if you wildly over-reach in your salary negotiation, you will look like a loon

Lots of people have asked me about the news coverage of the woman who had a job offer as an assistant professor at a small college pulled after she tried to negotiate. It’s been painted as everything from an outrageous action on the part of the college to evidence that women are penalized for negotiating. My stance is that this particular case is neither — the issue here is that the way she asked, and what she asked for, was tone-deaf and signaled that she was difficult and wildly unaligned with how the college operates. In addition to asking for a 20% increase to the salary — 20%! — she asked to do significantly less work than other professors (fewer class preps, a pre-tenure sabbatical, and a start date a year out) at a small, teaching-focused school.

Luckily, Suzanne Lucas of evilhrlady.org said everything about this case that I wanted to say. Her take on it is here.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. KimmieSue*

    Suzanne got it spot on with every point. Pulling the offer was likely an curt response but I can see plenty of hiring managers say “what kind of high-maintenance crap will I deal with if this person actually joins?” Just too many over the top demands.

  2. James M*

    Wow! Just… wow! I’m at a loss… but still posting anyways.

    W tried to negotiate for tangible benefits ($$, time, workload); I’m curious if other readers have ever negotiated intangibles (e.g. intellectual property rights) that are not easily expressed in dollars but are still important enough to address before taking a job.

    1. Sigrid*

      I did know a professor when I was at BigU who claimed he tried to negotiate IP rights and BigU wouldn’t budge. He was very bitter about it. “But you still took the job,” was what I always thought and never said.

      Note that I haven’t the faintest idea what he actually tried to negotiate, it could have been minor (and BigU didn’t budge because “policy is policy”), or it could have been completely ridiculous, like BigU giving up all rights to anything he developed while working there.

      1. James M*

        Interesting. From what I’ve read on other blogs, companies’ expectations fall along a spectrum between “work-for-hire” and “we own your brain for life”. I was wondering if anyone has been in a situation where they wanted (needed?) to negotiate towards the “work-for-hire” side.

        For example: suppose I work on open-source software projects on my own time (and hold rights thereto), but a company offering me a job has a “standard policy” contract that basically gives them blanket rights to everything I create. I’d like to know if anyone has faced a similar situation, and how they approached it.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I’ve never faced that situation, so I don’t know how good my advice is, but you could ask to have wording added to the contract that specifies that they own anything you worked on *for them* or perhaps during hours worked for them, while explaining that the purpose is for you to continue working on open-source stuff in your spare time. Perhaps if they know you’re not trying to fleece them they’ll be more accommodating?

  3. The Other Dawn*

    I completely agree with Suzanne. That’s totally over the top! I could see asking for a higher salary (NOT 20%) and asking about maternity leave, but not demanding maternity leave, a sabbatical, far fewer classes that her peers, and a far-off start date. I can see why the offer was pulled. It screams “high maintenance.”

  4. kdizzle*

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, we were hiring a brilliant assistant professor once. She was fresh off a post doc position and from an area with a much lower cost of living.

    We said, “what kind of salary are you looking for?”

    She said, “uh…like $65k?”

    That poor girl sold herself WAY short. We ended up offering her $95k. Sometimes I think that academia is a bit of a black box of salary negotiating depending on the location and discipline.

    1. AdjunctForNow*

      I have a really hard time believing that, seeing that most public universities have salary info that is extremely easy to obtain.

      1. Mother Goose*

        We were hiring for a private university in a big expensive city where the difference between public and private salaries was substantial.

        1. kdizzle*

          That’s similar to what we were dealing with here.

          Person came from a public mid-atlantic university to a private northeast university. She was giving herself a $15k raise from her post-doc days.

      2. Melissa*

        Not all universities are public though, and there’s no public analogue for the small college W was applying for. You can look at salary averages on the AAUP survey but they’re averages, and some schools aren’t included while others are skewed by medical and professional salaries. It IS kind of difficult to know what to ask for, since the salaries vary so wildly. A new humanities assistant prof at a smal regional rural campus could be offered $45,000 – not much more than a postdoc – while a new biology professor at an urban resarch university could be offered $95,000.

  5. Kevin*

    Suzanne broke it down better than I could have ever hoped to do. I want to add about the starting date point. In addition to needing someone to teach at the start of the year, they might need to hire someone at that point because the funding might be use it or lose it. While I am torn if the school made the right decision at the time, the fact that W posted the real name of the school I think tips the scales.

    1. Meredith*

      Actually, a lot of schools would rather extend the job offer by a year than have to go through the whole time consuming and expensive process of a candidate search all over again. She was being hired as an assistant professor, a tenure track position. It was very, very likely she would have spent her entire 3-4 decade career there (which also means the job wasn’t dependent on one grant). In the grand scheme of things, hiring an adjunct for another year is not really a major concern.

  6. Jax*

    I admire W. for thinking about maternity leave and addressing it in her negotiations. A semester off is 4 months and not a big stretch from the 12 weeks of FMLA she’d get anyway.

    Maternity leave in the US is deplorable, so I’m quietly applauding each and every time a professional woman pushes/asks for more. The rest of her demands may have been entitled and laughable, but the maternity request was not.

    1. fposte*

      Some of the effect here is cumulative, but even on the maternity leave she seems pretty clueless, because she offers no indication that she’s even investigated institutional policy there.

      1. kdizzle*

        In a follow up response on the blog that published the original post, W noted that she had researched the maternity leave situation, and that her request was in-line with their standard offering.

            1. fposte*

              She’s either a poor writer or retconning–the letter as quoted lists it in the “nice to have” category, doesn’t ask for a written statement, and doesn’t articulate that this is technically the college’s official policy anyway. So I’m facepalming more, if anything, rather than less.

              1. Jax*

                Me too. I would retract my original comment if I didn’t feel that in general, asking for better maternity leave is a great thing to do for yourself and all women.

                Bluntly demanding to have a maternity leave the college already decided to provide? Ummm. Not helping anyone.

    2. Meredith*

      An entire semester actually might be a “big stretch” depending on exactly when she would need to take off. If she gives birth over Memorial Day weekend, she could conceivably be ready to teach by the fall semester, just about 3 months later. Would summer term count? I don’t know if the school even has many classes over the summer. If they give her that guarantee in writing, would they need to let her take off for the fall semester, in essence giving her a 7 month leave?

      I don’t disagree that maternity leave IS deplorable in the United States, and really, a 7 month leave (at minimum) should be the norm, but in the US, it’s certainly seen as asking for too much.

      Not to mention, most schools will probably give you a semester of leave if you give birth in August/September or December/January, etc. But that’s something that’s talked about with your department beforehand – and with other professors and adjuncts who may need to pick up one of your classes.

  7. Chris*

    I’m not sure it was being “high maintenance”. It was being radically unfamiliar with the nature of the employer, and the nature of the job and particular job market.

    That doesn’t excuse it, of course, but I don’t think it’s fair to make assertions about her character based on something Gawker printed.

    1. fposte*

      Can you explain how you see those as different? I didn’t come at this from Gawker–I’m another academic–and I see her as presenting herself as high maintenance too. And when I’m hiring, all I have to go on is presentation.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually didn’t see it in Gawker at all; I saw it in a couple of academia blogs that various people sent me links to. My assessment is based solely on the contents of her own email and her comments about it afterwards.

        1. Bryan*

          I’ve thought high maintenance about all genders. But I can definitely see certain men limiting high maintenance to women. I think saying it’s “coded language, no matter how you swing it,” is as bad as the people who do use it as coded language.

          If you took out the maternity leave part or replaced it with paternity this would still be high maintenance to me.

          1. Who Are You?*

            I’ve thought high maintenance about all genders as well. I’ve never considered it to be a gender specific description.

