I negotiated and got more money — why do I feel so weird?

A reader writes:

An old boss of mine contacted me out of the blue for a position at his growing start-up that sounds perfect for me. I lost my job earlier this year so I have been seeking a position that is the right fit and this just kind of dropped into my lap, and I am super stoked.

Today I received the official offer and it was pretty low but I figured he expected me to try and negotiate. I did a ton of solid research on the company, role, and average salary nationally and locally, and I even made sure that I was comparing to companies with products most similar and that were also similar in size before proceeding. I found the entire process tedious and uncomfortable and felt really unsure about what was appropriate to ask for, but I figured that it was worth it to try even if it cost me the opportunity.

While I didn’t get everything I was asking for, in the end I was able to secure an extra $5,000 in annual salary and got him to agree to pay me “cash in lieu of coverage” for health care as I am already on a really great plan through my husband. And frankly, I am satisfied with the terms and can’t wait to get to work!

So why in the world am I feeling so guilty, weird, and nervous about the negotiation? Should I be worried that they won’t be as excited about me joining the team? Did I perhaps ask for too much? How is that bad if I did? Did I rub him the wrong way? No reason to think so — he didn’t say no! Was I not supposed to negotiate because we know each other? That makes even less sense. I am now feeling extra timid and awkward about starting, which is contrary to what I expected to feel after a win.

I guess my question for you is twofold: How do I know I did the right thing? And how can I be sure that what I asked for didn’t cross the line?

You can be confident it didn’t cross the line because he agreed to it. If you had asked for something outrageous, he would have balked.

Negotiating is normal and expected. Also, this is not an amount of money that should be causing either side any weirdness! An increase of $5,000 is good but it’s not a shocking amount in this context; it’s a very normal increase to get in a negotiation. If an employer agrees to it, there’s no reason to think it’s an amount that will make them feel stretched or resentful. (On the employer side, it’s an amount that I would never think about again after agreeing to it! It’s not in the realm of “so massive an increase that she’ll need to deliver at a much higher level than planned.”)

If you’ve never negotiated before, the feelings you’re having are probably just because this is new. It’s nerve-wracking to negotiate when you’ve never done it before! You did fine; let it pass.

If this wasn’t your first time negotiating, any chance you have some weird feelings around money in general or around asking for what you want or advocating for yourself? If so, it can help to realize that the anxiety you’re having now is about that, not about anything real with this negotiation.

And if none of that is true, is there something about this specific job or the way they handled the negotiation that has left you feeling weird? If so, I’d look into that more and see what’s there.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. OhNoYouDidn't*

    Maybe you’re feeling weird about it because it was a former boss with whom you had a previous relationship that made it feel a little weird. But as AMA said, it sounds like you were perfectly reasonable in what you asked for based on your thorough research. Don’t sell yourself short. Be proud that you advocated for yourself so well. Congrats!

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t think that’s unlikely at all – especially the last paragraph, which focuses quite a bit on the boss and their established relationship, made me immediately go down the same route. In the presence of people I know, I’ve felt awkward about the weirdest things I wouldn’t have thought twice about if they had had to do with a complete stranger.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        That being said, think about it from your old bosses perspective; he tried to bring you on, but he also kinda low-balled you! If he was as concerned about the relationship as you, he would have offered something higher – but presumably he thought, “meh, it’s just business.” That’s the attitude you should take too!

        1. pancakes*

          Idk about that. $5,000 is a good amount but it’s not so large as to suggest that the former boss was trying to low-ball the letter writer or get a bargain in hiring. I do agree as to this just being business, but if anything that’s all the more reason not to mischaracterize the amount at issue.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I took it as +$5000 is where they landed/managed to agree upon, not necessarily what OP was really hoping for? Plus the cash in lieu of coverage is extra money as well, albeit money they’d otherwise be contributing to her health insurance instead of in her pocket.
            I mean maybe it wasn’t a true lowball situation, but the facts we know don’t entirely rule that out either.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yes, what this makes me think of is, like, my cousin has a roofing business, and once a few years ago I hired him to do some work on my house, and… it was weird! Some of the ways you behave in business relationships, like negotiating costs or complaining about subpar service, are just not as comfortable in the context of “I will have to see you at Christmas dinner every year for the rest of my life.” The OP wasn’t exactly crossing a social relationship with a business one, but I do think part of what makes negotiation feel comfortable is that it’s impersonal — you can tell yourself “well, this company just doesn’t know me and doesn’t have a good sense of what I’m worth or what I need from them; I just need to set them straight.” So it’s inherently weirder when the person offering you the job actually does know you, certainly has a good idea of your value to their company, and possibly also knows you personally enough to have a sense for how much you’d want/expect/need to be paid.

    2. staceyizme*

      Agreed! You might also have felt conflicted because you know him. Counterintuitively, it might have seemed more personal than professional to reconnect. Possibly you subconsciously felt like a “bad guest” or a “bad friend” for negotiating after he did you the “favor” of reaching out?

  2. kt*

    Hey, OP, I feel you! Discussing money can still get me really flustered even though more & more it’s part of my job.

    I was reading a book by Herminia Ibarra called “Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader” and she has a whole chapter on playing with identity. She points out that the new actions and patterns that we carry out as we are moving to new levels of our career can feel inauthentic, because we’re authentically used to the older habits we have and friend groups/networks we had in the previous stage of our career. Instead of thinking about “what is authentic” or about “faking it ’til you make it” she suggests playing around with identity, playing around with what we feel comfortable with. Just something that I’ve been thinking about lately, since I too am trying to move to a different stage of thinking about the value I bring to my company.

