did I mess up the negotiations for my new job?

A reader writes:

I read up on negotiations extensively both on your site and others before I received an offer this past week, and I’ve now accepted the position and am waiting to clear a background check before I give my notice and nail down my start date. I’m proud of myself for approaching the negotiations with confidence and a real plan, but I feel somewhat uneasy about some of the conversations I had with HR, and I wonder if I was clumsy in my negotiations. Or maybe feeling this way is par for the course since I can sometimes be a pushover and this was the first time I was truly invested in negotiating for something I really wanted. (I have asked for more money in the past, and it’s never been a deal-breaker, let alone a high dollar amount.) The whole thing is making me wonder if my new boss is harboring ill will toward me, which has me feeling a little anxious and paranoid.

In the initial phone screen, the HR rep asked my target salary and I dodged the question by asking what the position in question paid. I was surprised when he answered, “For this role, we have in mind roughly $105k [a number representing a significant increase for me].” I told him it was in my target range and would be fine. In hindsight, I’m pleased I avoided disclosing my current salary first, yet I’m disappointed I didn’t delay the conversation entirely. It really felt, though, as if I had no shot at an interview if I didn’t discuss it. [Note from Alison: There’s nothing wrong with having this conversation up-front; it can save both sides time if you’re too far apart, and it’s very reasonable for them to want to find that out before investing further time.] He told me he was happy to be on the same page, because there’s no use in getting through the process, only to find out the money is a deal-breaker.[Note from Alison: Exactly!]

I went through three rounds of interviews over the course of more than three months and eventually received an offer (from the hiring manager) for $95k. By that point, I had decided the job would be an amazing opportunity, but the relatively long commute was an issue. (I have two young sons and my work day is bookended by daycare pick-ups and drop-offs. In order for my husband to help at all, the daycare is near our home, not the new office, which is in the opposite direction from our home than his office.) The company is a big proponent of telecommuting and several of the business partners for the role work from home in other states, so I decided I would only take the job if I could work from home for two days a week. I realized this was a gamble, but I was (am) gainfully employed and decided I would be comfortable passing if it were a deal-breaker for them.

When I called back to negotiate after sleeping on the offer, I told the HR rep I expected to receive the compensation we discussed initially, and he didn’t seem to blink. I went on to say I had discussed everything with my husband and we’d decided the new position would work for our family only if I could work from home for two or three days a week. I tried asking for more than necessary in hopes of landing on the middle ground I considered necessary. He sounded flustered and very annoyed when he answered, telling me he couldn’t believe I hadn’t mentioned this earlier. I told him I didn’t think it was unusual to wait until receiving an offer to negotiate and he said, “Let me tell you: don’t do that.” It’s my nature to apologize when someone is upset with me, and I was so proud for not doing so. I held my ground as he continued expressing shock, and when he asked if he understood correctly it would be a deal-breaker for me, I told him yes. Maybe that was a mistake? I realize you can’t demand things when negotiating, but how soft are you supposed to be?

The next day, he came back with $5k more in salary and told me it was the best the company could do. It’s odd to me that he even mentioned $105k since they chose not to deliver it, but what they’ve agreed to is a reasonable number and at the point, it wasn’t the money I cared about, so I said that was fine. He went on to say they couldn’t agree to three days of working from home and mentioned again how I caught him and the hiring manager off guard by asking for that at all. Then he said they gave it a lot of thought and would give me one day to start and would promise to reevaluate the possibility of a second after six months of employment. He reiterated how much they wanted me for this role and after thanking him and agreeing that I, too, thought it would be a great fit, I asked for a day or two to consider the revised offer. He said, “But I know you said that was a deal-breaker for you, so…” I acknowledged I’d said that and mentioned again why, then told him how interested I am in the role and why it would be worth reconsidering. He wrapped up by telling me they would work with me to make sure it works.

I was truly torn but decided to accept. My husband asked me to get clarification regarding how they’d make it work for me, so I called the HR rep and said I thought we could make it work – to which he responded very positively – and hoped he could elaborate on that statement – to which he responded with some exasperation. He told me I’d have to work that out with my manager. I also asked for the promise to consider a second WFH day in writing, and he told me they “don’t put things like that in offer letters,” but he would put it in an email for me. None of that gave me the warm fuzzies, but I began thinking some of the attitude was probably his alone, not representative of the company’s and I verbally accepted.

All that said, I find myself second-guessing my decision, in part because I wonder whether the HR rep’s attitude is indicative of the hiring manager’s. Is everyone there frustrated with me because I negotiated hard for the telecommuting option? The company has a reputation for being “nice,” and they kept saying how well I fit in. Did trying hard for the work-from-home arrangement undo that? Have I done irreparable harm to an important relationship with my boss, who will decide the fate of that second work-rom-home day? What should I have done differently?

I don’t know how your new manager feels, but to be honest, I’d be a little annoyed with you.

Working 40-60% of your time from home would be a significant change for many positions — and frequently not feasible at all or something that an employer would okay for a new employee whose work they don’t yet know. If that was a deal-breaker for you, you should have mentioned it much earlier in the process, so that they didn’t continue to invest time with you (and possibly cut other candidates loose) if that was a deal-breaker on their side. It’s true that you can sometimes negotiate things like this once you’re at the offer stage, but telling them it was an absolute deal-breaker was probably pretty frustrating to them, because if it was an absolute requirement for you, it should have come up earlier.

(Plus, after saying it would be a deal-breaker for you, you basically said in the next conversation that you’d been bluffing about that!)

I’d also be pretty put off by this part: “I went on to say I had discussed everything with my husband and we’d decided the new position would work for our family only if…” Your husband is not part of these negotiations. He’s part of your thinking process, yes, and of course it’s reasonable to discuss the offer with him — but when you talk to the employer, you should be talking about “I,” not “we.”

Ultimately, they’ve been pretty accommodating with you. You sprung a working-from-home requirement on them at the last minute, and they came up with a pretty good compromise — one work-from-home day and the possibility of a second in six months, and an overall feeling that in general they want to make this work for you — and then you called them back and pressed them further. For what it’s worth, the promise to consider a second telecommuting day in six months doesn’t guarantee you anything; they can consider it and decide no, so that’s not where I’d be pressing after all the rest of it. (And he did agree to put it in writing, just not in their formal offer letter. An email counts as “in writing” for these purposes.) And calling back to ask them to spell out what “we want to make it work for you” means — well, it means they want to try to make it work for you, and they’ve offered what they can. I’d be annoyed by the request to spell it out further. They already did spell it out.

So, if I were on their end of this negotiation, I’d be feeling a little annoyed and a little frustrated — and would feel that I was trying to be accommodating in the face of a surprising last-minute demand and not playing hard-ball at all, but that you were not responding in kind. I might be second-guessing the hiring decision a little.

At this point, I’d recommend sending a enthusiastic email to your new manager about how excited you are to start the position and that you really appreciate his flexibility on the terms of the offer. Their worry now is probably that you are going to be Not Easy, so … be easy for them for a while and let that override any other impression they might have gotten.

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. INFJ

    This may be a moot point, but I’m confused by the employer’s move to offer $10,000 less than the rough number provided earlier in the interview process. It seems as though they think OP is a really good fit and really want OP (by partially accommodating the drastic, last-minute telecommuting request, and “he reiterated how much they wanted me for this role”). So if OP was such a desired candidate, why offer the lower end of the salary?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Could be about the experience level she’s coming in at. She said it was a significant increase for her, which could indicate that (or it might indicate nothing at all, of course; I don’t want to put too much weight on salary history, but sometimes it does indicate something relevant).

      He also might have just been sloppy in his original answer — “roughly $105K” doesn’t mean “exactly $105K” but of course candidates will hear it that way.

      1. WIncredulous

        Don’t say 105K if you have nothing to back it up. “Oh, he’s sloppy . . . You’d never give a job seeking person the same leeway.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Saying someone is sloppy isn’t giving them leeway; it’s criticism.

          But again, “roughly $105K” doesn’t mean “exactly $105K.”

      2. designbot

        Or they said $105k, saw the salary history was much lower, and figured they could get away with offering her less than originally budgeted. And they were correct, because she did indeed accept less.

    2. Big10Professor

      Also, if they come in low, they have room to bring it up, give future increases, etc.

        1. HyacinthB

          Most people would likely agree, but I actually worked for an employer who did start me off on the lower end, although I did negotiate up from their original offer. Their thought was that once you prove yourself you would be amply rewarded. And let me tell you… they weren’t kidding! Turned out to be the best job I ever had and they rewarded me very handsomely!

    3. Roscoe

      Yeah, that seemed a bit shady to me as well. Its one thing to say we pay 50-60k, and then offer 50k. Its very different, to me, to say we pay around 55k and then offer 45k.

      1. davey1983

        The jump from 55 to 45 is bigger (relatively speaking) than the jump from 105 to 95. The first is about a 20% drop, while the second is a 10% drop. Roughly, to me, could easily be give or take 10%.

        That being said, I don’t know how the company said it, if it was ‘we pay 105k), I would be annoyed. If they said we pay about 105K, or 105K– give or take depending on experience, I would be OK with the lower offer.

      2. Lola

        It could be that the HR person was quoting the middle of the range, and the offer actually came in at the lower end of the range (which is normal for someone new coming in, leaving room for raises and whatnot). So the real range could be from 95K to 115K, with 105K being smack dab in the middle.

      3. Alex

        No, it’s really not. I work in recruitment and I can tell you, I have a range for any given salary that is quite broad. I usually will try to give an estimate close to what the person is currently earning, but it is the hiring team that makes the call about how experienced someone is relative to people on their current team. So even if the upper end of the range might be 115K, if we interview a person and realize that they are actually nowhere near as capable and more like 100K relative to people on the team, obviously, we go with that. The upper band of a number is generally reserved for a near perfect candidate who we would be looking to promote within 6 months, because otherwise we can’t give an increase.

        It’s the same as if you went house-shopping. You have a budget of 150K-200K. Are you going to spend 200K on a house that isn’t an *exact* match for your requirements, and in fact needs 15K worth of updates? No, you are going to offer 185K.

        1. Baxterous

          From a candidate perspective, if they gave the range as roughly $105K and gave me an offer 10% lower than that, I’d have questions. I would be disappointed (not outraged) but if I understood the reasons behind the number, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

          Look at the reverse – if I gave the prospective employer my salary requirement as roughly $95K and they offered me that amount and I said “I need $105K”, they’d have questions for me, right?

        2. KH

          Wow, I’d love to someday live somewhere where a house can be bought for 200K. That gets you a 1 or 2 bedroom 25 year old condo (converted apartment building) around here….

  2. Thyri

    I know this is also a moot point, but LAWD–for 100k, I’d commute from Mars if I had to!

    1. Dawn

      I don’t know… I live in the suburbs of DC and I probably wouldn’t take the train into the city every day for $100K, even though that’d be a serious raise for me. Throw two small children into that mix and yeah, it definitely wouldn’t be enough.

      1. Christy

        Yeah, nothing would make my wife re-choose her current 1.5 hour commute. Not $100k, not a $100k raise. (Also around DC.)

        Also, I’m dying to know what the OP’s commute is going to be. For some people (my mother), 30 minutes would be “relatively long”. For me, 30 minutes would be insanely short.

        1. Wendy Darling

          I had a 30-35 minute commute to my last job and my coworkers acted like I was commuting from the moon. But I grew up in the Los Angeles area where anything under an hour is a “good” commute, so to me it wasn’t a big deal at all.

          I also chose to pay out the nose for tolls and parking rather than take the bus, because I get motion sick on the bus and I’d rather have a lot less money than feel like I’m going to vomit 2-3 hours a day.

          1. Nikki T

            Same…and some people that work here drive an hour and they KNOW that person drives and hour yet they act like I come from the moon.

            1. Wendy Darling

              Yeah, there were a LOT of people who lived 30+ minutes on the other side of me from work!

              I think part of what blew their minds was that I used to have a 10 minute bus commute and voluntarily moved farther away. Which I did because my SO works in the opposite direction, and moving closer to his work gave me a reverse commute so traffic was minimal, whereas living close to my work made his commute an hour or more each way due to traffic. One coworker in particular acted like this was a completely bonkers thing to do, but she also had a very messy breakup with HER SO a few months later so uh, taking that opinion with a grain of salt.