            I read this letter and the words and phrases that came to mind were: demanding, difficult, and thank goodness I don’t work with that person!

            I honestly was a little confused by the request for maternity leave. I know that every workplace is different, but I would have asked for workplace handbook or something. I’ve been pregnant while working at two different companies. It was always information that I could find without having to negotiate for it.

        2. Gail L*

          I’ve never heard it applied to men, but then my reference point is “When Harry Met Sally.” Harry describes women as being high maintenance or low maintenance and tells Sally that she’s a high maintenance example. Sally says, “I just want things the way I want them.” And Harry replies, “Exactly. You’re high maintenance.”

          Quotes may be off.

          But that’s my touch point on it, and it gears it around women.

            1. Gail L*

              This particular usage is highly relevant, though, if it was the cause of the phrase entering the vernacular or becoming popular (at least in referring to people). I don’t really know if this is the case – is there an OED for slang to describe the history of the phrase? But I imagine I’m not the only one to have this association because of that movie.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s a pretty old movie at this point though (1989); I’d guess a lot of people in their 20s and even 30s don’t associate that phrase with it.

        3. Anonymous*

          I consider “high maintenance” to be a gendered term with a lot of sexist baggage. Just try an internet search and see what pops up….

            1. MousyNon*

              If you don’t like somebody’s behavior, tell them that and explain why, rather than reducing it to an insulting descriptor?

          1. Except in California*

            Yes, I have to agree with you and disagree with AAM. It’s code for “female you don’t want to deal with”.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Well, I think you’re hearing here that many people (at least some of us women and very pro-women-asserting-themselves) don’t use the term in that way :)

              1. Dr. Speakeasy*

                From the research on gender in the workplace – I’d suspect that high maintenance is a term that does (as you say) apply to both men and women and people apply to both men and women. But I also suspect that women are more likely to get to get the high maintenance label for behavior that would not earn men the same label.

                That being said – my original reaction to this story was Philosophy Departments Behaving Badly (there has been a rash of that) and Clueless Graduate Student rather than Gender Issue. That doesn’t mean gender didn’t play a role, but there’s other variables seemed more salient.

          2. CEMgr*

            Google results:

            “high maintenance woman”: 765,000 hits

            “high maintenance man”: 101,000 hits

        4. Kathryn T.*

          I did some Google searches to see if it’s used differently for different genders. The phrase “She’s high maintenance” got about 82,000 hits; the phrase “He’s high maintenance” got about 134,000.

          However, the phrase “She’s too high maintenance” got 120,000 hits, while the phrase “He’s too high maintenance” got only about 74,000.

          “High maintenance woman” got 765,000 hits; “High maintenance man” got 101,000. I think there’s some strong evidence there that many people use it in a gendered way.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t doubt that some people to. The problem here, I think, is taking its use in this case as evidence that gender discrimination was in play. Enough people use it as a non-gendered term, and the candidate’s requests are widely enough considered over the top, that it seems perfectly reasonable to conclude that they pulled the offer for reasons unrelated to her being a woman.

            1. Kathryn T.*

              Oh, sure — I’m not speaking to the letter or to this situation, I’m just speaking to the question as to whether “high maintenance” is gendered language. I think enough people use it that way that anyone who chooses that phrasing should be aware of the possible impact.

    3. FiveNine*

      But she herself absolutely thinks it’s fair game and wants everyone to make assertions about the school, whose name she did release (but not her own) and is printed in several other publications, based solely on only her side of what happened.

  8. JG*

    Part of my job is to review all new faculty offers, and what she asked for is completely preposterous. In my experience, deals like that are only made for highly experienced people that are often bringing along some major grant funding with them. And even then, it’s highly unlikely they’d get an exception to the maternity leave policy.

    However, I do wonder if they’d have been just as taken aback by a male faculty member who asked for the same thing. She was already at a disadvantage (junior faculty member in a VERY competitive discipline) and it’s possible that the fact that she was a woman as well may have taken the dean/VPAA from shocked and concerned to offended by her behavior. There’s no way to know for sure what they were thinking, but philosophy is one of those areas that is already difficult enough for women (only ~20-30% of philosophy profs are women), and they could have given her the chance to accept the offer as is.

    1. fposte*

      I do think that it would have been better for them to have a conversation with her along the lines of “This letter raises serious concerns for us and has hurt your tenure and advancement chances here–let’s talk about whether we want to proceed” rather than simply pull the plug. But her prospects there went sour at that point even if they didn’t pull the offer.

      1. Ash (the other one!)*

        I think that she should’ve been the one to talk this through via phone instead of email. Her requests were over the top, but I think if she had approached it in a more conversational, phone call way point by point she could’ve had a better result.

          1. Ruthan*

            I think that at least in a phone call situation she’d have had the opportunity to make each request on its own, and probably would have gotten some negative feedback and been able to bail before the List of Ridiculous Demands became, well, quite so listy or ridiculous.

    2. Karen*

      I heard someone response to this as, “You only ask for all of that if you’re applying for a physics job and you invented gravity.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When I read her email and pretend it’s from a man, I have the same negative reaction to it and still would be seriously concerned about her fit. So while I don’t dispute that women can face different expectations around negotiating, I don’t have trouble believing that the school would have done the same thing if she were a man. I just so no evidence of gender playing a role in this at all.

      1. Jillian*

        I would be concerned not just about FIT, but about longevity. While there isn’t a guarantee with any employee, if they’d kept the offer open and she’d accepted, how happy would she be? How long would she stay if she wanted that much more?

    4. ArtsNerd*

      I’m glad to read these comments. A friend of mine who is headed into an academic career posted this as an example of blatant sexism, but… I just read it as a big indication of a culture mismatch. It’s good to get the validation here, and know that I don’t have to hand in my feminist club card.

      While there might possibly be some unconscious gender biases at play – and those ARE a massive problem in almost any field* – I think the “out of line expectations” factor is so much more prominent and likely that reading much more into it is speculation. I expect there are much better examples out there that could illustrate women being penalized for negotiating.

      *Reading up on the effect of blind orchestra auditions (and carpet so the jury can’t hear high heels click!) totally and permanently changed my perspective on this.

      1. Tonya*

        Interesting fact, I worked at an orchestra before and foundations didn’t like that we didn’t have more diversity in the ensemble. I’m not sure what the actual response was to them but our internal response was, “We have blind auditions what do you want us to do?!?!”

        It’s also said that there is really only organization that has truly blind auditions from start to finish. Either people text now a days or they remove the screen at some point.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          I totally get that it’s impossible to be truly blind. Plus, yeah – there’s still a talent pool issue. In my last job, I saw a salary survey that mentioned that for marketing directors in that sub-field, 93% of salary respondents were white women. Not just women – but white women. Ugh.

          AAM’s book “Managing to Change the World” (fangirl plug – but easily worth the money) talks about increasing diversity in hiring. It’s not easy…

          1. Tonya*

            To me the difficult part was how are you supposed to increase diversity when you already use a (mostly) blind audition. Or what can you do while not compromising the final product.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Tons of building diversity into your candidate pool, so that great diverse candidates are in your pool to be chosen in the first place. So often the problem is on the pool-building side of things.

              1. A Cita*

                Yes, this. We work on workforce diversity in our field and a big push in our projects is about building a highly qualified diverse pool.

              2. ArtsNerd*

                I’d love to read a stand-alone post on some strategies to accomplish this (and get the commenters’ perspectives!) I didn’t see anything in a quick search of the archives, so feel free to point me to a past post if appropriate.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t have a standalone post on it, but a couple of quick thoughts:

                  * Don’t over-rely on your own networks to find candidates, because your own networks probably look a lot like you and make it more likely that you’ll end up with homogenous hires. You need to recruit more broadly than that.
                  * Cultivate connector sources who do have more diverse networks to help you tap into.
                  * Advertise the position in networks that specifically target minority candidates (for instance, the National Black MBA Association, latpro.com, and similar job boards/email lists).
                  * Make sure that your workplace is truly one that high-quality, diverse candidates would want to work at — culturally sensitive on multiple fronts, committed to diversity as a true core value not just lip service, etc. You can do the headhunting piece of this right, but if your workplace isn’t a place where non-white candidates feel comfortable and valued, these efforts are going to fall apart pretty quickly.