    1. Double A*

      I was going to guess this too, and guess that the discomfort she’s feeling is stepping out of her societally assigned “lane” as a woman.

      Women are taught to take up less space, to put themselves second, or third, or last. When you begin to work against that socialization, it can feel really strange and like you’re doing something “wrong,” because women are often told, explicitly and explicitly, that they are wrong for being ambitious, for asking for more, or for advocating for themselves. Her reaction, feeling timid and awkward, suggests she’s going back to what she has been taught is the “proper” way for women to behave once they’ve transgressed. I really hope LW can step back into some of the confidence that allowed her to negotiate in the first place!

      1. AskJeeves*

        Very, very much agreed. Women are also socialized to minimize their accomplishments, and knowing your own worth can be really tough because it’s coded as arrogance. The LW should feel proud that they did the research, negotiated, and got a good result!

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, it’s funny, I am at the point where I’m confident in my abilities, confident that I’m good at my job and worth being paid well, and yet talking about money with potential or current employers still feels kind of fraught.

    2. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Agreed. I also identify as a woman, and I completely understood where the LW was coming from. LW – if you’re reading this: you are worth it, you are enough, you will justify your new salary since the company wouldn’t have hired you unless they thought you could, and I hope you are proud of yourself for negotiating salary! That’s scary, and you did it! Congrats!

    3. PollyQ*

      I agree that there’s a good likelihood of that, but there are people of all genders who’ve been raised, either by their family or their culture, with the idea that you shouldn’t speak up, you shouldn’t ask for more than your share, you shouldn’t make waves, you shouldn’t push back against authority, etc., etc.

      So the advice for OP is dig into their background a little and see if those are ideas they’ve been raised with.

    4. GemmaBeth*

      Yeah, I so thoroughly assumed it was a woman that it actually didn’t even occur to me that it might not be until I read your comment.

    5. Massmatt*

      I was going to say this too, even if the mention about a husband were removed. There is a very gendered component to women and salary negotiation which has been brought up here often. I thinks the LW’s feelings are likely a combination of this plus having a prior relationship with the person on the opposite side of the negotiation table.

      OP I hope you can get over the negative feeling, it sounds as though you did everything right! this could have been a “Friday good news” post. Enjoy it!

    1. Retro*

      I came here to say the same thing. It’s that second guess of whether you are worth the salary you negotiated for. Did I overstep and will the organization be disappointed in my value since they paid more for me than originally planned?

      I don’t think OP overstepped at because as Allison said, your boss agreed to your asks so they were reasonable asks! Don’t feel guilty and you better be sure that your boss probably knows your value and will continue to do so!

      Congrats, OP!

  3. Cordoba*

    Employers certainly negotiate the prices they pay for parts and services they use, or negotiate their selling prices with their customers.

    It is not a weird or greedy thing to negotiate, it is a normal part of human interaction and commerce.

    A reasonable manager will recognize this and not hold negotiating against you. It sounds like this is definitely the case here.

    LW, you did fine here. Better than fine! Enjoy your new job and your extra $5k!

  4. Nonny*

    Congratulations! It’s awesome that you were able to advocate for yourself. I’ve negotiated before and didn’t get any of what I asked for (that’s higher ed for you…) and it didn’t impact how my boss saw me or treated me when I started working. Internet high fives!

  5. Jenni*

    Don’t know if anyone feels this way – but sometimes you just wish you didn’t have to play all these games… Don’t low ball me to begin with, make me do all this work and then we end up in the middle anyways. Respect me enough to give me a fair offer – ESP given that in this case OP had an existing relationship with the manager.

    1. PJS*

      That’s exactly how I feel. I should not have to negotiate to be treated fairly. That also leads to disparities between employees if some negotiate and some don’t. My old boss’s boss once told me that the reason my old boss made less than the other managers at her level was because that’s what she negotiated. That doesn’t justify paying her almost 30% less and then blaming it on her.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      I agree with your point in general…but in this case I don’t feel like $5,000 is lowballing though? I mean, he found it, so I guess that means they had it in their discretionary funds, but it just doesn’t seem like a lot from the company side.

      And it sounds like he offered health insurance but OP doesn’t need it, so she negotiated cash instead-which I think is genius!

    3. Allonge*

      Yes! I should not have to do this in the first place is a totally legit feeling too. Like, why do we spend time and energy on this whole thing?

    4. Blaise*

      Teachers get paid absolutely horribly, but I have definitely always been glad there’s no such thing as negotiating in teaching… there’s a step chart and you follow that to figure out salaries. If you’re experienced and getting a new job, there can be some negotiating to get more steps at a new job, but that’s it, and that doesn’t actually feel like negotiating about money (even though that’s what it is), so it isn’t awkward at all. Definitely something this profession got right!

    5. Anony-Mouse*

      Agreed. Successfully negotiated, but hated every minute of it. And now apparently have to go through the whole song and dance again at every annual review.