          2. KH

            I used to live in Tokyo where I commuted an hour each direction standing up on the train, so yeah, I most certainly do not complain about a 30-35 minute commute. I drive and pay tolls also – there are buses but it would take three times longer to get there and I would lose all flexibility of when I can come and go.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Yep. My husband and I both make six figures but we paid through the nose for a house that’s inside the beltway because we really wanted a short commute. It’s good pay but we definitely don’t feel like we have a ton of breathing room :/

      3. Dan

        Same here. I make that with my suburban commute. You want me to come into the city everyday? Job has to pay more or I have to be laid off.

        30 minute commute, no tolls, no parking. Commuting into the city is expensive and a hassle.

      4. DCGirl

        I’m fortunate that I can take the VRE to/from my job downtown. It’s must less stressful than driving or even taking Metro, given all of Metro’s problems these days. But, because the last train is at 6:50 every evening, it means that my extra hours are in the mornings. I turn on the lights most days when I get to the office.

      5. TrainerGirl

        I took a job 1.5 years ago and got rid of my commute to DC. I did get a $10k raise, but it felt like $20k, because my commute is now 15-25 minutes. I still shake my head sometimes when I pull into the garage because I feel like I haven’t been on the road long enough. In this area, a short commute is worth A LOT.

    2. LBK

      It’s always interesting to me how your perspective on what’s a high salary changes. $100k would also be a significant raise for me but I currently live in the city and I’m 15 mins from my office via public transit. If I had to start commuting out of the city? Driving? In rush hour? On 93 or the Pike? Yeah…I don’t think $100k would be enough.

      1. Liana

        Oh man – I couldn’t imagine taking the Mass Pike every day to work. I get annoyed enough about having to deal with the green line – if I had to take the Pike, I’d lose my mind.

        1. Badmin

          I take a 20 minute very easy bus, I’d pull my hair out at the green line branches, or mass pike.

          1. LBK

            I used to take an express bus that went to Copley via the Pike; I could get to work in 10 minutes flat, but coming home was always a minimum of 30. I never understood how that worked. Didn’t all you people drive into the city this morning, too? How are there more people leaving than there were going in?

            1. Edward Rooney

              I worked a job where I started between 8:30-9:00 (wasn’t regimented) and drive in took 40-45 minutes. I still left most days between 5-5:30, which is the same time as most people, and it easily took 60-75 minutes. I find that the evening commute is usually worse at 5:00 because it’s a more standard end time vs. beginning time with people getting to work anywhere between 7 and 9.

              1. Mabel

                It does seem like there are more people leaving the city (Boston) every day than there are coming into the city in the morning.

            2. Bryce

              I don’t know Boston roads, but it’s very possible for traffic to be more mucked up in one direction than the other. It depends on where the bottlenecks are, and how things lead into them. For example with the highways near me, going from Portland to the main Intel facility in Hillsboro has some highway spaghetti but it’s multiple roads merging into a larger one, so people don’t need to go moving between lanes much, and the exits on the Hillsboro end mean staggered leaving the highway with plenty of time to get into the proper lanes. Coming from Hillsboro INTO Portland, though, means that the large highway splits into three main roads, one of which feeds straight into the traffic lights of Downtown. Between that delaying factor and everyone trying to get into the proper lane at the same time it makes a large bottleneck that backs up all the way back to Hillsboro, making those same exits that worked so well getting folks OFF the highway at different times now compound the problem as every half a mile there’s another line of cars trying to fit into the gridlock.

              If that’s difficult to picture, imagine a tree. The branches are at staggered intersections with the trunk but the roots all join at pretty much one place, and the flow up and down the tree would have different complications.

        2. Just Another Techie

          It’s funny how everyone’s idea of a bad commute is different too. I had a green line commute once. Never again. *shudders*

          1. LBK

            I generally prefer the MBTA over driving, but I would definitely drive over having to take the green line again (although once I realized I could walk a few minutes down to the D line rather than taking the B line, my commute improved considerably).

            1. Hermione

              Ugh the B-line. I just (~1 month ago) switched jobs and now my commute is the same length, but Red Line only instead of Red to B-line. It makes a HUGE difference in the quality of my commute.

          2. always anon

            I refuse to work anywhere on the B line. I just won’t do it. I can deal with the D or E line, but that’s it. I prefer the red or orange.

            I also refused to live on the green line for various reasons, but a big consideration was having to take the T after work during the summer when there are Sox games. I just want to get home after work, I don’t want to have to fight to get into a train with a bunch of tourists/suburbanites/baseball fans, especially during the summer when the trains’ a/c’s are broken 90% of the time.

          3. leslie knope

            how brave of you. i interned during senior year in downtown crossing and went to school downtown also and the green line always broke down going from one to the other

          4. Rob Lowe can't read

            Last year I commuted 2 hours each way on the T: Green–>Orange–>Blue–>Bus. It was a nightmare, although luckily I loved my job. Definitely would not do that again, although it would probably be easier now that Government Center is open again.

            1. Hermione

              There is no job nor amount of money in the world that I would take that commute for. How long did you have to do that for?

        3. Katie the Fed

          You guys, I have to tell you I did a bit of a double take at the Green Line talk at first. In DC the Green Line goes through more African American neighborhoods like Anacostia, and so there’s this slight racist tinge when people say they avoid the green line (like when the Glenn Beck rally was here – they put out guidance to avoid the Green Line). So I was seeing all these comments about the Green Line and wondering what was going on here until I realized you were talking about Boston :)

          1. TrainerGirl

            The racist tinge isn’t slight. I take the Orange line in from VA and then switch over to green to get off at Archives (because it’s close to a certain theater I go to), and folks are shocked that I would get on the Green line if I don’t have to. Although people have gotten more used to it, since it’s the only way to get to Nats Stadium.

          2. Arielle

            Hah! My reason for avoiding the Boston Green Line is because it’s a trolley rather than a regular subway train and it gives me insane motion sickness within five minutes.

          3. Person of Interest

            I’m trying to avoid any WMATA lines that are catching fire. Oh wait, that’s all of them…

      2. Alienor

        It really depends on where you are. I don’t think $100K is high, but I live in an area where a basic 2-bedroom apartment rents for $2K a month. When it costs $25K a year just to have a place to sleep, $100K before taxes isn’t much at all.

        1. Koko

          This reminds me of the exchange in the comments here a while back where a commenter’s boyfriend had been offered a job at $50,000 in DC that he ultimately didn’t end up taking, but how when she heard the figure she thought, “What would you DO with all that money?” Another commenter replied, “Pay rent.”

          Yep. And not much else.

        2. Anonymous Educator

          I think it really depends on your industry. I do think $100K is high, and I’ve never made that much, and I live in an area where a 1-bedroom apartment rents for $3K a month. It sounds as if you’re in a high-paying industry. In my city, teachers are being driven away, because the unified school district can’t pay them a living wage.

        3. Kit

          I can’t remember what the point is where more money won’t make you happier (75k?) but you guys must all be beyond it. I sprint up a hill every morning to make 16k (Canadian) a year. 100k is unfathomable to me and I can’t imagine the commute that would make me turn that down.

          1. Anonymous Educator

            It is supposed to be about $75k in the U.S., but I think for places like Boston, New York, DC, and San Francisco, that number should be slightly higher.

            1. KH

              It must depend where you live. I live in Seattle and there is a great difference in happiness between 75 and 100K!!

          2. Hattie McDoogal

            I don’t know that I’d turn down 100k over any commute (and I’ve had a lot of terrible commutes in my time), but there are definitely jobs I wouldn’t do for 100k. Sales, or nursing, for example. And I say this as someone who makes around 22k Canadian.

        4. Andrea

          Hah, and I live in an area where $2k for a STUDIO would be considered a good price. So yeah, to me, $100k does not sound like that much…

      3. always anon

        Seriously. I work in Copley and have a 20 minute walk to work. Commuting outside the city would not only be a huge hassle and time suck, but it’d probably require me to get a car, so I’d definitely want way more money.

        I’ve had so many recruiters reaching out lately and as soon as I see Metro Boston in their pitches, I ignore them. Metro Boston is basically my red flag for most likely only on the commuter rail or off public transport entirely. No thanks. $100K would not be enough to commute outside the city.

          1. always anon

            Yup. Unless they’re offering well over $100K, there’s no way I’m going out of the city for that.

      4. Just Another Techie

        I’d take 93 over 95 any day. Especially a reverse commute out of the city to Nashua or Andover or somewhere? Heck yes, sign me up for that.

      5. Sanguine Aspect

        Preach! I live out at the end of the Red Life (near Alewife); I couldn’t imagine driving into the city every day. I walk past people in their cars during my commute and pity the poor fools. I don’t know why people try to drive through Boston on purpose if they don’t have to. Rent may be ridiculous, but access to public transit saves so much hassle.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Rent may be ridiculous, but access to public transit saves so much hassle.

          Rent may be ridiculous in Boston and Cambridge (and Somerville), but you can still be on the Red Line (e.g., Quincy) and be only 30 minutes in with no line transfers and find a really affordable place to live. Even Salem is only 30 minutes via commuter rail.

          If you want really ridiculous, live in the SF Bay Area. There is no Waltham or Salem out here. Everything’s expensive for miles around.

          1. always anon

            But the commuter rail times suck and speaking from experience pre-moving into Boston, the commuter rails are very often late or break down. I once was stuck on a commuter rail train for 2 hours because it had broken and the one year I took to the city, it broke down at least once a month and was constantly delayed.

            And while the isn’t much better in terms of breaking down or being late, at least you don’t have to wait an hour until the next train comes sometimes.

            1. Anonymous Educator

              Well, you don’t have to tell me that. I used to commute in from Rhode Island at one point! I’m just saying at least there are commute options from affordable places. In San Francisco, the suburbs and outlying cities are not a cheaper alternative.

            2. Anonymous Educator

              By the way, I don’t mean for my posts to come off as the oppression Olympics. I’m just flabbergasted at what a range of what people consider acceptable salaries, unbearable commutes, or outrageous costs of living. It really is a matter of perspective and personal preference, I guess.

          2. kac

            I’m currently house hunting on the South Shore, for red line access for commuting, and I wouldn’t say there are “really affordable” places. It’s better than most other places around Boston, but the under-$300k options are pretty scarce. And in Waltham you can’t even find a condo for under $400k these days! The housing crisis in these parts is a real thing.

            1. Anonymous Educator

              I’m looking at this from a San Francisco lens. From here, $400k is super affordable. The median price of a home here is over $1 million.

              1. kac

                I k mm ow that SF is worse, but in the US literally only SF & NYC (and maybe LA) are worse than Boston when it comes to housing. One of these cities, while lovely & my home, is not a world-class city and should not be priced accordingly.

      6. Tafadhali

        I have been commuting on 93 and sometimes the Pike for the last four years (only 25 minutes with no traffic, but it’s Boston so often 1 hour+) and I just accepted a new job that is a 20-minute trip on the Green Line and I that is by far the part I’m most excited about. People are like, “Oooh, new job?” and I’m like, “I CAN TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT!”

        It’s .75 FTE in the first year, but I don’t even care because not dealing with my car in the city (and always being stuck with my car if I had to go downtown after work, and having to find parking near my apartment, and etc. etc.) is going to be such a sweet trade-off.

      7. Rob Lowe can't read

        93 isn’t bad in the early mornings when I drive in (~6ish), and if I get on by 3:15 it’s usually okay. Anything after that, though, and my drive ends up taking at least an hour.

        I’d definitely complain even less about it if I made $100k though. Hopefully in a few years…

      8. Jen

        I once made 55k and commuted from Waltham to THE SOUTH SHORE. Traffic all the way, all hours.

        I then commented from Boston to the south shore for $90k by train, and even though the train was expensive it was glorious.

        Then I got a raise/promo to 120k and “had” to work from home because they closed the Boston office. I was over the moon.

      9. Baxterous

        If a job would require commuting any amount of time commuting on 128, there’s almost no salary that could make up for that.