      2. Anoners*

        Yeah, I don’t see there being a difference if this was a man or a woman. She was applying for a junior position, but seemed to have quite a bit of demands (especially the salary, 20% is just way too high, it makes sense that this would put an employer off). If I made a job offer for a junior position, and the person came back with that list, the 20% negotiation alone would put me off.

      3. Melissa*

        I agree that it’s not likely to be gender issues at all, but I think it’s less culture mismatch and more bad advising.

    5. College Career Counselor*

      I also think she may have been told to present everything and negotiate down from there, instead of picking the 1 or 2 most important things (while keeping in mind the culture and local situation at the institution, which to my eye she didn’t fully understand). A variant on the old “you never have a stronger negotiating stance than when you’ve been offered the job.” Well, yeah, but there were probably 150 applicants for that position, they had preliminary interviews with probably 15 and brought 3-4 in for a campus visit. Which means that there are a LOT of equally qualified people right behind you, so you’re not necessarily negotiating from complete strength.

      Does that obligate you to take whatever they offer without negotiating? No, but you’ve got to know what’s reasonable for the institution (and not “the field” overall).

      All that said, I think the college could very easily have responded with, “we can’t do XYZ, but we can talk about ABC.” Or “no, we can’t do any of that, unfortunately–are you still interested in the position?” I don’t think W reads as high maintenance. I think it’s more that she appears naive and demanding in a way that signals that she doesn’t understand the culture and will ultimately not be a good fit for the institution. And institutions are VERY leery of hiring people who are either going to be a pain to work with or who are likely to leave as soon as possible (leaving said institution to conduct another lengthy/costly/painful search).

      1. fposte*

        To me, “naive and demanding” is the same thing as high maintenance; you and Chris above seem to both be thinking they’re quite different things. Can you explain a little further on that?

        My problem also is that even if the college did come back to her and say “We can’t do XYZ,” she’s still hurt herself in her career there by asking for over-the-top stuff. And since she clearly doesn’t get that she was out of line, she’s not going to get why she’s treated warily by her new colleagues unless she’s told. So I think overtly mentioning that this suggests we may have a mismatch would be a good thing for the college to do even if they did continue to negotiate.

        1. Zahra*

          For me, “naive” can be cured. “Demanding” can be adjusted. “High maintenance” is just how you are, without the possibility of redemption.

          1. Ellie H.*

            I agree with this – high maintenance is a fixed character trait (inasmuch as any personality trait is immutable; some are moreso than others; some people try to change their negative traits and some people never bother).

    6. Melissa*

      They’re common concessions at different types of schools. What she asked of wouldn’t be at all outrageous in my field a an elite SLAC or a R1 or R2. The problem is she wasn’t applying to one of those types of schools, but was most likely being advised by a professor from an R1 who a pretty clueless about the tiny teaching college environment.

  9. KSA*

    The problem is she didn’t negotiate; she demanded.

    A negotiation would have been to ask for a salary increase, then if they came back and said they couldn’t move on salary ask if they could lower her course load or give her more time off/etc in exchange for accepting a lower salary then what she believed the market rate was.

    It’s unreasonable and naive to expect all the terms of the employment contract to move your direction when you negotiate. You always have to frame it as giving up something you want in exchange for something they weren’t originally willing to give you.

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      Yes, this exactly. My friends who have gone TT have negotiated salary and exchanges for lower courseloads and buyouts, etc., but it was always a back and forth, never a “this is what I want, I understand if you can’t,” email.

    2. Anonathon*

      She also demanded via email, which was likely a poor call. No way would I do salary negotiation any way but over the phone (or in person). I also handled contract negotiation at my last job and would get emails similar to this one, and it just drove me nuts. I was glad to negotiate in general — but it’s so frustrating when someone seems to be playing hardball because they’ve been told to do so, and/or is asking for something that is wildly beyond what could be possible. As in, compensation that was 100% more than anyone else was receiving. It just felt like they weren’t engaged or aware enough to do a little bit of research.

    3. Cat*

      Well, she explicitly didn’t though – she said she knew that some of those things would be harder than others but that she’d like them and they would make it easier for her to accept the offer. That’s clunky phrasing and obviously not the way to handle it but it’s not saying “I have to have these or I walk” either.

      1. MG*

        Thank you for noting this. While I agree with posters who’ve said that she negotiated badly and asked for too much, it seems a little dishonest to me on the part of Lucas not to include the whole email. (Although one could argue that at this point, all we have is W’s side of the story anyway.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Suzanne actually did note that, in this sentence: “Now, while she said in her email that she understood if not all requests could be met, she didn’t come across very well. “

  10. MousyNon*

    My problem with the coverage surrounding this issue (excluding Alison!) and, more, my problem with the public response to coverage of this issue, has been the value judgments, judgments made almost exclusively on W and not the college. I totally agree and accept that much of what W was asking for was simply not possible within a given industry (period). However, the college should not have withdrawn the offer, and was unprofessional, unreasonable, and yes, misogynistic, for reacting as they did.

    I loved evil HR lady’s article, right up until the last line (the one where she talks about what a panicked dean might be thinking to have prompted withdrawing the offer), because that’s where she essentially hand waves the college’s response (“it wasn’t nice” to withdraw the offer) without addressing the real issue–that by withdrawing the offer wholesale the college was essentially saying: “You’re too much trouble. You’re high maintenance. You’re unreasonable and we don’t want to work with you,” and that THAT’S why the college shouldn’t have withdrawn the offer. By withdrawing the offer wholesale, the college sent a pretty clear message: “how DARE you negotiate, much less negotiate aggressively,” which is a problem faced not just by the general labor force, but one that disproportionately penalizes women.

    I keep seeing echos of that constant refrain in the comments to articles about this situation, echos that employees, especially women, face in the workplace–the reverberating “high maintenance” “unreasonable” “she should have been happy to just have a job!” “who does she think she is?!?”–speaks to a far larger problem. We, as a society, have internalized not just that employees in general should be “grateful” for getting a job offer (which is ludicrous in and of itself), but we’ve internalized coded misogyny as the language we use to enforce that “gratitude” on each other.

    If I lived in a country where women weren’t disproportionately penalized in that same coded misogynist language (“high maintenance” “bossy” “unreasonable” “aggressive” “bully”) for negotiating and being assertive while men that behave in the same way are lauded, promoted and paid more, this would be a different conversation. If I lived in a country where women were encouraged (by society, as opposed to just Alison, who’s very good about encouraging that!) to be assertive, and rewarded for being assertive, I’d be nodding my head right along those internet commenters insisting that the college was in the right.

    But because I don’t live in that magical place, I find the response to this very very troubling. Yes, what she asked for was beyond the pale for that industry, but the problem here wasn’t that she asked, the problem was that the college took their ball and went home, rather than saying “take it or leave it.” You just can’t disconnect the college’s response in this situation from the issue of women being penalized in the workplace for negotiating–the industry norm may mitigate it, but you can’t decouple that gender framework entirely.

    Anywho, my two cents.

    1. MousyNon*

      Woops, I should add that I live in the US, since I’m bringing up country-specific norms to an extent.


    2. Gail L*

      I think this W was terrible at negotiating. But I like your comments. I also dislike the “should be grateful to have a job” attitude that is so prevalent. I am constantly pointing out to friends that the unemployment rate for college and post-college graduates is still quite low – I think it’s 5% and 3% respectively, but I don’t have might source right now.