    6. allathian*

      Yeah, this! I’m kind of grateful to work for the government because this kind of thing never comes up. It’s mandatory to post the starting salary in the job ad for any non-exec job, and there’s usually very limited room for negotiation. A very experienced employee might get a couple percent better starting salary, but that’s it. Benefits are statutory in the sense that you can’t treat part-timers and full-timers differently and the working conditions for people on a fixed-term contract are the same as for those on an indefinite contract. Of course, I’m not in the US so most jobs have contracts. I’ve only had one call center job that didn’t have a contract, but if I’d decided I’d had enough I could have walked out in the middle of a shift and there’s nothing they could have done about it.

  6. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    This type of negotiation is also a type of boundary-setting, which is uncomfortable if you’re not used to doing it. I was in the same situation last week and also negotiated quite successfully (thanks in part to my diligent reading of AAM!). I was fine afterwards, but it felt awkward at the time.

  7. Sara without an H*

    OP, are you a woman? It’s been well-documented that women, because of their cultural conditioning, are often reluctant to negotiate salary and other compensation, and that reluctance can put them economically behind for years.

    So take a deep breath. You did just fine. If your prospective boss had objected to what you asked, he would have said no, or made some kind of counter-proposal. That’s what negotiation means!

    Congratulations on the new job!

    1. Reality Check*

      Just coming here to say the same thing. I’ve recently FORCED myself to negotiate, and it felt awkward as hell at first. But one gets used to it! And it works!

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    OP, I can assure you that TPTB felt not the slightest bit of guilt in offering you something that was less than they were prepared to pay. So you don’t have to feel any guilt about getting more!

  9. Forrest*

    I think it’s quite likely to be a basic chemical thing! I find that anything like interviews, or asking my boss for something big, negotiating — you get all psyched up, you do it, the adrenaline comes, afterwards you just feel emotionally drained and you over-analyse everything you said and it’s mostly just how brains behave post-adrenaline. I think it’s really normal!

    1. earl grey aficionado*

      Same! I’ve found that I can’t trust my short-term reactions to an exciting event at all (whether it’s negatively exciting, like an argument with someone, or positively so, like getting a cool new opportunity). Basically anything that makes my heart rate rise seems to mess with my ability to think clearly and it *especially* makes me prone to feeling guilty. 95% of the time I can’t even remember why I felt that way once I’ve cooled off for a few hours or days. Congrats on the $5000, OP, and I definitely hope you give yourself some time to relax and bounce back before speculating too much on why you feel crummy. As Forrest says, adrenaline is likely playing a part here.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      Yes yes yes, I relate to this so much. I have the most distinct memories of feeling this way after reviews. Even though I knew I had nothing to worry about and the review would go swimmingly, afterward I was like all jacked up with no outlet, no release, and just felt so discombobulated and agitated. I would always end up going to lunch or Target or basically do anything but work because my mind was useless. Adrenaline is such a wild ride.

    3. Reluctant Manager*

      Though there’s something interesting there, too. We get all keyed up because negotiation feels like a fight (and we even use that fight language), and it’s hard to step back and take on a different role with the person you feel like you were just in an adversarial position with. For a reasonable business, though, this isn’t a fight, and with more experience it can feel more like a conversation than a tug-of-war.

  10. Lifelong student*

    Good job- just a small point- the cash in lieu of insurance is a great thing and more employers should offer that. Just be aware that the cash is taxable income while the insurance would not be- so not a dollar for dollar in your pocket. Also- you should check to make sure that there are no provisions in the coverage under your husband which prohibit covering a spouse if the spouse had insurance available elsewhere. It happens! You could end up with no coverage.

    1. Nicotene*

      Didn’t know that about taxes, interesting. Selfishly I hate to see this trend because I’m not married and it seems kinda unfair. However, I recognize that it’s not OP’s fault!

    2. SpellingBee*

      Yes, the insurance angle is something you should definitely check. I’m covered under Mr. Bee’s employer-provided insurance, but if my employer offers insurance I’m obligated to take it if I want to continue taking advantage of the coverage under his plan. Also, my insurance must be used as my primary coverage.

      But congratulations on your negotiating! That’s a great outcome, and like others have said, nothing to feel uncomfortable about.

    3. Self Employed*

      Yet another reason why American insurance linked to employment is such a problem.

      Also, I recently read an article that a lot of people were having problems with coverage of newborn infants if both parents have separate insurance because the default is that the baby is covered by the insurance of the parent whose birthday is earlier in the year. You can’t decide that you’ll put the baby on the insurance with better coverage or lower copays–the child’s automatically on the earlier birthday parent’s insurance. Of course, this is something hidden in the fine print of the contract and most expectant parents have a lot more going on than reviewing their policies in detail. (I never had children so this wasn’t an issue I ran into myself.)

    4. Reluctant Manager*

      True–not dollar for dollar for employer *or* employee. I’ve generally also avoided it because if someone loses their outside insurance and needs to go on our plan, it’s messy to reduce their salary (on the principle that salary is not need-based).

  11. Bernice Clifton*

    You might feel weird because you’re a woman, as other commenters pointed out, but it could also be that you’re unemployed.

    In the same way that some people think a single person shouldn’t turn down a date, they think unemployed people should be grateful for any job offer and with any amount of compensation.

  12. Artemesia*

    This is a girl thing. I have never met a man who felt ‘weird’ negotiating or guilty accepting the money they negotiated for. It is business, not personal. I know women who feel the way the LW does that it is somehow unseemly to negotiate — or to think of money in the workplace. And I know women who have been punished for negotiating — never heard of a man experiencing workplace issues with a boss for negotiating.