      10. Sarah in Boston

        I gave up on living in the city (Brookline) with a reverse commute out to Metrowest. Ugh, Rt 9. Now I have a 20 minute commute and no Pike and no Rt 9. Definitely worth the occasional longer drive to go into Boston for a concert or whatnot.

        Looks like we have quite a Boston area contingent. Should we have a AAM get together?

      11. BenAdminGeek

        Yeah, when I was commuting down 3 from NH all the way over to Norwood, it was insane. When I finally quit, I realized that I should have done it years ago, and $100k wouldn’t woo me back.

        Of course, now my old boss wants me to come work with him on State St…. which would be even worse!

      1. Cass

        Definitely – I’m from the NYC area so growing up, my parents commute’s ranged from 1 hour to 2.5 hours. My husband, who grew up in central PA (where we live now,) balks at anything over 10 minutes. He currently has a 4.5 minute commute, so he’s very pleased.

        1. ThatGirl

          Slightly off topic but when I moved to the Chicago area (from southern Indiana) I just assumed people lived relatively near their jobs, and found an apartment about 10 minutes from my new job. And then they moved our office 45 minutes north, and I got seriously sick of the drive, so I moved to be closer to work. And then I lost the job. So I started doing what most people around here do: live somewhere I want to live and waste part of my day on a commute.

        2. Almond Milk Latte

          Yep, commuter’s daughter here, based in NEPA. People look at me like I have three heads when I look for jobs in Jersey ’cause an hour commute is no biggie. A ten minute commute here would limit my aspirations to one of three Wawas.

        3. Connie-Lynne

          Good gravy, I think it takes me more than 4.5 min to get out the door and start my car!

      2. Green

        Um, yes. Separate from commuting entirely: if you’ve done biglaw and left (especially in a rotten environment), you realize that once you’ve reached a comfortable salary, there are a lot of things you won’t do for money. I took a $55,000 paycut when leaving my law firm and am just now (several years later) making as much as I did as a second year law firm attorney. But I was so desperate to leave I almost accepted a non-profit job that was a $145,000 paycut. And I would have been fine and happier. It’s all relative. I’m happier, nobody yells, I’m not in a sexually harassing and gender biased environment, I’m not anxious or depressed, I get to exercise, I get to sleep, and my hair stopped turning white. I recognize a lot of people are not in situations where they can meet their basic needs, but we can’t apply that calculus to other people’s career decisions or how they value marginally (or even much more) more money.

        1. Ruffingit

          Amen! I frequently get asked why I left law for a job that pays significantly less. Money really isn’t everything. I come home at a reasonable hour now and my stress levels are no longer shooting up to Defcon 1.

        2. Connie-Lynne

          Sing it! I took a $30K paycut with my most recent job, also no more RSUs. I’m happy, everyone at the new joint is so much more pleasant to work with.

          Way worth it.

        3. CM

          Yup, absolutely — I took a 60% paycut but you know what, nobody owns me anymore! And recently when a friend said something about taking time off in between if I switched jobs, I realized that I wouldn’t really need time off. Because the rest of my life is already in order, unlike when I left Biglaw and it took me months to detox.

    3. ThatGirl

      Hah, I had a potential lead on a job that would’ve potentially doubled my salary, but the more I heard about it, not only would my commute have gotten more complicated (car + train + walk or bus) but it would have involved high stress and 50-60 hour workweeks. To me, who currently has a flexible schedule and real work life balance, that wasn’t worth it.

    4. Thyri

      I know there is plenty to consider. I’m a writer, so 100k is about 3x what I get now. Not knocking OP for questioning the salary. :)

    5. Jennifer M.

      Terrible commutes aren’t always worth the money. My commute from suburban Maryland into DC is barely tolerable regardless of the excellent salary that I earn. I take the Metro (which isn’t cheap – $386/mo plus gas to drive to the Metro). If I had to drive, I don’t know that I would be able to do it. I drive in DC literally once a year max because it stresses me out so much (and I’ve driven in other countries where traffic laws are more like suggestions!). I have turned down jobs that would have had me commuting into Northern Va (though at least I could drive there). I’m probably going to be doing a lot more teleworking than I would actually like to do because of the fustercluck of the Metro infrastructure.

      Though I do find it amusing that people from the small town in Indiana where my mom is from have been buying condos in Louisville, Ky so that they could stay over night when they went out because otherwise it would take them 30 MINUTES to get back home.

      1. Edward Rooney

        Another good euphemism is charlie foxtrot, ask your military friends (if you have any)

      2. TrainerGirl

        DC Metro is FUBAR right now. I’m so glad that I don’t work downtown anymore. My Metro use is confined to weekends now, where it’s not as big of a deal if there are delays. My dad told me early on….it’s worth $10k+ not to have to go around the Beltway every day. When I was laid off a few years ago, I was offered two contract positions….one in VA (where I live) and one in MD, which paid $15/hr more. I took the job in VA and never regretted it.

    6. Triangle Pose

      This is so funny to me because I absolutely THRIVE on having a 5 minute walk to work and it’s super important to how well I do my job. I try to see it as a free-to-the-company, valuable-to-me benefit and part of my compensation. My partner and I both have a short walk and we walk home for lunch, it’s so nice to break up the day that way.

      1. LBK

        I’m about a 25-minute walk from my office and I absolutely love it – I’m so glad it’s getting nice enough now that I can start doing it again. I don’t do it in the morning since frankly I’m too lazy when I’ve just woken up, but it’s a great way to unwind and get a bit of exercise after sitting in the office all day.

      2. always anon

        I have a 20 minute walk to work that goes through the public gardens, so it’s a great way to start my day. I would hard pressed to trade that for a higher salary and a longer commute.

    7. LisaD

      I used to think that, then I moved to LA where you can’t get a nice one bedroom apartment that allows pets for under $2K. For $100K in Kansas where I could be saving 60% of every paycheck and living comfortably on $30K a year, I’d commute from the moon. $100K in LA is like $50K in any other city besides SF/NYC.

      1. DoDah

        And don’t forget the hellacious commutes. Last week it took me 1 and 1/2 hours to go 8 miles.

      2. Anonymous Educator

        It’s all about perspective, then. Coming from SF, I see under $2K for a one-bedroom as dirt cheap. I can’t even imagine a world in which I can save 60% of my paycheck…

    8. today's username is...

      Not long ago I doubled my salary by changing industries – I now make $100k. But this job gives me severe anxiety and stress-related illnesses, and the commute is sometimes as much as 4 hrs per day round trip. I’m starting to think it’s not worth it, and am going to look for some middle ground in my next role. A commute that long (combined with a job that follows you home) can really mess up your life. I hear myself though – past me who made around $45k for the last 10 years wants to slap current me for being so ungrateful.

      1. today's username is...

        I posted before i read all the other comments. I’m Boston too! I work in the city, and live… well I don’t want to give myself away. I live far, far away. Public transportation is not logistically feasible. The cost of daily parking near my office ends up being 13% of my annual take home pay, and that’s factoring in time off & days I don’t drive in. I’d take a pay cut to work outside the city and I wouldn’t even feel it in my paycheck because I wouldn’t have to pay a fortune to park anymore.

        1. L

          I used to work in the Fenway area and live out towards…let’s say Attleboro. Yeah. That didn’t last terribly long.

    9. Chinook

      “I know this is also a moot point, but LAWD–for 100k, I’d commute from Mars if I had to!”

      You would think so but when given the opportunity, I realized that money wasn’t everything. In my case, I would have been working 10 on/4 off as an office administrator up in the oil fields (the ones currently evacuated due to wildfire, ironically) in exchange for potentially 100k (which I never in my wildest dreams could imagine ever earning). But, when I took a long hard look at what I would have to give up, I realized that I actually couldn’t put a price on being able to have a life outside of work and, instead, took my current job which gets me home by 5:30 every week night but only pays me 40K. I can honestly say I never regretted it.

  3. Amber Rose

    LW, did you really want this job? A lot of this comes across to me as uncertainty, so I hope you didn’t get swept off your feet by the good parts and take something that won’t be a good fit for you.

    1. Ruffingit

      To me it came across as wanting to prove to herself that she isn’t a pushover and can be a tough negotiator. Unfortunately she didn’t do tough well here and slid into the “unreasonable” area.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius

    Before anyone jumps on the OP, there’s a Harvard Business School article about how to negotiate for non-monetary things. The article talks about how job seekers are so focused on money that they leave stuff like vacation, WFH, flextime, etc. on the table.

    That’s what came to mind, OP, when you didn’t get the salary you wanted. But asking for huge chunks of time so you can WFH when you didn’t bring it up initially, well, that’s going too far. Then talking about how the job fits into your family life and your commute? That’s your responsibility to manage, not theirs.

    Have some empathy too. If they give you all this stuff, how is that going to be taken by the rest of the staff? Giving you what you want can open the floodgates for everyone else.

    Anyone remember W who lost her job offer when she negotiated a bunch of stuff from Nazareth College? The stuff she was asking for probably violated university-wide HR policies. Please read up on that, OP. While it’s easy to say that was a feminist issue, your overreaching approach has some similarities to hers.

  5. LBK

    I think explicitly introducing the concept of a dealbreaker into it is really what hurt the negotiation. I think you could’ve positioned it more like “I’ve gathered throughout the interview process that telecommuting is a popular and encouraged option that I’d definitely want to take advantage of if I were hired; can you tell me more about how often the average person in the department telecommutes and how that works in general?” In the back of your mind, you could know that this is a dealbreaker, but it gives them the chance to provide you with the info that would answer your questions about telecommuting without adding an ultimatum to the mix. You may have found out that 2-3 days is the standard anyway, and then you would’ve been able to address the question without coming off as confrontational. I think that’s different from money, where the increments in a range tend to be smaller (ie 2-3 days is a much bigger gap mentally than $95-100k), people tend to have less of a hard cutoff (rarely does some want $90k but wouldn’t accept $89k) and it’s just generally more expected that the amount is up for discussion.

    Realistically, I think it’s also just not feasible to telecommute right out of the gate in almost any job – sometimes you won’t even have a laptop for a couple weeks after you start, and the early part of a new job in general is going to require a lot of training, shadowing and other onboarding activities that will require you to be in the office. There’s also a level of responsibility you need to exhibit first before you earn the privilege of working from home. My department is pretty lax about telecommuting once you’re settled in, but I had to be in the office for the first 2 months or so until my manager was comfortable that I’d be able to be productive. Maybe I’m misreading but it sounds like you positioned it as expecting to telecommute right off the bat, which would be a stretch in almost all offices.

      1. KT

        This. It’s one thing to say “Well, bc I was expecting 105K and you can only offer me 100K, I’d like to talk about other factors. Would working from home be an option?” and another to say it’s a dealbreaker. You can absolutely negotiate, but making it to the offer stage before sharing dealbreakers is a quick way to get a job offer renigged

    1. ThatGirl

      I agree with you. My department instituted formal WFH days a couple years ago, but among the rules are that you can’t do it (except in emergency type situations) for the first 90 days of employment. Because while most of our work can be done from home, first you really need to be in the office to learn the ins and outs and get to know the job better.

      1. TCO

        Yeah, in my office we can’t regularly telecommute for the first six months. (It’s allowed during that time period if it’s occasional due to weather, illness, needing to meet the plumber, etc.) After that, 1/day week is the typical allowance, but that obviously varies a lot across different companies.

        1. the_scientist

          It’s the same way at my company. Our allowance is generous- 2 days per week, depending on job duties and manager approval, but not within the first 90 days which is technically a “probationary period.” Most people seem to wait about six months before formalizing a WFH schedule. That being said, 90% of my department works from home at least one day a week (Fridays during the summer are DEAD here) and it’s fine- things get done, balls remain in the air. With good IT and communications systems in place, it can totally work and for specific tasks be even more productive than being in the office.

          1. ThatGirl

            Most of us work from home 2 days a week and it works out pretty beautifully most of the time. But yeah, same about the probationary period.

    2. Roscoe

      Agreed. Framing it as a deal breaker comes off a bit too much. I don’t think she was unreasonable (especially with them low balling her on the offer) but it just came off badly.