      Certain industries I’m sure are higher, and locations, and there is under-employment… and I’m sure I have some bias because I haven’t been unemployed or under-employed. But this labor market is a crisis mostly for unskilled workers, whose unemployment is more like some ridiculous 20%. So why are young professionals with college degrees feeling so “lucky” to have a job?

      Having a job isn’t receiving a gift. It’s a contract that is supposed to leave both parties better off, and negotiation should be expected. (Better negotiation, though)

    3. Bryan*

      That’s a super interesting point and I mostly agree.

      I disagree in that the negotiation was far too much. It feels like if I started an entry-level job and asked for use of the company jet (I know it’s a little extreme).

      I think the bigger picture isn’t that she asked but that her asks signaled she wouldn’t have been a good fit for who they needed in that position. Such as, in W’s follow up she said she would have been thrilled to be at a teaching college however I did not get that impression at all. I got the impression teaching was going to get in the way of her research.

      As to the grateful for getting a job I don’t think it’s a cultural factor as much as the situation of the time. For my job I know there were literally hundreds of applicants. My original odds at getting the position were less than one percent. Does it suck, absolutely. Employees are an asset but are seldom treated as one. For positions where there are dozens of qualified applicants it’s hard to say how you should be wooed. But at the current time it’s hard to stand up on your soap box and demand rights because there is someone else who needs the money.

      1. Jax*

        Brain, your last paragraph is so true. I have been vocal to my company that they need to offer sick days and more PTO in general, but they aren’t budging because they don’t have to. There are probably over 100 qualified people in my area who would slip in and do my job for 20% less pay. It’s an employer’s market.

        My employer likes to say, “Everybody is replaceable.” Great phrase when you’re working with a bunch of egomanics, but not so great for an underpaid and overworked staff.

    4. Omne*

      I would disagree. I think the main issue was that her requests indicated exactly what the school said, that she was not a good fit for a school focused on teaching rather than research.

      If I was hiring someone to focus on teaching why would I want to hire someone that has made it clear they are looking for a position with limited classes? I’m willing to bet that the class prep item was the primary reason they withdrew the offer.

      1. Bryan*

        According to my academic fiance it was the pre-tenure sabbatical and the class prep that were that egregious. The delayed start was also pretty bad.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah–I thought EvilHRLady’s comment that she seemed focused on all the not-working she wanted to do was a red flag for them.

        2. Mallory*

          Yes! Our professors have to earn sabbatical by 1)gaining tenure and 2) working for seven years in a tenured position. It isn’t something that tenure-track professors even get. That and the lighter teaching load for a new tenure-track prof, and our whole entire faculty would melt down!

      2. AdjunctForNow*

        Yup, I elaborated in my response below, but while on the job market for a teaching position, I think the #1 thing I got asked in initial interviews was why I wanted a teaching position and not a research position. They want to be damn sure you want to teach, not that you are “settling” for a teaching position.

    5. fposte*

      I think your contextual summation is excellent, and I don’t disagree with it.

      But (you knew there was one, right?) that’s the public context for the popular discourse on this situation, not the professional context for the actual action. The academic context isn’t just “You’re unreasonable,” it’s that “If that’s what you’re asking for, you are not the professional we thought we were getting.” Within academia, the implications of her individual requests matter hugely to this, and those implications aren’t going to be immediately legible to people in other fields.

      I agree that simply pulling the offer wasn’t a great move. However, she was a damaged candidate at that point even if they’d simply said no, not because she asked for stuff, but because she asked for stuff that indicated she was ignorant of the milieu she was working in.

      1. Mallory*

        For one thing, her collegial working relationships with other faculty would be compromised beyond what might be repaired in time for a three-year tenure review. From what I’ve seen, getting a positive tenure review depends largely on upon those collegial relationships. The tenure track is long and arduous (for the faculty candidate and for those mentoring/supporting her); departments want to put their resources and efforts into candidates about whose success they are very optimistic. This probably started to look like more of an uphill battle than anyone wanted to sign up for.

    6. Ruthan*

      I really wonder what it says about any employer when a new [prospective] hire asking for what they want means they’re suddenly “not a good fit”.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        If you ask for everything that you want, despite those things being far outside what is even reasonably possible grant, it reflects badly on you as a professional. And even after the interview, even after the offer, employers are still working with a limited set of information… if they see a piece of evidence from you that puts your professionalism and credibility in *extreme* doubt, it would potentially be a horrible move to even extend the original offer again.

        I don’t fault employers one bit for pulling offers when they 1) have access to new information they didn’t have before, and 2) that information wasn’t something they should have gotten *before* extending the offer in the first place (like places that pull an offer after doing a background check after you’ve already put in notice on your old job).

    7. Ilf*

      The difficulty in explaining why n employer withdraws an offer is the same as the difficulty in giving feedback to a candidate. The chance that is going to be taken graciously, and the candidate is not going to start arguing against it, is really really low.
      I actually strongly disagree with the idea that the college should not have withdrawn the offer. Why don’t we include the fact that this is all over the media in our judgement of the situation? With the college name spelled out! And with accusations that the college engaged in discrimination based on sex, which is illegal! Doesn’t W sound like a future employee who is going to make unreasonable demands and argue discrimination when they are not met? Should the college have taken that kind of gamble?

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This, so much. They may have to weather a bad PR storm right now, but they’re probably thinking to themselves that they REALLY dodged a bullet. And since academic careers are so long, and so much is invested in the hiring process, it makes total sense to say that 1 week of bad PR is worth not having to endure a bad fit for years and years to come.

    8. Melissa*

      This is a good comment. While W did make some missteps in negotiating and I don’t think this particular instance was motivated by gender, there’s no denying that women as viewed moe negatively for negotiating assertively. And you’re right, too many people are taking W to task without talking about the college…possibly out of self-preservation. If other academic hopefuls make it about the candidate and not the college, they don’t psychologically have to face the idea that this could happen to them, too.

  11. Rochester Native*

    I grew up in Rochester, and what Suzanne Lucas said about salaries reflecting local rather than national averages is dead on. Rochester is unfortunately not really economically booming (at least not compared to the heyday of Kodak in the ’80s) and salaries in just about any industry are probably lower than in the average university town. The up side of this is that $50K would be enough there to live comfortably and buy a decent house. (As a current resident of San Francisco, I am incredibly jealous of the real estate market back home! It’s almost enough to make me move back… especially because despite the economic slump, Rochester is a great city.)

      1. Karyn*

        Hi, fellow Clevelander – totally agree, when I got my new job, it was a $10k bump from my last, and I am FINALLY able to have a house, take vacations and save money in a retirement account! When I lived in L.A., I made what is now my current Cleveland salary and I was still eating Ramen like a college kid in a tiny apartment!

    1. Christina*

      Just had to say hello fellow former Rochestarian! And I hope this doesn’t come off as too flippant, but Nazareth should have used Wegmans as part of the package, if the employee wasn’t from an area that already had them. I miss them so much.

      On a more serious note, and a slight variation on the topic, I work in higher ed and it makes me sad to know that a tenure-track professor is being offered a salary that’s lower (assuming 80% of the $65,000) than what I, with just over 5 years experience in my field, currently make. I know there’s cost adjustments for location, but jeez.

      1. Jennifer S.*

        I completely agree about Wegman’s. Whenever we visit my husband’s family in Erie we have to stop at Wegmans.