    So Kudos for standing up for a fairer salary and don’t hesitate to expect a raise when the business prospers. You deserve it; you did the right thing; should approach work with enthusiasm not timidity.

    1. Nicotene*

      Also, 5K is seriously not a lot to most companies. I’ve seen applicants (dudes) negotiate for 20K more than what was listed or more, and that was a strain but nobody was a jerk about it. 5K is a rounding thing.

    2. Dan*

      Speaking of guilt…

      I was between jobs a few years ago, and had two interviews lined up. The first one went well, and when it came time to discuss salary, I tried to duck it and make them give me a number. They wouldn’t. So I said, “ok, based on what you’re envisioning this role to be, $100k is a fair salary. However, I’m reading between the lines a bit, and as currently planned, the role isn’t as big and therefore $90k is more appropriate.”

      A week later, they offered me $85k. I was kind of irritated, mostly because if/when they did grow the role to where they said they wanted it to be, I wasn’t going to see that $100k anytime soon. I had also just interviewed for the job I really wanted the day the offer came. So, I first asked, “Is that the best you can do? It’s pretty low compared to what we discussed.” They came up a whopping $2k. To which I said, “well, I just interviewed with [Big Name] and it went well. I’d like to see that process through. Can you wait a week for an answer? [Big Name] knows I’m on a time crunch.”

      I figured that was a polite way of saying, “money talks.” A week later, I get my offer from [Big Name] and just flatly rejected the first offer. Well… they laid on the guilt trip. “We were really hoping you would join the team.” “You seem like such a great fit” and yada yada. They even had the CEO call me. (The company wasn’t big, but I’m a relatively low level staffer, and did not talk to the CEO at all during the interview process, and I would likely never interact with him.)

      I’m sitting here thinking, “WTF?” They laid on the pressure big time, but I had also made it as obvious as I professionally could that I was in it for the $. Why did they think they could get me to turn down a better paying offer? For less money and more instability? ([Big Name] has a reputation for paying well with good stability.)

    3. PT*

      I’ve absolutely had jobs where I negotiated and then it was later held over my head. “We’re paying you top-dollar, you’d best perform to Impossible Standard.”

      “We’re paying you Top Dollar, how dare you miss a phone call because you were in the bathroom.”
      “We’re paying you Top Dollar, you should already know all of the llamas favorite snacks even though you’ve never met them before.”
      “We’re paying you Top Dollar and one of your employees dares call in sick with food poisoning? You should manage your team better, we’re paying you to handle stuff like this.”

      The extra bit of money often is not worth the trouble it brings.

      1. Krabby*

        That’s not been my experience at all, unless you reeeeally overshot (like, negotiated yourself up into the next salary band). Not saying it didn’t happen to you (people are assholes) just that I wouldn’t say that it’s the norm by any stretch.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — very much an outlier experience, not something to give general guidance based upon! Also, an employer who acts like that wasn’t going to be fine if only you hadn’t negotiated; they were going to be a problem regardless. Might as well get more money out of it meanwhile.

      2. Sandman*

        I’ve had that experience, too, but it was also in the one place I worked that was very seriously dysfunctional (which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t also seriously messed with my head).

      3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Same here. At one former employer, I negotiated a couple thousand more to cover the fact that I would now have to pay for parking in order to work there, since it was located downtown and it is the norm that you pay to park anywhere downtown, including the building where this employer was located and the available parking around it. So I thought I would ask and they agreed to an extra $2,000. Fast forward a couple of months- I was going to lunch with my boss and a colleague. My boss was telling us about this person she just interviewed for an opening and how obnoxious and nervy she was for trying to negotiate to cover the cost of parking. Ummm…. But I agree that this was just a symptom of a very dysfunctional work environment. Glad I don’t work there anymore.

    4. RCL*

      I negotiated something in my current job.
      I asked for an amount that I felt was a manageable stretch in the phone screen. The guy I was speaking to literally said “That’s fine. We have lots of money.”
      I nearly kicked myself for not asking for more.
      The subsequent interviews went really well, and we got to the final offer stage.
      They actually forgot about the original amount. So, I figured, what the hell, and asked for another $5k on top of the original amount.
      They went away, came back, and offered me the original amount (Which was already enough for me to be excited about). I said I guessed that was OK, if they could do something about the the equity. They came back and offered a substantial increase in the equity component if I would sign within 48 hours. I did.
      It’s early days yet, but it is going well so far. I’m happy. They are happy.
      I don’t feel the least weird about it. More pleased with myself than anything.

  13. Sparkles McFadden*

    It’s not something one has to do all that often, so there’s not an opportunity to get comfortable through sheer repetition.

    I once got (almost) everything I asked for and I kept revisiting the negotiation thinking “Maybe, I should have asked for more. Did I shortchange myself somehow?”

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I’m the type that sometimes just can’t be satisfied. If the negotiation was too easy, maybe I didn’t ask for enough. If it was tough, I’m annoyed they didn’t come up to meet my full request.

      It’s the same with performance reviews. If I’m in the top bracket two years in a row, I feel like I’m over qualified and should be promoted. But if I land in the “meets expectations” bracket, I’m a little annoyed that my work wasn’t appreciated more.

      It’s not a huge problem because I realize these thoughts are nonsensical so I don’t dwell on them. But it definitely passes through my mind.

