when his boss wanted him to do something he didn’t believe in? No. Result = limited career growth.
(A guy who could certainly benefit from some executive coaching.)
I’m going to assume for a minute that you’ve mastered this skill already. If not, it is probably time for a meditative practice and/or some time with a therapist.
However, I will offer this suggestion for everyone else. If you really are angry, try expressing it as disappointment rather than anger. -Especially in a salary negotiation. In other words say, “I’m really disappointed in the way things are going…. What can we do to get to a better outcome?”
This approach helps share your feelings while also keeping the door open.
So what do you do if you are faced with someone who displays anger when negotiating with you?
Here are a couple ideas:
- Call people out – Say something along the lines of, “It feels to me like you are really angry. Are you really upset about something or trying to intimidate me?” This can feel a bit risky, but has the potential to really reset the conversation, especially since you are describing your feelings (which can’t be wrong).
- Take a break – Sometimes you need to take a break to cool things off. You might suggest that you meet again the next day, go for a walk, or suggest another interruption to get yourselves to a better state. I know one former CEO of a multi-billion dollar company who would ask his negotiation partner to go for a walk with him when things were getting rough. They would walk together and the act of physically walking in the same direction would nearly always get them to a positive outcome.
So, let’s say you are in the job search process and expect to begin negotiating salary in the not too distant future. What can you do?
- Start exercising
- Do some meditating (or breathing exercises)
- Practice, practice, practice having the salary negotiation conversation, whether as part of executive coaching or with a friend
- Do your research (know what you are worth, what the company pays, etc)
Confidence is your best friend going into any negotiation. Nothing brings confidence like knowing your stuff and being well practiced. And in case you missed it:
When do you act pissed in a salary negotiation?
Never. You only act disappointed.
One final thing. If you are working to get a salary increase at year end, you have to see this post (How to negotiate a big raise at year end).
Best of luck!
For more information, check out Allison Wood Brook’s article in the December 2015 Harvard Business Review, on which this blog post is largely based.
If you are looking for executive coaching to take your career to the next level, schedule a complimentary executive coaching conversation with me here.