  12. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    She appeared to be demanding these things. I think that if she would have changed her approach, she may have been able to get the job and also negotiate some of the most important things she wanted ton her list. I have never had a candidate try to demand a laundry list of items before, but I have had people try to negotiate things that were pretty extreme and outside what would be normal for my industry and yes it can definitely be something that could turn off a hiring manager. For instance, once someone wanted to negotiate a company car… and NOBODY in our organization has a company car, not even the VPs. It is also in an office in an area where nearly everyone takes advantage of public transportation and his job didn’t require any travel, so he didn’t even have a good argument for it. The hiring manager told him no that he wasn’t going to do it and when the candidate got pissy the manager told him that he didn’t think it was going to be a good culture fit.

  13. Gail L*

    I’m the person on EHRL’s blog that questioned the 20% issue. I still have an issue with how this is framed and it bothers me.

    My question is not about the particular case, but the general rule noted about not asking for 20% more than what is offered.

    So, in a case where I’m interviewing and salaries are not discussed until the offer is made – and the offer they make is very low. Lower than what my research shows is reasonable. Why would I accept that? Why not come back with “I’m sorry if we’re not on the same page, but my understanding of this position is that the range is about X-Y. Can you explain from your point of view what the range is and how the offer compares? I’d be looking for something more like X.5.” Even if that’s 20% higher.

    My thinking is that employers tend not to name a range. Sometimes they ask you for salary history so they can lowball you. Sometimes they name the lowest end of your range (which they made you cite first!) to again try to lowball you. And that tells you nothing about their true budget for the position. If an employer is willing to operate like this (and I’m willing to deal with them anyway) why be beholden to some % of their offer? That just allows them to anchor you to a lowball.

    This is moot if the range is named up front, of course. But that doesn’t seem to be the trend.

    1. KSA*

      I think a lot of it depends on how you ask for it.

      When I negotiated my current job the original offer was 20% below what I considered to be the market rate. However, I didn’t just come out and ask for what I believed was the market rate. Instead I told them that my research indicated the market was paying [their offer]*1.20 and to send me a full description of their benefits so that I could evaluate the package as a whole. They responded by sending me the benefits, which were significantly better than most companies in my sector offer, and bumped the salary up 5% with a gave me a 10% signing bonus. I was happy with that and accepted.

      1. Gail L*

        That’s a great approach! Much better than W. I’m going to operate this way if I find myself in the situation IRL.

    2. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      Well, the way that you are positioning asking for the 20% increase seems perfectly polite and reasonable. I think that if you positioned it that way, the worst that should happen is that the hiring manager comes back and says that they are not able to go that high and the offer stands. Most reasonable hiring managers are not going to pull the offer just because you tried to negotiate something higher. If you are demanding or rude about it, I suppose that is an entirely different story. The second thing I wanted to say is that it is a little weird that salary is not being discussed prior to the job offer. I see a lot of comments on here that basically say the same thing and it just blows my mind. Why get all of the way to the end of the hiring process only to find out that we are not on the same page regarding salary? That just seems so weird to me. Is that the norm? Like are you finding that most companies refuse to discuss salary during the interviewing process? I am just curious…

      1. Gail L*

        In my line of work (international development), I have never seen a salary range on a job description located in the US. Well, maybe once. I periodically look through them in my area even when I’m not job searching to see what kinds of positions are offered and where. In order to research my salary, I rely on the Guidestar report, 990 info, or an info interview if I get so lucky. I haven’t interviewed enough to know at what stage most discuss this.

        My husband in the has encountered the “name your range so we can quote the lowest figure from it” (even in the public sector!) and the “fill in your entire salary history here” on applications (which is BS – they don’t need to know that info UNLESS they want to use it improve their informational advantage in salary negotiations).

        It’s not everywhere. And I’m sure good places do bring it up at a suitable time. But there are plenty of job candidates who feel at such a disadvantage that they’d rather be lowballed than lose the opportunity. My argument being that they are just letting the information asymmetry and employer advantage win, when they don’t have to. But employers do take advantage of it.

        1. AVP*

          For me it usually comes up by the second interview, usually toward the end of the conversation. At that point you can absolutely say something like, “I wanted to discuss what your salary range is for this position, no sense in wasting each others time if we’re not aligned on that.” If they won’t give you any sense of their range at that point, that’s a red flag.

          Of course, if you’re really worried about losing the opportunity if you won’t take a lowball offer, that might be a sign that your market value is not as high as you think it is. If unemployment is high in your area/profession, the salaries might be flowing downward faster than a resource like Guidestar or the IRS can catch up to them.

          1. Gail L*

            Heh. What were the first two interviews but a waste of time if the salary ranges aren’t compatible…?

            I’m personally not worried about losing an opportunity. It’s not really an opportunity to me if I’m not advancing in pay, challenge, position, convenience, or something. I am a bit worried about looking like a loon if my research is off, AND I’m the one naming a range first; hence why I try to stay on top of things even if I’m not job searching.

            But I think a lot of people are too worried about losing the opportunity whether in my field or elsewhere. More worried than they should be, because they are paying more attention to general trends and media hype about unemployment, rather than paying attention to the reality of their field / location / education level.

            1. AVP*

              Oh, it totally would be a waste of time for the first two interviews (let alone cover letter writing, phone screen…) but for whatever reason it feels crass to bring it up directly before that. Does anyone else have that impression or am I just being weird?

              1. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

                I think that it is perfectly appropriate to ask during the phone screen. Learn as much about the position as you can before and during the screen so that you can determine what a fair salary would be. For instance, maybe you are willing to take XK but find out that the position entails some additional responsibilities that would make it reasonable to ask for more. Then if the screener doesn’t bring it up first, just ask if they have a salary range for the position or ask them if they can give you some insight into how the compensation works. It is all in the way you ask. If you cut the screener off while they are introducing themselves and demand to know what the job pays before wasting your time… that could be a bit off-putting to a hiring manager. As someone who conducts a lot of interviews and screens, that is just my take on it…

    3. A.Y. Siu*

      I’ve been in situations in which the employer knows in advance they’re low-balling me, and will indicate so, “Just so you know, we will pay only $______ for this position.” They know that salary is too low, and so the want to be up front about it and not waste their time either (interviewing for a hire that never happens wastes BOTH the company’s time and the candidate’s time).

      In one situation, I just took it because I honestly didn’t mind the pay cut, and I didn’t really have anything else promising. In another situation, I got offered a job with much better pay and took that one instead.

      A lot of this really is supply and demand. If the employer knows they can get someone good for a lower price, she often will. And if you know you have better job prospects, you can walk away from the offer. If you don’t, well, you actually do have to be grateful… or unemployed.

    4. Dani S*

      I was curious about the 20% thing too. I am searching for jobs, and I am hoping for $35,000. If I get an offer for $30,000, is it too much to ask for $5,00o more? I feel like that’s not a huge jump, but it is nearly 20%.

  14. Anonsie*

    Was the salary she requested really at 20% over the offer, though? All W said herself was that it was under 20%, which seems to indicate she knows that’s too high, and we don’t know what the original offer was. Suzanne uses the Glassdoor average, but W says the offer was notably higher than that.

    Admittedly I haven’t been following this, nor am I inclined to go digging up all the details to see if I could answer my own question here.

    1. Suzanne Lucas*

      If she had asked for a 7 percent increase, she wouldn’t have written less than 20 percent. I suspect if she had asked for 16 percent, she would have written “around 15 percent.”

      Her request for a massive salary increase plus decreased work load plus tons of time off plus delayed start date all add up to trouble.

      1. Bryan*


        At best I think it was probably between 15% and 20%.

        Also great analysis of the situation!

      2. kdizzle*

        Agree. I think she was probably offered $55k and asked for $65k. +10k is a nice round number and happens to be an 18.18% increase (NOT 20%).

      3. Anonsie*

        You’re definitely right about that. I thought she said that after people were talking about it being 20%, as just a general rebuttal– “It was less than that!”

  15. Anonymous*

    Overall, the requests here are over-the-top. Individually, they may not be so terrible, but cumulatively it looks bad.