    2. Artemesia*

      Some places play fewer games. My daughter accepted a position without negotiation because they were transparent and they made a great initial offer — more than she had thought of asking for — and she has had great raises along the way. Some places don’t try to lowball you. That company is also run by a woman, so there is that.

    3. A Person*

      I *just* did this. The recruiter made it clear there was room for negotiation so I ended up with about 5% more salary + a signing bonus. The whole conversation made me nervous and shaky while trying to ask for more. BUT THEN! instead of being proud or happy I spent the weekend thinking:

      “Shoot, maybe I should have negotiated the salary higher instead of a signing bonus? In fact, the salary itself even now is lower than my current salary (but there’s a yearly bonus + other things that makes it much higher overall) maybe I could have used that to get more? Oh man I should have asked for more. Maybe I’m contributing to women getting underpaid – it was so obvious they want me I could have probably gotten more!”

      Sigh, brains.

    4. Darlingpants*

      Yes 100% this! There’s no way to know what the “right” answer is, so you can’t leave and then check a number to see if you negotiated high or low or just right! So my brain swings from “ugh did I ask for too much and now they hate me” to “ugh I totally undersold myself and now they think I’m a pushover and also I’ve failed all women and feminism(tm)” even though both of those things can’t be true.

    5. ThatGirl*

      Heh yeah, I just had this happen; I named a range, they gave me the top of it and I though “should I have asked for more??”

  14. AnotherLibrarian*

    I negotiated hard to get more money for my current position. However, our institution is going through major budget issues and I often feel guilty even though I know the small amount more I’m being paid wouldn’t really matter given the size of our issues. You have to look out for yourself OP. I know that’s hard sometimes. I wish I knew what to tell you about not feeling guilty, because I haven’t mastered it myself yet. However, I remind myself regularly that I am being paid a reasonable amount for the work I am doing and asking for more money doesn’t make me greedy or arrogant. I feel for you, OP. I really do.

  15. Caraway*

    Hi OP, congratulations on your new job and your higher salary! I recently got a promotion at my current employer. They offered me a generous increase (25%) and I countered, asking for $5k more. That worked out to a 33% increase from my former salary, which seemed like a huge jump to me. I was nervous asking for it, but like you, I had done my research and knew it was in line with other similar positions. They accepted my counteroffer without even blinking. Like Alison said, $5k is a normal increase for a new salary negotiation and it’s nothing in the grand scheme of my company’s budget. I suspect it’s the same for your new company. Good luck with your new role!

  16. designbot*

    I think everyone else has covered the “don’t worry” aspect of this, so I wanted to chime in with a “how do you know?” perspective. You know when you get into the job and you see if your pay rate is causing problems. This can look like penny pinching in other areas while you’re sitting on a cushy package (which you may not be! I’m just throwing out examples). If you’re billable this is easy to spot if you can’t seem to make projects come in on budget—if your rate is too high when multiplied by the hours you need to spend to make a project work, on a consistent basis. I’ve worked with a couple of people this happened to, and their teams became overstressed because the project budgets that usually worked out suddenly no longer did, other contributors had to spend too many hours fixing a person’s work, etc. The flipside of this is, if you get in and you aren’t seeing those signs, you can rest easy because your salary is allowing you to fit into the workplace’s system appropriately, which from the management side is ultimately the goal.

    1. Cordoba*

      It’s management’s job to make their overall budget work, not LWs.

      They have now agreed to pay LW $X.

      If this means the employer needs to cut back in other places, adjust their project budgets, or otherwise accommodate LWs *mutually agreed-upon* rate then fine – but it’s still not LW’s problem or an indication that they did anything wrong.

      1. virago*

        “It’s management’s job to make their overall budget work, not LWs.”


        Otherwise, you turn into the person who’s irate at your co-workers at eating pizza at the company pizza party instead of saving the company money by brown-bagging your lunch.

  17. lost academic*

    “You can be confident it didn’t cross the line because he agreed to it. ”

    Unless you work for an old boss of mine. I negotiated a raise that he agreed to with no indication he had a problem with it. Then he took me out to lunch a month later and just spent an hour tearing into me along with our VP about how much of a problem it had all been. I was nearly in tears the entire time (I’m an easy crier but this was so unexpected and over the top.)

    Guys like that are probably not as rare as we think.

    1. Jean*

      Something similar happened to me at an old (TOXIC AF) job – the head of my department heard a rumor that I had interviewed with a competitor – which wasn’t even true, not that it’s relevant – and panic-offered me a huge raise. Which of course I accepted, because why wouldn’t I? Then over a year later, I was interviewing for a lateral move to a different department, and I got to hear from my current manager AND the manager of the other department all about how much “heartburn” my higher pay rate had caused the company, because in their estimation I hadn’t turned out to be “worth it.” That cemented my decision to move on to a new company instead of making that lateral move. No regrets. That original panic-offering department head is still there, of course, and probably still making boneheaded judgment calls.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      I really really want the OP to feel comfortable with their actions, especially if they are a woman due to all the trappings already noted in the comments, but in my last job I had the same feeling and was right to feel funny in the end. I had a former working relationship with the man who would become my boss, so there was a little of that awkwardness of discussing money with someone who had been a casual professional friend of sorts. He also made comments during the negotiating process like “I’ve never paid anyone this much before…” and made it seem like I was being a bother and should be grateful that he was offering me this opportunity.