    3. Kate M

      YES. OP, I know you said that the company in general is a proponent of teleworking, but there’s no way to know if they felt that way about this specific role. Plus, it may be something they just offer high performers, or roles with specific criteria, or people who have been there for a certain amount of time and proved themselves.

      LBK is totally right, I would have framed it as learning more about the culture of the workplace, and then deciding from there. Or it could have been framed as “since the salary offered is a little under what we had originally talked about, are there any other benefits that could be discussed, such as telecommute or vacation days?” You can of course negotiate these things, but setting it up as a dealbreaker at the end seems a little “bait-and-switch-y.”

      1. LBK

        I have a vague recollection of a letter from a while ago where the OP found out right after she got hired that the department was relocating to an office much farther away, which would radically increase her commute and which was never mentioned during the hiring process. This almost feels like the reverse situation to me; the employer has been operating under certain assumptions about the OP’s physical working situation and now they’re receiving last-minute, non-negotiable new information that might have changed the course of the hiring process if they’d learned it earlier.

        I want to reiterate that this isn’t the same as negotiating your salary, because I feel like there’s a door open to say “Well why is it a problem to bring this up at the final stages but fine to wait until the end to discuss salary?” To me, it’s different because the company knows they’ll be paying you *something* for your salary, just not how much. It’s a pre-existing element of your compensation package. By contrast, requesting a WFH accommodation is introducing a totally new element of your compensation; it’s more akin to asking if in addition to your salary, they can pay you a $10,000 annual bonus. It’s still in the realm of things that would be normal for a company to give someone, but it’s something that typically a company would introduce first as a element of the compensation package, at which point you can negotiate the size and shape of that element.

  6. Product Person

    Hmm.. I may be reading this incorrectly, but I think that the OP is still under the (incorrect) impression that “we’ll make it work for you” means she’ll be able to work from home one day and keep the day care commitments to drop off and pick up the children 1-2 days more of the week (to match her desire to do so 3 times a week).

    I hope I’m wrong, because if that’s the OP’s thinking, I think this will end up in more frustration from her employer and a lot of stress on the OP side trying to figure out day care arrangements for the 2 days she’s not working from home.

    1. MaggiePi

      This also touches on something comments have talked about before; daycare during WFH days. I am assuming her that OP would still have the kids in daycare all week and simply save the commute time on WFH days. I don’t know what she said to the new employer about it, but if they are under the impression OP would be at home working and watching small kids on WFH days, that probably isn’t going to go over great.
      OP, I would say take it and move forward under the assumption that 1 WFH day is all you’ll get. Then if you get more later, great, but you won’t want to make a huge change like this if you are relying on it being different down the road.

      1. Murphy

        My husband works from home one day a week and for us it just means that I’m not rushing both me and a toddler out the door at 7 and he’s not rushing from downtown to the south end of the city to get her in time. He does both (on the other days, I do drop off, he does pick up). We definitely toss the kid in daycare any day we’re working from home. Toddlers and WFH do not mix.

        1. NylaW

          Like most things,YMMV. This really depends on the toddler. I WFH 1 day a week because of needing childcare on that day and it’s worked out fine.

          1. moss

            This would be explicitly forbidden by my company. I work from home 100% of the time and have for the past 3 years and we’ve had people fired over care commitments. In my company nobody is allowed to be caring for someone during their working hours.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius

      Plus I think she’s misunderstanding the implication.

      “We’ll make it work for you,” generally means, “we’ll make it work for you provided everyone can have realistic expectations.”

      1. MK

        In fact, they didn’t say they WILL make it work, they said “they would work with her to make sure it works”; they are talking about mutual compromise, not bending over backwards to accomodate her.

  7. Gandalf the Nude

    In case no one else says it, don’t beat yourself up too hard, OP. It’s really hard to put advice into practice, especially negotiating. I think just about everyone fumbles that one on their first try. You’ve learned a lesson for next time. Just make yourself as easy and pleasant to work with going forward and hopefully everyone will eventually forget about it.

    1. NK

      I agree with this. I think people who are not used to advocating for themselves (myself included!) can end up going a little far in the other direction when they decide they are not going to be a pushover anymore in a situation. All very normal, and a good lesson for next time. I do think the commenters are giving useful advice about the nuances that could have been handled better without piling on the OP, which is nice.

      1. Koko

        Yes – The letter from last week comes to mind, about the person telling himself that he knew he “needed to go beyond his comfort zone” by showing up in person after being told that continuing to email the hiring manager would result in the police being called. They were not used to being assertive so they overcorrected.

    2. Juli G.

      Agreed. As with almost everything, your first attempt wasn’t perfect but hey… you still got the job so it wasn’t a disaster! Lots of key learning a for your next go.

    3. Rat Racer

      Yes, totally. And OP don’t worry – I can imagine the sinking feeling of harnessing your courage to do the thing you’re afraid to do, only to be told “You’re doing it wrong.” But once you start working for these people, I’m sure everyone will put the negotiation thing in the past.

  8. animaniactoo

    Not knowing where the boundaries are is a common problem when people who tend to be pushovers start pushing back. If you don’t know where the edge is on your side of the range, how can you reasonably be expected to recognize where it is at the other end?

    So yes – you did go quite a bit beyond “pushback” almost into “offensively entitled”. That doesn’t meant that you should stop learning and flexing this skill, but I would possibly alert your new manager that working on pushing back is a new thing for you. Not as part of any negotiations between you, but as a professional thing between you and other co-workers, outside contacts, etc. Maybe. You might want to wait for awhile and see how it goes. And you really might want to think about investing in therapy while you learn this kind of skill. A good therapist will be able to help you work out the logistics of where the boundaries are and why.

    An offer stage is for final negotiations, firming up what’s already been talked about, putting in non-crucial requests, advising of one-time issues (btw, my sister is getting married in 2 months and I’ll need 3 days off then to be there, will that be a problem?) etc. What you did here was make them step back in their decision process to try and make it work, and yes it appears *here* to have gotten you the job and the accommodation, but people often will choose to pass and go back to their 2nd candidate (or option) rather than feel strongarmed at the last minute. That’s the kind of situation you’ll often come across in daily interactions with co-workers, so look out for when it might make the other person want to change their mind altogether about going out to lunch or collaborating on a project if they find out specific details later (like you only eat Italian, or it means working with somebody else in another department too), and make sure to be upfront with those.

    Not being a pushover means putting the hard parts out there first and being willing to let stuff fall through rather than twist yourself to make it work. It means respecting other people by letting it be okay for your hard non-negotiable stuff to not work for them and let them be upfront about that with you as well. It means you’ll miss opportunities sometimes. But it also means that whatever opportunities do work out will likely to be much better fits for you.

    1. animaniactoo

      last sentence “will likely be” or “are likely to be”… I have no idea which I intended when I wrote it, but uh – not the garbled mess that came out. lol.

    2. CaliCali

      I totally agree. Sometimes, when trying to counteract negative behaviors, we can overcorrect a bit, and I think that’s what happened here. Rather than giving in to your passive tendencies, the OP wanted to be assertive in their negotiating, but it crossed over into aggressive.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        This explains how my sister behaves. She has been kind of a pushover for most of her life, but when she does decide to push back on anything, she goes way overboard with aggressiveness and says some pretty nasty things to people. It’s like she doesn’t really believe she can just say no to things, so she reaches for open hostility as the first tool in her belt. I tend to push back by just stating what I do or do not agree with in a low-key way and only getting more adamant about it if I have to. I can know at the back of my mind that I’m willing to die on a particular hill if that’s what it comes to, but I take a more measured approach about what I reveal to the other person. Most disagreements can be resolved before anyone escalates matters to the level of hostility.

        1. animaniactoo

          She probably can’t do it at all if she’s not aggressive about it. Too scary to try it reasonably, because if she hears back “no” or gets any kind of pushback, she knows she’ll fold immediately. So she has to psych herself up to a point where she won’t fold.

          fwiw, I’ve seen one person say they dealt with this in themselves by starting with that “no” or pushback in really lowkey low risk situations for putting the no out there. Asking for food to be customized at a restaurant but ordering a dish that they’d be fine to have even if it wasn’t customized, etc.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yeah, I think that’s what it is. She does fold a lot, so I think if she has decided that she isn’t going to fold, this level of psych-up is what it takes. I wish she’d go to counseling and learn how to just say a normal “no” to people and how to mean it without resorting to scorched earth.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              The real problem is, she dates guys who are controlling dillweeds all hepped up on male privilege, and she gets all caught up in trying to please them. Then she takes out even more anger on her family. She’s a total doormat for the guy, and the people close to her get the scorched earth treatment.

        2. Wendy Darling

          I come off like that sometimes. Basically by the time a situation has gotten to a point where I’m willing to push back against objections, I am FURIOUS and kind of want to destroy everyone involved. I do actually have a ramp up to that point but people mostly don’t actually see it.

          Fortunately that mostly only gets unleashed on the cable company, where it is actually the only way to get anything done.

          1. animaniactoo

            heh. you should have heard me last week on a telemarketer who was calling my cell phone…

            My coworkers are still laughing about that one. They couldn’t hear the lower end up of the rampup, so all they heard was the tail end of it as she attempted to speed-monologue her script.

            Remove Me From Your List Remove.Me.From.Your.List. REMOVEMEFROMYOURLIST REMOVEMEFROMYOURLIST.

            About 10 seconds into this she finally said okay and hung up, and my coworkers were in back of me going “Dayummmm.” and “Hey! You’re on *my* list… heh heh. heh heh.”

            1. Wendy Darling

              I went nuclear on FedEx last week because they scanned a very, very expensive package as delivered while in a completely different city and claimed I wasn’t home to receive it (I’d been home all morning and also THEY SCANNED IT TWO TOWNS OVER they didn’t even bother to come to my house). They tried to tell me they’d redeliver it later in the week and I. Lost. My. Shit. It’s a good thing I work from home because I don’t think bellowing “THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE” down the phone would endear me to officemates.

              But the package came that afternoon.

              I might keep a better lid on it if I stopped getting rewarded for my very occasional losses of temper.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            “I do actually have a ramp up to that point but people mostly don’t actually see it.”

            Hmmm . . . maybe my sister actually is ramping up to that point and I just don’t see it. To me, it seems like she just attacks out of the blue. I’ll have to observe more carefully. Maybe there is some sign that I am missing before I see her opponents’ heads get bitten off.

            1. Wendy Darling

              My ramp is entirely internal, unless you want to get into, like, microexpressions, I think. I’m just sitting there trying to be reasonable while internally getting increasingly pissed off at my inability to get what I need while being reasonable, until I finally run out of reasonable. At that point I burst into angryflames.

    3. AnonT

      Definitely agreed. It can be very difficult to know where the line should be, when you’ve never even seen it before. OP, it sounds like you didn’t wreck anything, and it doesn’t sound like you came across as a total boor or anything – you just gave an impression that you probably weren’t going for.

      As Alison said, the easiest way to combat this is to behave very obviously in the opposite direction for a little while. So if you have any flexibility in your schedule, it would probably be good to use that in the next couple of months while people are still building their impressions of you.

  9. Ann Furthermore

    I’m with Alison here. Working remotely can be a Big Deal even for people who have been with their companies/in their positions for awhile. It’s something you need to disclose right away. It seems like HR and hiring managers are more sensitive to this now; I’ve read quite a few things lately about how asking up front “when can I start working from home” tends to rub interviewers the wrong way. I get it — it’s more “what can you do for me” instead of “here’s what I can do for you.”

    I exchanged emails with a recruiter last week, as I’m in the process of looking for a job. He had some positions he said would be a perfect fit for me, which they would, but they are all in the company’s location that is about an hour away from me. I told him right up front that I couldn’t do that, but that if I could work remotely or from the office about 15 minutes from my house and make the long drive 1 or 2 days a week, that would be a possibility, but if that wasn’t an option, then I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. I also said that I understand that some roles really do require you to be in the office, in person, every day, and if this was one of those situations, I understood. He did say that yes, you had to be in the office every day, unless there was a weather issue, so I thanked him very much for his time and that was that. I’m pretty sure they would have pulled the offer had we gotten into the process and I dropped that bombshell on them, so the OP is pretty lucky that it didn’t come to that.