    I do disagree somewhat with the advice for #1. Academia is plagued with salary inversion, especially in some fields and at some schools. Starting salaries for new TT professors can be higher than the salaries for existing professors. At FSU, we’re seeing new TT profs getting higher salaries than full professors. No joke. It happens because the school needs to compete with market demands for new hires, but they’re not giving market-rate salary increases to the existing professors.

    Because of the salary inversion, I disagree that all salary negotiations must be based on local averages. It’s great if you can get data on recent hires, but short of that, it may make more sense to look at salary data for new hires at similar schools/programs in other areas.

  16. Leah*

    I agree that the mistake was unfamiliarity with the culture but not for what she requested but how she requested it. I got the feeling that she expected them to respond with a counter offer of , “We’re willing to give X,Y, and Z but L,M,N and we would consider T after a period of 2 years.” I wonder if things would have turned out differently if she had framed the list as proposed options for the school to consider rather than a laundry list of demands. I can see a number of the academics I know making similar mistakes because they don’t know any better.

    1. Gail L*

      I think she did that – didn’t she say something like “I understand that you may not be able to do all these”? Trouble is that it’s not the same as a used car negotiation, where you aim high when what you really want is lower… it’s more about doing research and having a figure backed up by the market and adjusted for the specific work conditions – then sticking to it. At least, that’s how the person who trained me put it.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        She did indeed frame it that way Gail… I read it as though she was trying to open the conversation with her list and that they were not “demands” as nearly everyone else seems to think.

        And yeah, I still think it was horrible for the college to simply remove themselves instead of having that conversation.

      2. BW*

        Gail I agree with you. The email read to me not like she was expecting the school to give he ALL of those, but she was hoping the school would give her SOME of those. She was probably thinking “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” That just didn’t come across very well.

        She could have benefitted from tossing in a few “or”s in her email, or she should have picked up the phone and called.

        1. fposte*

          Or she should have called her doctoral advisor, who would have told her “Are you freaking kidding me?”

          What she asked for was itself problematic, no matter how she did it. If stuff is industry unreasonable, asking nicely doesn’t remove the shadow you cast by thinking it was okay to ask about in the first place–do you hire the movie usher candidate who asks for a 20% raise, a company car, and catered lunch every day? Asking does indeed suggest that she’s a significant mismatch with this institution.

          Yes, it probably would have been better if she’d inquired about these things earlier; it would probably have meant that she didn’t get the job offer in the first place because of these unlikely aspirations, but they’d both have been better off.

          And I still want to know where she got her doctorate and how she got it without learning about this.

          1. Cat*

            I will say, a friend who just got her doctorate from a large state school last year and just started as a tenure track professor told me last week “this is the kind of thing we assumed we should ask for; I can completely see how this happened.” So it might be more common than you’d expect – she’s also one of the people I wrote about below who wasn’t getting anything close to that kind of advice from her adviser.

          2. BW*

            Maybe she did ask her advisor and her advisor is a superstar in the field who told her: “Well you know, this is what *I* would ask for if I were looking for a new gig.” And poor W just copy/pasted without evaluating the difference between herself and her advisor.

            Also I think if she had picked up the phone and asked these things out loud, no way would she let herself get the ENTIRE list out of her mouth without realizing what a mistake she was making early in the list and not letting out the rest. That’s what I would like to believe about people anyway.

          3. JCC*

            I wonder what makes this so different than buying a used car?

            Why is it that used car salesmen don’t regularly say, “Well, after asking for such a big discount, I’ve decided you must be mentally unstable, and that it wouldn’t be safe for me to sell you a car; the exit to the car lot is to the left — leave now.”

        2. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

          Yep, that may have been her intention, but it just didn’t come across that way. I agree that she probably should have called the person who made her the offer and asked for some insight into their policies for some of those areas that she mentioned. If she would have positioned her requests the right way, she may have gotten some of them.

    2. Cat*

      Your last sentence is what concerns me about this whole thing. I’m not in academia but I have a couple of good friends who are and who are or were recently on the job market. They’re amazing and stellar in their field but they don’t have experience doing the job hunting thing because they’ve never had to; they’ve always done nice, orderly school-type applications for things instead. They haven’t really been given any professional guidance about job hunting; they’ve mostly only ever been told to do great scholarship and that it would all work out. Then it turns out that’s not the case – there’s all these massively confusing unwritten rules and social norms that vary from place to place and that you’re expected to intuit. And the odds are massively against you so the university can and will be looking for any reason to get rid of you.

      And here’s where the gendered part comes in, I think – not only are women more prone to being labeled high maintenance, they’re also less likely to get mentorship in a professional setting including in academia from what I hear. My friends are still worried about avoiding being sexually harassed by their thesis advisers more than they’re worried about absorbing the nuances of negotiation strategy. Meanwhile, there’s tons of articles out there saying “women don’t negotiate; the pay gap is their own fault; why are women too scared to negotiate; they should always be negotiating.” Of course something like this is the result.

      It’s possible this candidate did have ridiculous expectations and would have been a disaster at the school – I’ve always been sorry when I’ve ignored my instincts about someone who made unreasonable requests after being offered a job (and this has been true of women and men). However, I do think it would have made sense to have a conversation with her about it instead of just withdrawing it because there is a lot lurking under the surface regarding these types of things.

  17. Celeste*

    I agreed with Suzanne. Mostly I think that this was her first time getting an offer and negotiating, and she went into it not really having the skills to do it effectively. It’s too bad that somebody didn’t just call her and say, listen, I got your letter, and you need to understand a few things. I think this was one of those times when email hurt her–she asked for a lot, and it came off demanding.

    But my first thought when it hit the news was that she did sound like she was preoccupied with blocks paid time off. I think that is the thing that cost her her bargaining power.

  18. Zelos*

    Wasn’t the original email saying something along the lines of “you don’t have to agree to all of these points, but some would be nice”?

    I mean, more experienced people than me have said above that her points weren’t in line with the industry norms so maybe that wouldn’t have saved her anyway, but I wonder if the college would’ve balked so badly if she had just (verbally) presented a few of those points in a discussion. Whatever her wording, it does seem overwhelming to have all her points stacked up in a list in email.

  19. Tiff*

    W comes off in a bad light because she asked for so much. However, I agree with MousyNon that the college should have countered before pulling out all together. It makes them look like they have no patience for negotiation at all. I know a lot of people who look at negotiating as “haggling”, and they will purposely ask for more than they think is reasonable in the hopes that the final agreement will be something they can live with.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I disagree she asked for so much it was just too much. If the candidate asked for another 3k and had the job pulled then I’d have some sympathy but not after that shopping list of demands.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I know of a professor who asked for another $5k in salary and had the offer pulled. Didn’t have to do with her gender, though, but internal politics of the search. Department head didn’t want her but the entire rest of the committee did. When she tried to negotiate, the department head took the opportunity to say “no” and hire her candidate of choice instead. It was infuriating, since her pick only lasted a miserable year.

    2. JCC*

      It may have been a form of classism. In many cultures, showing any interest in money at all is a sign of lower-class status. University humanities departments especially have internalized this, with the “life of the mind” being seen as incompatible with “trade”.

  20. AdjunctForNow*

    I’d be less worried about “high maintenance” and more worried about “really wants to be at a research institution and will take this offer but stay on the job market for next year.”

    I’m in a totally different field, but I was looking for a teaching-focused position. I was repeatedly asked if I understood that I’d have a lot of preps, that I wouldn’t have much of a budget for conference travel, that teaching would be a large factor in promotions, etc. This is indeed what I wanted, and I know I won out over other candidates with more impressive CV’s, research-wise, because it was obvious that I am committed to teaching and really looking to stay somewhere for a long time.