      This haunted me the three years I was there, it came up half a dozen times, it foretold some other issues with money like how little he was willing to invest in infrastructure, inventory, or anything that could help us get our jobs done. I even have reason to believe there was some serious gender pay disparity, along with paying those with children more than single people, and it culminated with me learning that my own (single, female) manager was making LESS than me despite having been there 10 years (she later revealed she had never received a raise and didn’t expect to, I love this woman but I wish I could inject her with some confidence and assertiveness).

      Point is, sometimes bosses make you feel weird about money because they *are* weird about money. I hope for OP’s sake it’s just nerves and inexperience with negotiating, something they can work on and overcome, but I wish I would have picked up the red flags in my situation sooner than I did.

      1. lost academic*

        Agreed – I think the take home is that you’re doing normal things and should not feel weird but at the same time you cannot control other people and they may treat you poorly as a result of you doing the right thing in this fashion. People do show you who they are. Believe them when it happens.

    3. juliebulie*

      I had a similar experience. I asked for a particular salary and they agreed. But for a long time after that, my boss complained about it. He kept telling me, in an annoyed tone, I was his highest paid employee (dunno why that should make me feel bad, but he was a horrible sexist and I don’t doubt he would have preferred to be paying the men more). When it was time for increases, he told me that mine was “more than you deserve.” (And no he was not kidding, I am absolutely sure.)

      So yes, it’s possible that OP’s negotiation crossed a line. But if so, it’s the employer’s wack-a-doodle line, not OP’s.

      Best of luck, and congratulations, OP!

  18. FormerTVGirl*

    OP: First and foremost, CONGRATS! You handled this situation like a real pro and you deserve everything you’ve gotten. I cannot emphasize what Alison said enough. Question for you, though … like many others on this thread, I have a suspicion you identify as female. Fear of negotiation and guilt around it are too often experienced by women, and I wanted to share something that helped me: the book “Women Don’t Ask” by Linda Babcock (https://www.amazon.com/Women-Dont-Ask-Negotiation-Strategies/dp/0553383876). In addition to useful skills for learning HOW to negotiate, the book includes exercises for not feeling weird about it. Maybe it’ll prove helpful to you like it did to me. Best of luck — and congrats again!

  19. Jean*

    As a woman who recently negotiated and received a pay raise and additional responsibilities for a “promotion track,” I agree that it’s nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. At least it is the first time.

    The positive aspect is that you now have experience doing this. Not only that, you were successful in securing at least part of what you wanted. Next time it will be easier, especially since you now have the perspective to be able to look over the process as a whole and figure out what you would do again and what you wouldn’t. Congratulations on the new job and the good outcome OP!

  20. Dan*

    OP, you wrote:

    “Should I be worried that they won’t be as excited about me joining the team?”

    One thing I’ll say to this… if you think about it more carefully, you’re setting up a situation where they are only happy to have you joining the team if they can take advantage of you in some way. Is that what *you* want?

  21. Stephanie*

    OP, are you female, a minority, or from a less direct culture than the US? I get it probably does feel weird! (I’m a black woman, if it’s not obvious from my Gravatar).

    I was approached about a job that TPTB were having trouble filling since it required relocation. There were a couple of open heads, both at the IC and people manager level. They asked if I’d be willing to move for a lateral or if it had to be a promotion. I was neutral about the new cities and the COL was similar to where I currently live, so I said I’d only really be interested if it were a promotion to manager. I didn’t get the job in the end, but it felt really weird to ask for the bump. I definitely was like “Er me, really? But I guess they’re not completely laughing at the prospect, so…”

    1. ciera*

      I never thought about that way. That’s a really great way to reframe my perspective.

      Thank you for this. And no, no it is not.

  22. Cat Tree*

    It might help to reframe it this way: that $5,000 means a lot more to you than to your employer. Even for a small company that is struggling, $5,000 shouldn’t make or break them unless there are bigger issues going on. And even if it’s not a life-changing amount for you either, it’s enough that you will notice the difference. For the company, it’s probably just a slightly larger expense in a spreadsheet of numerous other expenses that no one will look at and think “wow, I could get this budget to work out if only this one line item was $5,000 less”.

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    got him to agree to pay me “cash in lieu of coverage” for health care as I am already on a really great plan through my husband

    I don’t want to be a “Debby Downer” but have you explored what would happen if heaven forbid your husband were to lose his job and the associated insurance coverage? e.g. do you have the option to opt in to get healthcare from your company later or have you signed rights away?

    an extra $5,000 in annual salary

    Great! :-) (although if the original offer was low, is it a good offer?)

    why in the world am I feeling so guilty, weird, and nervous about the negotiation?
    Should I be worried that they won’t be as excited about me joining the team?
    Did I perhaps ask for too much?
    How is that bad if I did?
    Did I rub him the wrong way?
    Was I not supposed to negotiate because we know each other?

    you are inexperienced in this and it’s natural in some ways to second guess yourself but you ‘shouldn’t’ here as it’s just business;
    no, they’re excited to have you;
    no, you asked for a market (?) rate and one you found acceptable (I might have asked for more!);
    not applicable because you didn’t ask for too much;
    no; you know each other in a professional context rather than a personal one such as being his nephew or whatever. It’s a professional negotiation like any other. If anything, you have more (rather than less) leverage in the situation precisely because y’all have worked together before and he is familar with your work.