    My reasons were the same as the OP’s — daycare issues. The commute would be long. I would consider it for the right opportunity, but being an hour away would mean that most of the logistical kid stuff would be dumped onto my husband. I do travel quite a bit, but that’s different. It’s one thing for him to manage all of that for a week now and then, but another altogether for him to be solely responsible for that all the time, every day.

    In the OP’s place I would have asked if working remotely 2 days a week would be possible after 6 months or so, when I’d had a chance to establish myself. My husband would be OK with having to handle the kid stuff on a short-term basis. But if it would never be a possibility, then I wouldn’t bother going through the process.

    1. nofelix

      “I would have asked if working remotely 2 days a week would be possible after 6 months or so”

      Surely the problem with that is, after the employer says yes, you find out their criteria for achieving WFH involves impossible things beyond just working hard. Then you have to consider moving jobs and leaning on your husband again at the start of the next one.

  10. Ellie H.

    Because of the way this was framed after the salary range discussion, I somehow had the impression that the WFH days were sort of contingent on the lower number (95k not 105k) and that the higher salary eventually settled at (sounds like it ended up around 100k?) made up for the inconvenience of the commute and concomitant daycare pickup complications. Rereading the letter, the LW didn’t really frame it this way and I’m not sure if she represented it to the company that way too but it made more sense to me understood in that context, and a little less disingenuous that it suddenly wasn’t a deal breaker after all. Like, “knowing what the commute would be like, I would have been accepting of it at 105k, but now at 95k then I wonder if I could have this WFH benefit in compensation” etc.
    But also because the LW said she initially asked for more WFH days than necessary in the hopes of coming down from that high starting point, it seems a little disingenuous to have that that 2-3 was a firm deal breaker when really it was just another negotiable point.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius

      Not only that but she stated she intentionally asked for more in the hopes of finding some middle ground, implying both sides had room to give in.

      Two things:

      1) much like “negging,” most of the population knows this negotiating tactic, which decreases it’s usefulness and shows your hand.

      2) if you’re going to do this, you have to be realistic and not too obvious. So if they offer $100k, don’t say your max is $1 million and hope for $500k. Similarly, don’t ask for half of the week to be WFH, especially if you don’t know if that’s common there.

      Again, OP, not trying to pile on. Everyone makes blunders like this.

    2. Kate M

      Right. I think the OP saw it as:
      [initial offer of $95k] + [her counteroffer of $105k AND working from home 2-3 days per week]/2 = [final agreement of $100k + work from home 2 days a week].

      She saw it as them giving an original offer, her counter-offering and overshooting, in hopes of landing in the middle.

      OP, what I think you didn’t realize is that they expected you to negotiate for salary, because that’s what they originally offered. BUT, when you counter-offered, you added in some extra things that they hadn’t even put on the table. Generally, I assume an offer comes with salary, vacation days, benefits such as medical insurance, 401k, etc (if you ask for all the information). The things you can negotiate well are the things included in the package (although usually parts like insurance and 401k aren’t really negotiable). So if you had said, “I can take the $95k if I get an extra week of vacation”, then that would have been well within the negotiating package. Or you could have just negotiated salary. But pulling in telework when that hadn’t even been discussed, PLUS asking for more salary, seems like an overreach to me. You asked not only for the original salary number indicated (which you said would be acceptable), but also major benefits beyond that.

  11. TootsNYC

    Re: the point made above about how working from home is often just not feasible in the early months (or years) of working for a company

    I wonder if one option the OP might have had (though it might not have been acceptable to her) would have been to say, “because of family obligations, this commute is going to be a problem. If you bring me in at a higher level, it’ll be easier to accept this job, and to excel at it, because I can hire help with some of those family obligations.”

    There’s also the idea of saying, “I’d a slightly later start time on x days a week, and I’ll hire someone to shuttle the kids after school.”

    Of course, it’s her life, so money may not make up for time.

    1. TCO

      I agree that it might have helped is OP had made the connection between the lower pay and telecommuting, by asking for one in lieu of the other. OP had some negotiating power considering that her offer was 10k lower than she had informally agreed to. But then OP would have to be prepared for the company to raise the salary and decline the telecommute request if that were the more preferable option for them. In this case it doesn’t seem like the money was an adequate substitute for OP–they were two separate issues, which is totally understandable.

    2. LBK

      Ack, I think that’s totally the wrong way to approach it. Just mentioning that she’d discussed it with her husband had my hackles up – to start getting into the details of how she’d handle her childcare situation depending on what the company could offer her is way too much info. It’s fine if those are genuinely the factors that go into your decision-making, but they shouldn’t be negotiating tools when you’re actually talking to the employer.

      I think posing it as “When we’d discussed this originally, you’d cited $105k; if that’s out of range now, is it possible to discuss other benefits, like flexible scheduling or telecommuting a few times a week to balance it out?” might work better. But especially to someone like me who has a pet peeve about parents wanting special treatment, it’s not going to come across well at all to explicitly ask for more money or a different schedule because you have kids you need to take care of.

      1. TCO

        If a candidate revealed to me that she was concerned about balancing her family demands with the demands of the role, I’d be wary to hire her. I’d worry that this work/life struggle is going to prove untenable and she won’t stay very long.

        I place a high importance on work/life balance and I’m all about employers being flexible to accommodate employees’ lives whether or not they have kids at home. But to hear from a candidate, “This is a deal-breaker because there’s no other way to make this job work,” and then for their request to be so significant that I can’t accommodate it, I’m going to question whether they’re deluding themselves by accepting a situation that they told me was impossible for them.

        For the record, I wouldn’t be concerned if the request were more like this: “I have some family care responsibilities that make it ideal for me to leave two hours early on Tuesdays and make up that time during the other days of the week. Is that kind of schedule possible here?” The difference is that this doesn’t imply a deal-breaker that doesn’t actually exist. If telecommuting two days really wasn’t a deal-breaker for OP (as it apparently wasn’t) she played hardball a little too hard this time. It’s a difficult nuance to strike and I’m not sure I could have done it any better in the moment.

        1. LBK

          Yep, totally agree – I think that’s great wording because the meat of the question is basically “Are flexible schedules a thing here?” rather than “Can you accommodate my family situation?”

        2. Mookie

          If a candidate revealed to me that she was concerned about balancing her family demands with the demands of the role, I’d be wary to hire her. […] But to hear from a candidate, “This is a deal-breaker because there’s no other way to make this job work

          Those are two separate things entirely, needing a work-life balance (most everyone does) and being informed of a rigid deal-breaker. Bolded that because I’m interested to know how you’d approach a man who used similar wording during the late stages of the hiring process.

          1. nofelix

            I think you’re misunderstanding the word ‘concerned’. If I’m reading this right, the commenter doesn’t mean “women should be unconcerned about work-life balance or I won’t hire them”. They’re saying “a candidate that is very worried about how to fit the job into their life is a risky hire”.

            As you say, wanting a work-life balance is completely normal, so to mention it as a concern might be information that the candidate’s situation is more difficult and won’t allow them to commit to the job properly. It’s a sign hinting that if they were hired there’d be attendance issues.

      2. Green

        So on the talking with the husband thing, I think it’s fine to mention a spouse during a recruitment/interview process and it can be done effectively. For example, “Why do you want to live here?” “I grew up here, and I’d like to return here, and my spouse also has career opportunities here” or after receiving an offer that involves relocation, asking for time to consider, I have often mentioned that I’d like a day or two to talk it over with my spouse. But OP’s example did strike me as “off.” At some point, they need to be negotiating with the person who person who can say yes–while realistically, most of us will consider a spouse and their desires, I wouldn’t tend to present it as a joint decision to accept a job or a joint decision to ask for additional WFH/money/vacation/etc. I think that actually weakens your negotiating position, especially as a woman.

      3. Koko

        This is kind of interesting to me. I negotiated a routine WFH day once a week during my hire process in lieu of a higher salary, and I felt compelled to provide some explanation for why that would help. I don’t have any family so I said something like, “It would go a long way to make up for the lower salary if I could save 20% on my commuting costs.”

        I think I was worried that asking for WFH in lieu of money would create the impression that I was asking to WFH because I viewed it as some sort of slack-off vacation-like fun-time unless I specifically connected it to another/more financial reason. (To be entirely honest, the telecommuting benefit I value most is an extra hour of sleep those mornings, but by golly I was not going to talk about how much I love sleeping in a job hiring process!)

      4. Basia, also a Fed

        I agree with LBK. It is frustrating when people think they should get special concessions just because they have children. My husband and I have three dogs who can’t be alone for more than 9-10 hours. We stagger our work schedules and make accommodations, including taking a couple of hours of leave if necessary, for each other’s work schedules.

        I also didn’t notice anyone in the comments (I’m sorry if I missed it) mention that the hiring manager might have assumed she wouldn’t take it. I would have gone back and said something like “Upon further discussion, we can only offer one day a week of telework for the first six months. We could have considered a second day after six months, but I realize you won’t be able to take the job because this is a deal-breaker for you.”

        1. Basia, also a Fed

          To clarify, I wouldn’t consider treating this deal as though it isn’t happening as pulling the offer, because she said she wouldn’t take it unless her conditions were met. We aren’t meeting her conditions, therefore, she isn’t taking it.

    3. TootsNYC

      Interesting points. This might be the thing that the OP would say to herself and her husband, and then factor it into the decision to accept the job: Will is pay enough more than we can use some of that increase to pay for the help we’d need to make the commute work for our family?

      And then simply say to the employer, “It’s a great job, and I was really looking forward to it. But I simply cannot make it work at that price point, compared with my current job.”

      I guess the reason I thought there would be sense in bringing it up in some level of detail is that maybe something like “leaving early and working from home in the evening” (or, in my industry, it would be easier to deal with someone coming in late consistently, and then leaving on time but making up the hours after the kid are asleep–so there might be other options for dealing with the whole thing)

    4. Baxterous

      That would be a big red flag for me as a hiring manager. I don’t want to know about your bills and childcare arrangements during salary negotiations. That makes it my problem, not yours. That, on top of bringing her husband’s opinion into the discussion would really cross the line of being unprofessional and odd. You don’t negotiate salary based on your expenses and circumstances.
      This is not to that we don’t all need accommodations for work/life balance at times. We do, and I both take advantage of them myself and give them to my employees. But this would not be the time/way to bring them up.

  12. TootsNYC

    Oh==one thing I feel like I haven’t seen is this:

    When should the OP have brought up the issue of how the commute was going to impact her, and whether working from home was an option?

    Great info on how she should handle it now (which was -her- question), but if someone’s in her spot going into the interviews, when should she address this, and how should she handle it?

    1. Lily in NYC

      I think it should have been mentioned once she was invited back for a second interview.

      1. hbc

        I agree, second interview, or even potentially late during the first interview if it’s looking promising and they start to talk about logistical details.

    2. Person of Interest

      I would think she would want to ask this in a more neutral way during an earlier stage interview: are there options for telecommuting with this position? What is typically allowed? Rather than putting it out there as “I may have a problem commuting here every day” so that she can reflect on their position and decide whether she’s willing to go with it. At least that would prevent her from putting a negative impression in their mind about her commute, and taking away from her the decision about whether its worth it to her to go forward.

      That said, if it’s truly a deal-breaker she should be pretty up front about that, and what she is willing to do.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        I totally agree with this (and with Snarkus Aurelius’s comment below). As an employer, I am not that interested in the specifics of your commute and its impact on you. I am interested in filling my job with someone who can be in the office when I need them to be, ready to work. I expect applicants to decide if the commute is doable for them, and I’m happy to discuss, up front, the requirement that you be in the office every day because if that’s going to be a problem for you, it’s not a good fit.

        (I also live in the DC metro, and commuting here just flat-out sucks for practically everyone, so I’m probably less sympathetic to people’s complaints about it. Yes, it sucks for you AND NEARLY EVERYONE ELSE. Yes, Metro is delayed/shut down. Yes, I-66 is a parking lot. Yes, the Beltway is both a parking lot and terrifying to drive on.)