    Besides the obvious downsides of turnover, the academic job search can start as early as August for the following year, and typically involves a lot of travel. Do you really want to hire someone who starts a job in August, and is ALREADY filling out applications to go somewhere else? Do you want someone who is going to be traveling a ton in the winter, instead of being available to students? All in all, W signaled that she was not a good fit.

    ALL THAT SAID…I think one of W’s hugest mistakes, here, was trying to negotiate all of this via email. If this had been a phone conversation, she would have quickly picked up on the tone of her requests, and talked it out with the person on the other end, and the outcome may have been different. I’ve heard AAM say more than once not to negotiate over email, and I think that is a huge lesson here.

    1. BW*

      Agree agree agree! I imagine W was probably feeling awkward about negotiating an offer, as a lot of people are. That’s why she went with the email route. But going with email obviously turned out to be way more awkward. Plus that bridge with the school is so much burned since she tried to publicly shame the school by revealing the school’s name.

    2. fposte*

      Many good points here. I will say, though, that at least in my area, asking a research university for the same thing would get seriously rolled eyes and some speedy buyer’s remorse too.

      1. AdjunctForNow*

        Yes, the one-year delay is the one that struck me as pretty insane, unless you are a SUPERSTAR in the field. The limit on preps and the full semester of maternity leave don’t strike me as all that odd for a research institution, though. Even the sabbatical, depending on the number of years for tenure and her plans during the sabbatical*, don’t strike me as *that* out of line for a research institution, nor does her salary request, but again, my field is nowhere close to this.

        *For example, if she is going up for tenure after six years, and in year five, instead of teaching one class in the spring semester, she is going to teach at an institution in another city that will bring her into contact with superstars in her area of research or something…in my field, that would not be a totally bizarre request for a researcher, but would be really out of line for someone focused on teaching.

        1. Annie O*

          Yeah, I’ve never heard of a one-year delay at the salary negotiation stage*. That seems totally weird to me. If you need an extra year, it seems like you shouldn’t even be on the market yet.

          *I have seen delays granted after a signed contract. All involved some sort of tragedy or emergency situation. And the delays were for a semester, not a full year.

          1. Ruthan*

            Right?! That was the one really weird thing to me. It was like “I want this job, but next year.”

            I guess it’s possible a new position was being created rather than a vacancy being filled, but seriously, weird.

  21. Jeanne*

    I go back and forth on this case. Maybe she was rejected because her demands were too much. Maybe she was rejected because her demands coming from a woman were too much. The real problem is we don’t know what her interviews were like. Part of the process should be feeling out the company culture. To me, it is obvious she misunderstood the culture there and responded in a way that showed she misunderstood.

    There are many ways to negotiate (as shown by commenters’ examples). She probably could have gotten the maternity leave policy in writing if she had asked for that and not sounded like she was demanding extra leave. I think that salary negotiations are better handled by a phone discussion rather than email. You can listen to each other’s points.

    I think the later start date was the most out of line. Why would they interview now if they don’t need to hire now? Why would you apply now if you don’t want a job now? That seems really out of touch.

  22. TotesMaGoats*

    I’ve been in higher ed for the past decade and can say that at both small private uni and large state uni negotiating (for most positions) is a no go. Not because they don’t want to haggle but because budget has already approved a specific salary amount. You aren’t going to squeeze a penny more out of them. And typically, unless you are a grand high muckety muck, you aren’t going to be able to negotiate on benefits.

    Academia is not the business world. What would be kosher there probably isn’t here. So, W probably was new to the hiring process and didn’t do the right kind of research but I don’t blame the college at all for pulling the offer.

    1. AdjunctForNow*

      I wouldn’t paint it as a blanket “don’t negotiate,” though…salary may be tough, but it’s actually pretty common to ask for a limit on preps in the first quarter/semester, and I just successfully got some relocation money approved for my new job. Travel money, start-up money, lots of things can be negotiated…you just have to be smart about it.

    2. NewAcademic*

      I think you may be right about this.
      I recently accepted a job in academic support for a large university. The initial offer was very low, in the bottom of the rate they post on their HR website. When I began the negotiation process, they seemed quite taken aback that I would even TRY to negotiate!

      I was eventually able to negotiate for a little bit higher starting salary, but it was still nowhere near their posted “midpoint range” for the position and it was made clear to me that was the best they could do.

  23. Karla*

    Wow!! I recently received an offer and regretted not negotiating about the salary (only vacation time) since they asked for my range in the beginning of the process and based it off from there. But now, I feel better after reading this. But, I still get those “what if” moments. I should’ve asked either way. Worse that could happen is they say no or pull the offer off… Not fun! Ouch!

  24. NotAnExpert*

    I think evil hr lady is right on about the college panicking about the requests. I live in Rochester and don’t work at that school, but do work closely with them on occasion, and they’ve been having some budget problems in the last few years (like many colleges/universities). It seems like they’re only just starting to get back on their feet though and I bet an overly demanding job candidate set alarm bells ringing that she would get any better after she was hired.

    That, and they really are focused on teaching positions and there’s a lot of push in higher ed to move away from research focused faculty appointments as people are less convinced that there is a ton of intrinsic value in residential colleges.

    None of this is to say that I agree with the way they handled it. They should have just talked to her and tried to clarify her interest in research vs. teaching at least before pulling the offer. There is some serious ridiculosity in that.

  25. fposte*

    It’s going to be weird to be the person who starts at this job instead of her–there’s no way they won’t know.

  26. HR Madness*

    I had a boss who hated when anyone negotiated at the offer stage. And it did not matter if you were male or female, he hated it across the board. I had to talk him back from the ledge a couple of times when he wanted to pull an offer because he thought someone was being too demanding. And they weren’t. All the people I dealt with were very reasonable, mostly because we talked about salary/benefits before the actual offer to negate the “you expected 50k and all I was ever going to be able to offer was 35K” conversation.

    If I would have ever received a list like this (reads as demanding and a long list), he would have pulled the offer immediately, and I hate to say it, but it probably would have been for the better. Because if the candidate did take the offer as is, working for/with him would have been miserable. He most likely would not have let this go. And that’s not good for anyone. I am not saying it’s right, it just was what it was.

  27. Barbara in Swampeast*

    Another thing to consider is that they had reservations about her but offered BECAUSE she is a woman and they need to get their diversity numbers up. Maybe someone really wanted to hire another candidate but for political reasons the offer went to W. When W made her demands, they were able to say: “See, she doesn’t really fit in here.”

    1. Anon21*

      I don’t think there’s any reason to think that, and it sort of belittles female applicants to jump to the conclusion that she was a “diversity hire” when we know essentially nothing about this offeree’s qualifications.

      1. Barbara in Swampeast*

        I threw that out as a possible reason as to why there was no counter-offer. She may not have been the most popular candidate and they didn’t feel like pursuing her.

        One of the articles I read about this situation quoted a very low percentage of women in philosophy departments, so I don’t think it is such a stretch to entertain the idea the offer was made based on her being a capable woman candidate. Its even possible that the desirability of the candidate they wanted most was based on him being a man and not necessarily the best.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          OK, once you have the context of philosophy departments being distinctly male, this makes a lot more sense. Though it could be the same situation for any number of reasons… she was offered even though some others preferred someone else, and this was a great reason to pull the offer (or, alternately, became the thing that made the other candidate clearly better if they’d been neck-and-neck before)..

  28. Mary*

    While I agree this should have been a conversation rather than an e-mail, I disagree with the rest of your assessment. The requests are not unreasonable, even for a “junior level” professor role. Academia is weird. while it is very competitive, once the top research schools have made a decision, they do REALLY want you there. They often don’t just go to the next person on the list, and they just start with a new search next year. So you actually do have more negotiating power than is typical in a “junior” position.