  24. Jackie Paper*

    After reading this blog for so long, and after finding out after I didn’t negotiate at my last job that they would’ve gone up by as much as 20%, I’ve tried negotiating twice with low to middling success. A $5k raise seems like a great result to me!

    Once I was offered $47k and asked for $50k and they went up to $48k. The other time I was offered $60k and asked for $65k and they went up to $62k. So. Either my negotiating skills aren’t that great or my industry is just not very negotiable (academia).

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I spent 12 years in academia, and that was my experience as well. There usually isn’t much wiggle room in the salary bands/budget to accommodate large increases.

  25. AthenaC*

    I’m going to read between the lines here and guess that you feel weird because you know you would have taken the position at a lower salary amount, so you feel like you forced someone to overpay for you. In contrast to the last time I (successfully!) negotiated my salary, where I had lots of options, I knew I had lots of options, so I set the amount that would make it worth it to me, and my employer agreed.

    The thing I want to come back to is that your boss agreed to the terms you set, so clearly HE feels like it’s worth it to HIM. If he doesn’t feel that way, that’s on him and not your problem. You didn’t force him to do anything.

    Good luck in the new position. Go be awesome!

  26. Kjgfdhy*

    Just a heads up, my employer sponsored health insurance will only cover my partner if they don’t have access to health insurance from another source (ie if their employer has health insurance, even if it costs more, they have to go through their employer and cannot be covered on mine)

  27. Anonymity*

    You feel weird about it because it’s your old boss. He accepted your terms. Put down your worry and go into your first day positive and productive. $5000 is not a big deal to him.

  28. Poppy*

    Congrats, OP, and thank-you for this – it’s good to know this is a reaction that happens. I negotiated a better deal on my book and have felt weird about it ever since. Seems I’m not the only one.

  29. mockingbird2081*

    Don’t feel guilty. I often offer high paying individuals a fair salary and I almost always have room to negotiate if needed. Iit is my job to offer a fair salary that doesn’t mean I am required or should offer every individual the ‘high end’ of a fair salary. I always offer expecting some back and forth and am often surprised when there is no negotiation, but if someone isn’t willing to ask, I am under obligation to give them more than the fair salary I offered at the beginning. As long as someone ask within the range I had set I almost never say no. Maybe others don’t do it that way, but I do.

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      I’m in the same boat. You don’t know before that initial offer what someone really values. There are arrangements that have some cost to the company that aren’t as easy to put a dollar value on, so I offer a salary that I think is fair and generous, and then they tell me what will make it more worthwhile for them. Cash instead of insurance? A special schedule or work arrangement?

  30. Weasel007*

    I’m going to be devil’s advocate here. Only because I worked in a start up once. And it was awful (please forgive me if these have been brought up in earlier comments).

    First, have you ever worked in a start up before? How many people will work there? Start ups can come in a range of different flavors. Mine was with a very deluded CEO who started us all out very well in salary. However, he was insane (like coco for cocoa puffs). The working conditions were crazy. You need to ask your future team mates what the working environment is like. I was expected to answer the phone at 2am and work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    Secondly, $5000 isn’t much for health insurance. This is why independent contractors factor in a buffer to pay for things like health insurance, vacation days etc.
    Is he even giving you vacation days? And if so, can you actually take them?
    What about sick days? What if you get Covid? What if you get sick and have to be off for weeks. If you are not getting Health insurance, for sure you are not getting Short Term Disability. You will have to pay for that yourself if you want it, and there goes another expense that $5000 will not cover.
    Will he expect you to invest any capital in the company? We got pressured every day to invest. He used guilt trips on us. Those that did give in lost EVERYTHING.

    I truly do hope that all of these things are not the case for your new job. Please keep us posted.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hi weasel007 — OP’s boss isn’t giving $5k for health insurance – that’s already provided through spouse’s employer. It’s $5k because the company isn’t going to be covering OP’s insurance.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Excuse me it’s $5k *plus* cash in lieu of coverage because the company isn’t going to be covering OP’s insurance.

    2. ciera*

      Hi there,

      Sick days, PTO, and short term disability are all three in the contract and the 5k was based on what I paid for the mediocre health insurance I got through my last employer before being added to my husband’s healthcare plan. And since I am already covered it’s really just extra income (perhaps it comes out of a different budget which is why he was more agreeable to framing the 5k as “cash in luei of coverage” than just agreeing to a 10k salary increase, idk).

      I appreciate your concerns, they’re solid and important but I am kind of stoked about the whole insurance situation, tbh.

      To your comments on working for a start up, yes I have experience working at start ups, both hella f*ed up and highly profitable/successful and on top of that I have worked for a start-up where he was my direct report before and I am not concerned. Again, these are very valid points you bring up.

      I identify with this comment very much because if I had come across this post I would likely have had the same reaction. Working for a disfunctional start up is probably one of the most stressful and miserable situations, I am well aware. If you can relate because you too share in that experience- thank you for looking out. I feel your pain. :)

  31. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Hi OP — Try looking at it this way. You say you think your old boss “expected” you to negotiate — and you did. That means you *lived up to your boss’s expectations* and behaved appropriately.
    Good for you!

  32. Soylent Minority*

    Good job! Stepping out of your comfort zone – especially when advocating for yourself – can really shake things up. Don’t worry; be curious! What else is possible in your life? Eleanor Roosevelt said “do one thing every day that scares you.” So you can check that day off!