        In this situation, it really is the “dealbreaker” aspect that sours me on the negotation. Something that is a dealbreaker should be discussed as soon as possible as not to waste everyone’s time moving through additional interviews and an offer.

    3. Snarkus Aurelius

      All snark aside… never?

      I only say this because 99% of the time, when a job applicant applies for a job, she knows where it’s going to be. Given that, why would the commute be an issue in negotiations? If I were an interviewer, I’d wonder why I’m expected to address that issue.

      There are some exceptions, but I’d think those are reserved for high up, exec jobs where they want a specific person.

      1. Undine

        It depends on the area and the type of job. I live in the SF Bay Area and work in tech. Traffic here is horrible, commutes are far-flung, and telecommute is a very common option. It’s definitely worth asking about during the “feel out the job and culture” phase of the interview. Not at the very beginning of the interview, but when they get to culture, benefits, “any other questions”.

        Also, if it is truly a deal breaker, you want to ask earlier rather than later, so you don’t waste everyone’s time.

      2. rock'n'roll circus

        I don’t know… It probably varies greatly by the size of the company. In my field people have to move around a lot to different offices / customer locations (for 6-12 months) etc, based on need.

        I took a job interview down the road from my house. Then the second interview they mentioned that it would be at a joint venture location. So when talking with the recruiter I tried to pin down when I would need to be at the main office, how much / because I hate commuting 1+ hour, and would want to move to X location. Well, I started looking, then when I joined, after all they were all “oh well, I guess you won’t be at customer location”

        I’ve now been here for two months, and there is talk of me maybe going to X location from the end of the summer. It’s all really odd… I’m pretty sure it varies greatly by size of company and industry.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        A former co-worker had a part-time flex arrangement with our employer. She mentioned it at her third interview with a new company because it was important to her. Flex schedules weren’t unheard of in our industry. If they had said absolutely not, then they would have parted ways then. Unfortunately, she got a very enthusiastic response (“of course, that’s totally do-able!”), then when offer time came, they totally balked when she brought it up.

    4. NK

      I think it goes back to the dealbreaker issue. If you just want to know whether WFH is an option as you weigh the offer but ultimately would take the job either way (assuming the other details of the offer were compelling enough), then it’s probably best to wait until after receiving an offer.

      However, if it’s a true dealbreaker and you would turn down the offer if WFH isn’t an option, then it should come up pretty early on. Even in the initial phone screen, maybe. But if not, then the first interview.

      At my company, second rounds are with people fairly high up, and I would not be happy about wasting their time if I found out about a dealbreaker that we couldn’t accommodate after the candidate interviewed at that level.

    5. Rocky

      I would also say late in a first interview, or sometime during a second interview, after you’re pretty sure you like the sounds of the job. I also agree the question should be phrased more generally in the context of the company’s culture, approach to work-life balance, and whatnot. Unless it truly is a deal-breaker for you, in which case I guess you just say so, and let the chips fall where they may.

      My workplace is a notoriously terrible commute. It’s so bad that I always bring it up early and very candidly in interviews, so there are no surprises. Occasionally someone declines a position because of it.

      I recently interviewed someone and the *first* question she asked me was whether she could telecommute. I’m pretty sure she meant, like, all the time. We had already discussed that this was a high-contact, hands-on job that works with a big team on-site. I described the WFH policy, but I also said I thought the person in this position would have a hard time being successful if they weren’t committed to a lot of in-person face time. It seemed tone-deaf to me, like she was projecting what she wanted the job to be like, not seeing it for what it was.

  13. Macedon

    Ngl, OP, if I were your employer, I’d have pulled the offer. I don’t mean it unkindly – they decided to be flexible, and I’m happy you got a package you are comfortable with. But you ask very late for a pretty crucial accommodation, and you introduce a “deal-breaker” that isn’t even really that… it just comes off as you don’t really know what you want and you are exercising shrewdness for the sake of shrewdness. Both traits I am not personally enthusiastic about.

    I would never dissuade anyone from negotiating, but be transparent. Negotiations aren’t one-upmanship olympics. There’s no special prize in the reveal that “A-ha! I would have settled for X less all along“.

    1. newlyhr

      +1. I also would have pulled the offer. This is not a good way to start out. Throwing around words like “deal breaker” and waiting until the last minute to bring up a significant work accommodation just doesn’t sound like somebody who communicates with transparency and clarity.

    2. Katie the Fed

      “you are exercising shrewdness for the sake of shrewdness”

      That’s a good way to put it. I don’t really understand the patting on the back for not apologizing – I’ve done pretty well by ackowledging that what I’m asking might be a lot, but could you please consider….

      It’s how I negotiate too. I just did it with a landscaper. They came back with a higher price than I wanted for some work and I just said “I’m sorry, but that’s just more than we can afford right now. Could you either come down a bit on the price or could we look at adding a bit more to the job, like this thing I was going to put off until next year?” Usually giving a couple options like that gives me more bargaining power too – they might not want to come down on the price but are willing to throw in something else.

      1. Mookie

        Seconding the notion that token apologies or apologetic language have their rightful and customary place in professional negotiations. This Lean-In advice becomes toxic when it makes people second-guess everything they’ve been taught in order not to seem “girly,” where female-coded behavior or language is automatically and insensibly verboten simply because it’s coded Not Male.

    3. Adam V

      Agreed. Once you say it’s a deal-breaker, you can’t be surprised if they come back and say “sorry, then the answer has to be no, best of luck in the future”.

    4. I'm Not Phyllis

      I hate to say, but I would have pulled the offer as well. Working from home can be a great benefit for people, but I also consider it a bit of a perk and not necessarily a given. This really depends on the sector you work in, the company you work for, and your boss. Some companies really dissuade people from WFH, and even in those who don’t there are managers who simply want personal access to their employees during working hours. Introducing this as a deal breaker would have, well, broken the deal for me.

    5. Jay

      Chiming in to say the same, I would have flagged the offer and gone back to the recruitment process, I don’t have time for people trying to flex non existent muscle that early in a working relationship.

      For what it’s worth, when I have been a hiring manager and asked around salary I usually give a number in the middle of the range for that role – the band might be $90k – 120k dependent on experience and other factors, so I’d say in the middle of the range it’s around $100-110k but I would also caveat that as “dependent on experience”. Does that mean that everyone will be offered that? No, not really. You might come in at the lowest point of the band, or towards the top. That may have been what happened in this instance.

      1. nofelix

        If the candidate’s CV is already in front of you why not just give the number for their level of experience?

        1. Jay

          Because skill level on a CV is one thing, skill level when you actually probe into someones real abilities is a totally different thing. E.g technically great, skilled, but crappy soft skills mean a lower end of the range because I might need to put effort, time, money into training for those things.

    6. KT

      Yeah, I would have pulled the offer too. At 100K, I would expect a candidate to be more seasoned and professional.

      Springing 3 days working from home, complaining about the commute and childcare and discussing options wit the husband…makes me think you’ll be difficult to work with. I’d move on.

      1. Mazzy

        I agree. Making demands but also basically saying that you won’t come in early or ever stay late, because you can’t. You have alot to live up to…

  14. AdAgencyChick

    I agree with and don’t want to repeat a lot of what’s already been said, just wanted to add:

    Unless you’re working for a small business, or the hiring manager’s compensation is directly tied to the profitability of the team, negotiating salary does not cause the hiring manager pain. She knows what the salary is, but it doesn’t affect her day-to-day work. (And even if she gets compensated more if her employees are paid less, she may decide the hit to her bottom line is worth it to score a good employee who will make her life easier.)

    Negotiating telecommuting, on the other hand, changes the hiring manager’s experience of actually working with you. She was planning for someone to be in the office five days a week, and now has to figure out how to work around that.

    This is why I think salary negotiations that happen at the end are not obnoxious (unless the candidate’s expectations and the hiring manager’s expectations are wildly off from each other, in which case whoever had information about the other side should have said something earlier), but making a significant request about telecommuting at the end *is* obnoxious — because the telecommuting has so much potential to change the nature of the working relationship that it’s something I as a hiring manager would want to know about from the beginning.

    1. Former Hiring Manager

      I think that sometimes negotiating salary can cause hiring managers pain, and that’s if there’s a huge difference between salaries for team members doing roughly the same jobs. I used to manage a group where I inherited big differentials (much of which was because of who was hired when), and every time I brought someone new in, it was in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to make the problem worse. (Although I attempted to work with higher management to fix the problem for the lower-paid people, and they agreed with me it was an issue, they never actually did enough about it to solve it.)

      Good point you make about what needs to be known by all parties when.

  15. Wilton Businessman

    As the hiring manager, I’d be thinking “High Maintenance, proceed with caution”.

    1. Gandalf the Nude

      HR, too. This kind of thing is usually my first sign that we’ve hired my new problem child, the one that tells me their life story when they ask for a blank W4.

      1. rock'n'roll circus

        You know what makes this funny. You can’t walk into my HR office without them wanting to chat about everything non-related to work. It’s to the point where everyone at the company jokes about “Oh I have to hand this paperwork into HR, see you in an hour…”

  16. Alie

    Question about bringing up the telecommuting issue at the end: I frequently see people who aren’t sure whether they should apply to a given job write in to Alison, who frequently give give advice that effectively boils down to, “Go for it! An interview isn’t a commitment.” In other words, maybe you’ll interview and love it so much that you wouldn’t mind doubling the commute. Maybe you would hate it and would never work there even if there were no commute.

    But frequently the actual reaction is more in between–“hmm, maybe this would work for me… I need to think about it more.” Only when finally pressed to make a decision do we ultimately realize what our dealbreakers are.

    Anyway, for everyone who’s saying that requiring WFH should be brought up earlier–what about situations where you aren’t sure until you are in the final decision-making stage that you’d need to do work from home? I can imagine a situation where the reality of a significantly increased daily commute only set in when I actually had to decide. Is there a way to handle that issue in a way that doesn’t violate the (apparent) rule about introducing the need for WFH at the end of the process? (I feel like this is especially relevant because the OP says that lots of people DO work from home, so it’s not like she’s throwing out something totally random at the last minute–this is part of the company culture.)

    1. animaniactoo

      I’d say the only way you can bring it up as a “need” is to apologize profusely and state it as a change in circumstances that now requires you to have it rather than want to have it.

      Otherwise, I’d say you ask about the feasibility and then just don’t accept the offer if they tell you it’s not an option. Your goal is not to put them in a position where they feel forced into it because they’ve already gotten this far into the process. Since you’re not required to accept an offer they make, simply declining on learning there’s no room for it doesn’t put the onus on them to make it work for you at that point.

    2. TCO

      The difference might be in how it’s phrased: “As I’ve learned more about this position, I’ve come to understand that for me, the length of the commute would overpower the many good things this opportunity offers. Would you consider a telecommuting arrangement for one day a week? If not, then I understand, but I’ll have to decline the job because I just can’t make it all work together.”

      1. Adam V

        I don’t really like “… the length of the commute would overpower the many good things…”, mainly because you could already figure out what the commute would be like before you even started the interviewing process. So to me, it comes across as “the commute would normally make me say no, and you’re only a good enough company to get me up to a ‘maybe’. So you’ll have to let me telecommute more than normal to get me to a ‘yes’.”

        (Then again, I still can’t come up with any better wording.)

        1. LBK

          Since they did quote her a number early on the process, maybe something like this: “I’d been using the $105k figure we discussed earlier when weighing the different factors of this role, like my commute to the office. Now that I’ve received the offer and see that the salary number is a little lower than anticipated, I’m wondering if there’s room to negotiate some of those other factors – for example, if I could balance out the commute by working from home a few days a week?”

          I think presenting it as a trade-off for the lower salary is something that’s normal in negotiation and also makes it sound like this was something you were actively weighing based on the given set of info, rather than something you’d decided early on and just didn’t tell them.

          1. Adam V

            That would make sense to me. However, in that case, you do run the risk that they decide to give you the original salary instead and hold firm on no-telecommuting (or at least no telecommuting more than normal), and that doesn’t help you if the reality is “I wouldn’t accept this without additional telecommuting, even with the extra salary”.