    I’m not sure if this university had that culture, but I just want to point out that she wasn’t just a nut, and this is why academic blogs were on her side.

    Holding job offers for a semester or year is very common, esp. at research universities where they want your research potential, not someone to teach a class next semester. Her item about “new class prep” seems reasonable, and probably standard, but she likely wanted that in writing just as the maternitiy leave. She’s not trying to limit her WORK, she’s trying to limit the teaching portion in favor of being able to get her research done. Teaching is, at best, 1/3 of the job at research univerities, and the LEAST important thing when it comes to evaluating for tenure.

    The pre-tenure sabbatical seems like an odd request, esp. if it wasn’t discussed as part of the process. The 20% salary increase is also a bit off, and she likely had bad information and/or poor negotiating tactics. She probably could have got out of this seeming so off base if it was just a verbal conversation.

    Finally, depending on exactly which type and caliber of university it was, most of what I said may not apply and you could be right.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. I’ve seen a bunch of academics saying these requests were preposterous (including some of them in this thread), so this must not be a universal thing (which I think is what you’re saying in your last paragraph).

      1. Mary*

        OK – I looked at the slate article and for the college under scrutiny, what I said doesn’t apply in this case. I don’t know where I originally read this, but the name of the college didn’t stick in my head.

        I don’t know much about that college, but I would guess it doesn’t fall into the category I’m talking about. Just note there is a set of universities/departments who, once they select the candidate, would in fact think much of this is within the realm of sanity (if handled properly rather than via an e-mail list).

        She must have got some whack advice.

    2. N.J.*

      The original post identifies the university who made the offer as a small college focused on teaching, not a research university. Her demands might be within the range if normal negotiation for a large resersch institution, as you stated, but it is a teaching college.

  29. Steve G*

    I think it’s sad that 65K is considered too much for a professor, professors should be paid alot due to the price of the education required to get those jobs.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      65 k at a university is really sad. At the college I went to the teachers got a bit over 100k (and still complained that they were impoverished).

      1. Steve G*

        When I saw the original article on Slate (all I read on breaks at work are AAM and Slate so it’s funny the 2 are connected via this post), all I was thinking was “I’d be high maintenance too if my future boss was considering 65K an outrageous salary for a job that requires a Masters degree+.”

        Of course I live in NYC so wasn’t sure if others would agree. I remember a time when I thought anything above 60K was a huge salary, but being in NYC + it being 2014 I couldn’t imagine making less than the low 60s anymore.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Eh, there are a lot of fields where the price of getting the degree has absolutely nothing to do with what the market will bear for salaries.

      For instance, most states (at least all the ones I’ve looked at) require a Masters to teach third graders, and those jobs can easily be $35K starting, or even less.

      Not to mention how much money it takes to get a law degree, but entry-level salaries for JDs are super low because people with a new JD are a dime a dozen. It’s not the employer’s fault if they have 100 qualified philosophy masters applying for their one opening.

  30. Steve G*

    “High maintenance” above – I thought “we” weren’t going to have language debates anymore here! Especially ones that claims things are sexists, because that creates a bad tone (unless the phrase truly is sexist). Just my 2 cents. Carry on as you were!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this case, I think it’s directly relevant to the topic of the post, in that there’s been debate elsewhere about whether this was gender-related. That said, I agree that we shouldn’t have endless back and forth about it; it should be enough to note that people see it both ways.

  31. Sigrid*

    The “only 3 preps a year” thing is what really stood out to me — at a teaching college? Where professors are supposed to teach four classes a *semester*?? What does she expect to be doing with those other slots, teaching repeats (many, if not most, classes at a small college don’t have repeats) or not teaching at all? I am seriously confused as to where that demand even came from.

    1. AcademicAnon*

      Actually that is exactly what W was asking for, to only have 3 NEW classes each year, and the rest being classes she has already taught.

      1. Sigrid*

        Yes, but — how would that work in her first few years there? I understand teaching mostly classes you have taught before once you’ve been there for several years. Every year you teach class A, B, and C, because those classes need to be taught every year. That’s how it works. But in the beginning, you’re going to have to teach new (for you) classes, because you haven’t taught *ANY* classes before. So how did she expect to be able to teach only three new classes her first year? What was she going to do for the other five slots? Not teach? Because having gone to a small teaching college for my undergrad, I know it’s very rare to have multiple identical classes offered during the same *year*, let alone the same semester, so teaching two As, two Bs, etc. wouldn’t be an option.

        I just don’t see how anyone could look at a four-class-a-semester teaching load and expect only three new preps a year until they’ve been there for at least three years. It boggles my mind.

  32. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    I’ve withdrawn job offers 2x in 25 years and that’s 2x too many. Withdrawing job offers is bad and while I don’t regret the withdraws, I regret that I made the poor decision to extend an offer in the first place.

    Withdrawing is more “I have made a terrible mistake in extending a job offer to this person” and not so much “the person has made a terrible mistake which caused me to withdraw the offer”.

    Both of the withdraws were over what happened in negotiations. The first, many years ago, occurred when the woman went batshit screaming at me over the phone after she misunderstood the health plan details we had faxed (20 years ago, faxed :) ) to her and thought she had been baited and switched.

    The second occurred when the prospective hire pushed for 20% more money. We couldn’t pay that for the entry level position but decided to evaluate her for a higher level opening where we could come close to meeting what she wanted. She tested so poorly for the higher level position we realized she wasn’t qualified for the original job either.

    We take our failures in both of these situations seriously. While I think W made a number of mistakes, I hope that whomever was responsible for the hiring and job offer at the university understands that they made a terrible mistake in extending a job offer to a candidate who was so wildly mistmatched to the job and that they don’t repeat the mistake.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is such a good point. I hope the college is examining the situation to ask whether there were clues to the mismatch during the interview process and whether they can do anything differently in the future to avoid this situation.

    2. Steve G*

      I bet the person in the second situation felt horrible! But I think you made the best decision not hiring them at all.

      Not the same situation, but I found it rediculous when someone started the same benefits drama with a former manager, especially because they were making alot more $ than me even though they lived in a cheap area of rural upstate and I in NYC, and the excellents are good to begin with (100% vested 401K from day one for example). Don’t know why my boss gave in to them….but the person was not a great worker and left after 4 months.

    1. Anna*

      omg thank you, this is SO FUNNY. I just watched like 15 of their videos and I’ve got tears rolling down my face.

  33. Editor*

    This article in Slate is part of the journalistic fallout from this and all the Lean In topics:


    It was written in response to this NYTimes story about how women should negotiate for salaries:


    Basically, my takeaway from all this is that we need more transparency about salary ranges when jobs are posted and less dependence on salary history — whether in academia or outside academia — and more family-friendly policies so women don’t have be the cannon fodder who die on the hill of maternity benefits.

    I wish the IRS, the BLS, the Census Bureau, and the government departments that handle public filings from corporations and nonprofits could generate some kind of public database about private and public salaries. If it was issued in January each year using data from the previous year, that would be timely enough to be helpful to workers.

  34. Juliette*

    I’m lucky and had just the opposite experience. I asked my new job for 30% and got it, and two or three additional days of PTO.

    However, I had also researched the average salaries for my position in the area, and found out how wildly underpaid I was (which was motivation to look for a new job).

  35. totochi*

    A few months after I started at NewCo, we tried to recruit an analyst from OldCo. Our offer was inline on salary but since NewCo was private, it was hard to value the equity portion of the offer (OldCo was large public company). I though the equity offer was generous; candidate obviously did not think so and asked for 10x the number of options offered. The ask would have been 4x what I got and I was a director. Anyway, we replied that we were too far apart and rescinded the offer. Our CFO said candidate failed the final test.

    So yes, wildly inappropriate counter-offers is a valid reason for rescinding offers.

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