        2. NotAnotherManager!

          But, in the interview, you learn more about what that commute actually means. Are you stuck in morning/evening rush every day or is the employer open to alternate work ours that would reduce time stuck in traffic? Is telecommuting an option? Is it a 9-5 job or will you be expected to work longer hours on a regular basis? Will you be working at the company office, traveling to client sites, or stationed at a satellite location?

          I am certainly going to look at where an office is located (if for nothing else so I make it to the interview :), but there are potentially mitigating factors you can’t know before at least an initial phone screen or interview.

    3. LBK

      I think once you learn/feel out that telecommuting is part of the company culture, that opens the door to ask some more specific questions, like how often most people work from home on average, if it’s scheduled days or whenever you need/want to, if there’s a waiting period before people can start doing it, etc. That does two things:

      1) can possibly give you details that will allow you to make the decision right then (like if they say it’s a max of 1 WFH day per week), and

      2) puts it in their minds that WFH is something you care about and are taking into consideration throughout the process.

      With that precedent set, I think you might even be able to get away with something like what the OP did and be more firm about your WFH requirements, because then it’s not springing on them at the last minute.

    4. CM

      I think that after you have at least one round of in-person interviews, but before they make you an offer, is the best time to bring up potential dealbreakers and concerns. First you apply, talk to a few people, get a sense for whether you actually want this job and whether they might want you. You should have a sense after a first round or two of interviews of what the company culture is like. Then when you’ve advanced enough in the process, you can start asking questions about salary, WFH, how this is going to fit in with your non-work responsibilities. That gives you a chance to learn about what this job is really going to be like for you, and it gives the company an idea of what you’re looking for that they can factor into their decision about making you an offer. Sometimes the offer comes sooner than you expect, and then you have to bring up these issues — it’s not ideal, but I agree that as others have said here, you can soften your requests so they don’t sound like unreasonable demands.

      I think for this OP, if they could go back in time, they shouldn’t have called it a “dealbreaker” and should have raised it earlier. But luckily, it ended fine and I think the OP’s reputation can be pretty easily rehabilitated as long as no other major accommodations are needed in the first six months or so.

  17. Katie the Fed

    OP – I think I’d thank your stars that they didn’t rescind the proposal. I know you were trying to be assertive, but the way you sound when telling this story – I don’t think it would have gone over well with me, at all. It comes across very combattive and legalistic, with things like requesting things in writing. I think you were dangerously close to overplaying your hand and I’m glad it worked out for you, but yikes!

    1. Roscoe

      While I agree that it was combative, I don’t think asking for something in writing is overplaying your hand. I like to have things in writing for many reasons. At my current job, I asked and they didn’t give it to me, but I had a good feeling about my new boss, and it was fine. But there are other jobs I’ve taken that I absolutely would have wanted something like this in writing.

      1. Katie the Fed

        It’s on top of everything else. It sounds VERY legalistic. The implication of asking for something in writing is “…so I can take legal action if you break your end of this deal.” It’s not a great foot to start off on.

        1. Gaara

          Asking for it in writing is also useless. The employer can change the terms and conditions of employment on their say-so, and you accept it by continuing to be employed (assuming at-will employment, which almost all jobs in the U.S. are).

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Asking for something in writing is fine — but you should accept it in an email, which is what they offered. Also, in this case, it didn’t make sense to even push for that since, like I said in the post, a promise to reconsider in six months isn’t a promise to actually do anything in six months. If they don’t want to do it in six months, pulling out a written promise to think about it won’t change that. They can just think about it (fulfilling their promise) and say no.

        So when you’re already asking for other stuff, it’s not a great thing to use capital on.

    2. Brenda

      Agreed – this is a good way of putting it.

      OP, you said you read up on negotiating, but an important principle to keep in mind with negotiations in the future is that you want to get closer together over the course of a negotiation, not farther apart. You’re less likely to keep things friendly if you start to go back on something you had already seemed to be OK with. And making a request (or even a demand) is different from a deal breaker or an ultimatum. You want to keep things negotiable in a negotiation.

  18. Maureen P.

    Speaking as someone who has had to juggle childcare, and has had one child in school while another was in daycare 45 minutes away, and had to find a new childcare when ours closed its doors – I would ask if you’ve considered changing childcare to make your commute easier. I know it’s not a possibility for everyone, but sometimes we view things as fixed, when they are actually changeable.

    And, as a manager who loves working from home, and happily allows my staff to work from home for any reason, I would be a bit put off by a candidate who insists on working from home a certain number of days per week. My only requirement for WFH is that it has to happen on “slow” days, so having to guarantee a certain amount of WFH before I even had an idea of the work style and capabilities of a prospective employee would be… not something I’d want to do. My staff know that it’s a perk, not a requirement, and they know to come in to the office on days when there are meetings.

    In interviews, I typically list “sometimes working from home” as one of the perks of the job, and it usually causes candidates to perk up and say something like “That’s great! In my current job I usually WFH X days per month, so it would be great to continue that.” (And X usually is <5). And I say "Yup, once a new team member is oriented and started on their projects, it's usually not a problem."

  19. animaniactoo

    Another point from the psychology side of this – when you’re trying to stand your ground, and be less of a pushover, it is very common to want “backup” and “support”. But when you’re doing the negotiating, you don’t want them to respect your backup or your support whom they will not be dealing with at all. You want them to respect *you*, and that’s why you have to make the basis as something that you alone are bringing to them. So that when they respond to you – they are (scary as it is) responding to you and only you and what you have brought to them.

    Your husband can hold your hand behind the scenes while you go for it. 8•)

  20. Dan

    IMHO, the biggest mistakes the OP made were the psychological aspects of it all (that is, the many references to not wanting to appear weak, standing ground, or whatever). I can’t tell for sure how the hiring manager read it, but it could come off as really abrasive.

    I’m not all for 100% transparency as one commenter suggested. I’d certainly not want to tell an employer I’m willing to work for $75k when they’re willing to pay $100k.

    And to the work from home thing… sometimes that becomes a negotiating tactic when the salary isn’t where I want it to be. I live in metro DC, and commuting into the city 5 days a week for a $100k doesn’t appeal to me. For $130k? Now we’re talking. But if your best offer is $100k and I don’t want to come into the city 5 days a week, now I’m going to offer up a partial telecommuting option, and I don’t see that as a negotiating sin. The reality is, if we can’t come to terms, we can’t come to terms, and no, I don’t think I need to show all of my cards up front.

    The OP placed too much emphasis on the psychology of it all, and it translated into hard lines that weren’t real. The OP really should have been much softer in her approach. (And I’d say this to a man, too.)

  21. coffeeandpearls

    Can someone please clarify when you’re supposed to start negotiations? This situation is reminding me in some ways of my most recent negotiation for the position I have now. As part of my interview process, I had a meeting with HR described as an informational Skype meeting where the rep went through her standard facts and figures about the company, etc. Buried in there was 35K for salary, but it was presented in such an informational tone, and I just had my interview with my current manager the day before, so I thought that if I were being offered a job it would be at a later date and perhaps by my manager, so that would be the time to negotiate. Imagine my surprise when I received an official offer letter via email the next day!
    I called the HR rep to talk about what I was looking for in salary and she said I had missed my window to negotiate. Neither she nor my manager had verbally offered me the position, so the offer letter really took me by surprise! I may be naïve in negotiation, but I know I would have picked up on an offer during my interview! Basically, we re-opened negotiations and I ended up with 40K. I really wanted more and I regret not pushing for more now. I was just so confused by the process, I was happy with any increase and to have the job.
    Did I goof this up, or did she? Or was this some sort of weird power play to get me to be “grateful” for what they offered? By everything I’ve read, you’re at least supposed to have an indication that you’re being offered the position before you negotiate, but now I don’t know!

    1. TCO

      It sounds like HR really didn’t communicate well here. Even if HR’s informal chat was meant to be an offer, it’s unreasonable to expect people to negotiate right there on the spot and close the secret negotiating window if they don’t. There’s no agreement until you both say yes. You hadn’t said yes yet, and clearly the window was open because they allowed you to negotiate after all.

      That said, $40k from a $35k offer seems like pretty decent negotiating. I wouldn’t kick yourself for not going higher.

      1. coffeeandpearls

        Thank you- I was franticly reading articles on this site for advise on what to say before I spoke with HR for the second time!

      2. KT

        Yeah, 40K from 35K is really excellent negotiating, I would say you wouldnt have gotten yourself higher

    2. Adam V

      At my current job there was an explicit “do you accept the offer?” in the phone call from the recruiter. So if you never heard that, then I personally don’t think the window should have been closed.

    3. NK

      This was definitely their goof, not yours! They slipped in a potential salary, and it was not in the context of making you an offer. Negotiations don’t really start until you’ve received an offer. It’s very common to receive an offer letter as your first notification of the pay, and negotiate from there – letters can always be re-drafted. Your understanding is correct.

    4. the gold digger

      she said I had missed my window to negotiate

      Except — you had not accepted the job. So I would think that the window is open until you say yes or the company says no.

      1. NK

        Oh yes, this is a much clearer way to put it. The negotiation window only closes once you’ve accepted an offer.

    5. coffeeandpearls

      Thank you everybody for responding! I’ve been having that weird “am I crazy?” feeling about it for months!

    6. CM

      You did exactly the right thing! Sometimes people tell you stuff in a very factual way (“the negotiation window is closed”) and a good negotiator won’t just accept that as truth. In your case, you continued to negotiate (because the window’s not closed until you accept the offer!) and it sounds like you had a great outcome — a nearly 15% increase and a job that you’re happy with.

  22. Nico M

    Hang on a minute

    -The OP got the job

    -The OP got an improved deal

    Therefore : the negotiation was successful.

    1. Katie the Fed

      It depends on how you define “successful.” Yes, she got an improved deal but she might be starting off on the wrong foot with her manager. If I were the manager, I’d be less tolerant of behavior that looked like red flags after this negotiation process. She may have expended valuable capital on this, when approaching it a little differently could have gotten her the same result ultimately.

      1. Adam V

        Agreed. Getting a better deal now doesn’t mean a whole lot when it gets you marked as “trouble” or “not a culture fit” and you’re last in line for opportunities like new projects or promotions.

        1. nofelix

          Though how long will the impression of the negotiation last in the face of seeing the OPs actual work ethic in the office? Now their foot is in the door they have lots of opportunities for showing how conscientious and culture fitty they are.

      2. Nico M

        Might, maybe, meh.

        If shed really offended them they would have pulled the offer and picked someone else.

        If they are stupid enough to choose to employ someone then hold a grudge over the negotiations then theres no accounting for what other dumbness theyd inflict anyway.

        1. Katie the Fed

          I think you’re thinking of this in very black and white terms. They can still want her on board, but be wary of her now because of how she handled this. She can recover from it, definitely, but she’s probably not starting off in the strongest position now.

          1. fposte

            And she quite likely could have gotten the same things without raising eyebrows. This wasn’t a case of having to break some eggs to make omelettes.

    2. KT

      It’s not a car deal. It’s like you got a great deal but the car dealer made a tiny profit and you drive off victorious, never to see that person again.

      These are people you see more than your own family. Every day. Their opinion of you is important. It can be the difference between a supportive environment and a hostile one. And how you handle negotiations is essential for that.

      I’m not saying the OP is screwed, but she has an uphill battle to mend the damage.

        1. Adam V

          Because on OP’s first day, the hiring manager could have been thinking “our last substantive interaction with OP (the final interview) was awesome”, but instead she’s thinking “our last substantive interaction with OP (the prolonged negotiation and the ‘deal-breaker’ about telecommuting days) raised some red flags for me”.

        2. AnotherFed

          And your colleagues might care if they see the new person WFH before she’s established herself. Most jobs take a while to get up to speed on, even if remote access to everything is set up quickly. If three days in I see the new person is WFH and have to field 17 phone calls because they don’t know what they’re doing yet, I’m going to be seriously irritated. Even worse, if we have to put off training on some things because of her WFH day, she’d be behind the curve and we’d be irritated that we’re having to work things in around the schedule of the brand new person instead of her training around the schedule driven by our actual priority projects!

    3. MK

      Define success. If the OP has ended up with a job as an improved deal, but also with a boss who is prejudiced against her, which might affect her future progress, was the negotiation successful?

      1. Katie the Fed

        Exactly. I don’t think it will take much to repair the relationship at this point though – the enthusiastic email Alison suggested will go a long way. And then not bringing up the teleworking agreement for a while would be good.

  23. I'm Not Phyllis

    I would rather see a candidate come in with a question like, “what is your policy on working from home?” rather than telling me that not being able to do so 2-3 days per week would be a deal breaker (after agreeing on a $100K salary, no less). I understand wanting to bargain for what you need, but I think what bothers me with this one is that your request doesn’t take into account the needs of your employer, their policies, or their culture. As a new employee, I think it’s tricky to make an assumption about what your new employer needs from you without ever having worked there a day. It’s safer to assume that working from home will not be an option, and determining whether you can handle the commute to and from that office every day. That way, if you do get to work from home it’ll be an added benefit.

    1. Dan

      As others have pointed out, $100k may or may not be a big salary. It depends on the market, position, location, etc.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        Whether or not it’s top of market, it was still above their original offer, which shows good faith on their part … and it was accepted as reasonable by the candidate.

          1. Katie the Fed

            He never promised 105k though. He said “roughly” 105k, which meant it would be in that ballpark but possibly not that much.

            1. I'm Not Phyllis

              Yes … “roughly” unfortunately isn’t a promise. Though I do side with the OP on thinking that he shouldn’t have given that number. It would have been better to provide a salary range or not disclose one at all.

  24. Audiophile

    I negotiated salary with the job I’m currently in. There was no salary discussion prior to the offer being made (I wasn’t asked what I was looking for and no one offered a range to me). And I know I surprised my potential boss when I started negotiations because during the offer, I didn’t give any hint that the salary wasn’t acceptable to me. (This was my mistake, I was ruminating when the offer was made and only really had time to crunch the numbers once I got off the phone). I didn’t think to negotiate for WFH or vacation, because at this point in my “career” money matters more.

    I can definitely see how OP’s future employer is seeing this, especially if you went back multiple times on WFH and salary. They gave you a range at the beginning (and most employers give a range, rarely will they say where in that range you may fall. But they definitely have an idea, even if they’re not sharing).

  25. MarinaZ

    To me, introducing her husband’s thoughts on the deal would have made me wonder why I was hiring her. Is she going to bounce everything else about her job off him?

  26. Allisonthe5th

    I agree with Alison’s assessment and advice, as per usual, but one thing did stick out to me. Personally, I wouldn’t be put off by the candidate mentioning discussing the offer with her husband. My current organization is very family oriented, so it’s totally normal to be considerate of someone’s family schedule. However, when I recruited for government organizations it was not that way. I am wondering if most HR/Hiring Managers are put off by this or if it’s a pet peeve?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Not just a pet peeve — a pretty common thing for hiring managers to be uncomfortable with. It’s the “we’d decided the new position would work for our family only if…” I’m not negotiating with your husband — I’m talking to you, so let’s focus on what you think and want.

      1. Allisonthe5th

        I see. Not necessarily the fact that she said she needed time to discuss and speak to her husband, but the fact she came back to the table saying “We will accept if…” Definitely makes sense.

    2. Katie the Fed

      It’s like the workplace equivalent of husbands/wives who share an email address. It’s so weird. Why are you sharing an inbox? I’m not talking to the both of you! I’m talking to one of you.

    3. AnotherFed

      Another vote for creepy and maybe even controlling. Is OP going to have to ask permission every time the company needs her to stay late, travel, take clients to dinner, etc.?

      1. Allisonthe5th

        I don’t see that the same way at all. My husband and I always discuss new job opportunities with each other (including comp, benefits, commute, work schedule), as any job affects our family life, but neither of us “ask permission” to do anything.

          1. Allisonthe5th

            If I remember correctly, in my current role I was given an offer and they asked if I could give a verbal accept. Because the job involved relo out of state I said something like “No, i will need the weekend to discuss with my husband and lets talk Monday.” The manager agreed and said he would do the same thing. When I called to accept, however, I did not say “we accept!” Lol! I spoke about my personal excitement for the role.

      2. NotAnotherManager!

        Honestly, I have to coordinate with my husband when I have to stay late/travel, etc. because my kids are too young to be left home by themselves. I don’t consider it asking permission, but if we have conflicting schedules, we’ve got to work that out and have no local family we can call in a pinch to babysit. So, yes, I have to consult my spouse about those things. We also discuss anything that affects our family schedule or budget before committing, including new jobs. I consider that part of being in a relationship and being respectful of each other. But that’s our thing, and I try not to make it my employer’s problem.

        The issue is not the discussion, it’s bringing the husband into the discussion about the job with the potential employer. Candidates say all the time, “Can I have a few days to consider the offer?”, and we just set a decision date with them. I don’t need to know if they’re talking it over with their parents, their spouse, their spiritual advisor, their imaginary friend, etc. I only want to deal with them. (I also find it odd that OP wanted to not be seen as a strong negotiator and then brought her husband into the conversation.)

        (Random aside — I did a group project in grad school where one of the people in my group got her husband on the phone to argue her case for a decision we needed to make about the project. She was advocating we do something that would have torpedoed our grade because she didn’t understand the materials, and we scheduled a call to discuss it — and her husband is on the call and tried to take it over to argue her “case”. It was the weirdest group project I’ve ever been a part of.)

  27. harryv

    In my view as a senior IT manager, you need to demonstrate your capability before you can ask for perks such as telecommute. If you cannot demonstrate competency in your work, I will in no way permit telecommute even if the company culture is for it. I would’ve been extremely put off if someone came in at the negotiation stage and said telecommute was a deal breaker. It’s a bait and switch. I think OP’s reading of negotiating did more harm and should be very fortunate it didn’t get a the offer rescinded.

  28. NorthernDaisy

    OP, good for you to put what you and your family needs first. Jobs come and go.
    I’ve done my share of hiring and negotiations are oddly rare. I think people are still shell shocked from the recession. However my most recent hire knew her worth and I’ve been very pleased with her work despite warnings from HR that she might be “difficult “. The only reason for that impression (per HR) was her negotiating during the process.
    Good luck with the new job!

    1. MK

      I think your comment highlights the one “danger” of negotiating, though; when you start work, you have to live up to the case that you made about your higher value.

  29. Stevenz

    Two reactions:
    I have always believed that you can’t evaluate an offer until the offer is made. That one simple fact changes one’s life, and only then can you really think through what that job might mean for you. Playing the what-if game before an offer is made is just speculation or fantasy. So I wouldn’t consider it unusual or bad form to mention a condition as part of a compensation package.

    Similarly I have never spoken in terms of “if I get this job, etc.” with the employer before getting the job. That seems to be jumping the gun. So I would be disinclined to bring up a condition like the work from home thing at the interview stage.

    In any event, the job seeker must be ready to accept no for an answer regardless of how she and the company arrived at their demands.

    1. MK

      This sounds disingenuous to me. The location of the workplace and the commute is almost always known to you beforehand; if, like the OP, you are sure you can’t make it work without a significant concession about work from home, you are wasting everyone’s time if you don’t mention it sooner. It’s another matter if work from home is not an absolute dealbreaker, if, say, you would accept no work from home as long as the salary is at least X; then you can honestly say that you wanted to evalute the offer as a whole.

  30. Corporate Drone

    I live in the NYC suburbs, and many, many companies both in the city and in the suburbs offer flexible work arrangements and WAH. Around here, WAH is not an unusual perk. I recently changed positions, and asked for 2 days WAH, and received it, in addition to a 25% increase in base salary. Having managed remote employees in the past, I do not see much risk in allowing WAH. If someone is a lazy slacker, they are going to be a lazy slacker in the office too.

    And I am an outlier in that a lengthy commute does not really bother me all that much, as long as it’s on mass transit. I’m an avid reader, and the commute allows me to read peacefully for 2 hours each day. Having said that, for two years I had a 66 mile commute in the car, and that regularly took me 2 hours. That was utter hell. I would much rather work in Manhattan and take public transportation.

  31. Althea

    I think the comments so far are a little hard on OP. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have practice at negotiating, and she doesn’t have a good feel for what is asking a lot vs. a little. She’s felt that she’s a pushover, and she’s trying to overcome the signals that tell her to back off and apologize, because she knows those have steered her wrong in the past. It’s hard to redefine your reactions! I’ve heard so many people who, in new and uncomfortable situations, freeze/stay silent or back off.

    I give OP props for all of that, even though it wasn’t completely successful. She just needs to keep practicing her balance between assertiveness and flexibility. Yes, next time bring up the telecommuting earlier. There’s little harm in a softer tone, as well, or an apology, so long as you can remain assertive about what you want/need. But I think OP did well, and had some luck thrown in, too.

  32. Althea

    I think the comments so far are a little hard on OP. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have practice at negotiating, and she doesn’t have a good feel for what is asking a lot vs. a little. She’s felt that she’s a pushover, and she’s trying to overcome the signals that tell her to back off and apologize, because she knows those have steered her wrong in the past. It’s hard to redefine your reactions! I’ve heard so many people who, in new and uncomfortable situations, freeze/stay silent or back off.

    I give OP props for all of that, even though it wasn’t completely successful. She just needs to keep practicing her balance between assertiveness and flexibility. Yes, next time bring up the telecommuting earlier. There’s little harm in a softer tone, as well, or an apology, so long as you can remain assertive about what you want/need. But I think OP did well, and had some luck thrown in, too.

  33. Dust Bunny

    Your daycare is near your home but not in the same direction as your husband’s job, and this is an issue? So what? So he has to backtrack a bit. I swear I can’t believe how people expect all their logistics to fall into place or life is just totally not doable.

    My job is 35 miles from my house (the job is in an area where rent is really high), through a major city (so, all traffic, all the time). Most of my college classmates would consider this totally unacceptable without considering just how privileged you have to be to be able to afford to complain about stuff like that. For a three-digit salary . . . suck it up and drive a couple of extra miles.

  34. Vicki

    “If that was a deal-breaker for you, you should have mentioned it much earlier in the process, so that they didn’t continue to invest time with you (and possibly cut other candidates loose) if that was a deal-breaker on their side.”

    I’m confused. Why is “working from home two or three days a week” any different from “I will need an accommodation under the ADA” or “I’m pregnant”, or “I’m getting married and will need 2 weeks’ off”, or any of the many other things that you do not want to disclose too early in the process because, if you do, the process ends now?

    How long do we need to wait until management understands that a new to them employee is not a “new” employee (fresh out of school), that someone you feel you can trust enough to pay $100K salary to is someone you should also be able to trust to do their work remotely 2 (or yes, even 3) days a week, that some companies have an entirely remote workforce, and that telework is good business (http://blog.bebee.com/en/jobs-and-networking/professional-life/top-10-reasons-why-telework-is-good-business-in-mobiledigital-age/)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But many jobs aren’t suited to telecommuting, and we don’t equip better to advocate well for themselves if we pretend that’s not true.

  35. Jane

    The WFH aspect of this thread is resonating for me, as I just made the same mistake of not bringing up my request for a WFH day until receiving the formal offer. I was surprised to receive an immediately negative response from the HR rep, who then discussed it with the hiring manager and came back with a no. They did say they were open to having a conversation about it after six months, but that there were no guarantees. In my industry it is common to work one day from home, and the company hiring me touts a flexible office environment among the benefits listed on their website. I also know they have several employees that work remotely full-time from out of state (although these are all people who had worked for the company already). I do understand that it’s hard for the hiring manager to commit to this upfront before we have a working relationship established, but I was hoping for a little more flexibility based on what I have seen of their culture. I am now wondering if I’m going to be in the same boat as the OP as being “red flagged” when I start work, and also it feels a little strange that I didn’t have the conversation with the hiring manager directly (although the process has been heavily driven by HR throughout and I only met the hiring manager once). Is there something I can do to mitigate this? Should I email the hiring manager to express my enthusiasm for the job, as Alison suggested? Or just leave it and be extra enthusiastic when I start?

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