  33. Sled dog mama*

    I could be you Letter Writer, only difference is that my husband is a stay at home parent. We’ve been encouraged by our financial advisor to view our finances as a corporation.
    For me as a female it really helped to reframe the negotiation as negotiation on behalf of my family/corporation. Obviously I didn’t say that to the person I was talking to but having that thought in my head gave me a lot more confidence and made me feel a lot less guilty about negotiating when a former boss head hunted me last year.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I like that analogy a lot. I am also the earning spouse (I’m female) and my husband is a SAHD. I am in it for the family’s finances, not *just* me alone although there would be nothing wrong if I were single!

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      Sled Dog – that’s a really great point. I am not married, but I do have a VERY long term domestic partner. I was single for a LONG time before we got together, and as a result, I tend to view things as “my money” and “his money” which is a constant sticking point as we have a shared business. For completely legitimate tax reasons, we bifurcate a lot of the business income, but at the end of the day, it’s all “ours”. He gets really aggravated when I I shortchange myself, because I’m not really just shortchanging myself… it’s both of us. Thanks for bringing this point up!

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Thank you. I wish I could say I came up with the idea but when it was told to me it really solidified that while I’m negotiating my salary I and essentially bargaining on behalf of a very small corporation and I shouldn’t bargain any differently.

  34. Spicy Tuna*

    I’ve almost never negotiated – it always feels icky and uncomfortable to me, and I’m always 100% confident they’ll just go with someone else if I ask. For the last several years, I’ve had hourly work as a contractor and it was getting in the way of my own business. I resigned and the CFO was like, “No, you can’t resign, how can we make this worth your while?” I ended up negotiating WFH and double my hourly rate. Not gonna lie… I found the process so awful and painful I cried (and that was ALL on me, the CFO was great!) but in the end it was worth it.

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      You were a contractor but not WFH?

      I think this gets easier the more you do it. I even found it easier to do after I wasn’t successful.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        Agree – I had spent over 20 years in Corporate America never having negotiated, so it was hard, but I will definitely feel slightly better about it next time. If there is a next time, who knows at my age?!

        I am a contractor but was going in to the office for a variety of reasons, one of which was that the job was my former full time job. I had resigned because I have a semi-passive income stream that was generating more income than my job was and wanted to focus on that. However, my replacement didn’t work out, so they asked me to come back every quarter. Going into the office had been a hard habit to break as the company is very “face-timey”, but it wasn’t really necessary.

  35. EnnaB*

    They wanted you enough to give you more money! Please don’t feel guilty. They expect you to negotiate so will usually offer less than they are willing to pay, it’s just the dance. Companies often don’t give huge raises and the biggest impact you can have on your salary is doing these initial negotiations.

    I was nervous about negotiating in my last job and had a number in my mind that I would accept. But when they asked me what salary I wanted, I gave them a number that was 15k ABOVE that. And they immediately said yes. I made an extra 15k per year from one conversation. More than that, actually, if you consider the compound interest I can make from saving that money and from negotiating future jobs based on that salary.

    Your company isn’t looking out for your financial future. You are the only one who can do that, so be proud of yourself for doing it! That 5k they negotiated with you isn’t charity and is likely a drop in the bucket to them.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      Exactly – your financial future is entirely in your own hands. You have to take charge of it because no one else is looking out for you!

  36. One Internet stranger*

    I’m so proud of you!!!

    The mental voice telling all these will go away as you build more confidence and self worth.

  37. ciera*

    Wow, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the response and all of the comments- they’ve really given me some perspective that’s incredibly helpful and cathartic! And, you are so right!

    I am not new to negotiation- in fact, I’ve made a killing selling software and am quite successful (and exhilarated) asking for and closing large enterprise deals, however I really haven’t had much opportunity to negotiate my salary as I haven’t changed jobs very often in the last 15 years and this was the first time I attempted negotiating my salary where the employer actually conceeded to anything I asked for. Why it felt so uncomfortable asking for myself, I have no clue. It’s a total mystery.

    Could it have been the fact that we had worked together previously and knew each other? Yes, I believe this is the most likely answer. Honestly, 4-5 years is a lifetime in the Tech industry and I have learned so much and grown in my profession exponentially since we last worked together and I was very afraid that he would base my worth on who I was then without regard to all of the hard work I’ve been doing to further develop myself and my expertise and acquiring new skills and experiences.

    I was being irrational.

    I am actually completely happy with the agreement. Just to be clear though, when I said low-ball I think that may have come across as being more rude than I intended- I just meant he offered at the lowest end of the range. I suspect that he intended on paying me 55k all along and gave a number low enough he knew I couldn’t help but take the bait and counter and I asked for *a lot* more than I was going to get so we met in the middle. Pretty by the book as far as that goes.

    I actually started earlier this week and it’s been really great and without an ounce of awkwardness, actually quite the opposite even. Yay!

    I did experience unpleasant feelings, I doubted myself, and I doubted him, it wasn’t fair to me and it wasn’t fair to him. Now that it’s over and have had time to reflect (and read all of these responses) I am no longer feeling that way and am glad I did it. I am proud that I stood up for the value I can provide and for what I want and I am totally cool with meeting in the middle as an outcome of negotiating.

    Again, thank you so much for all of the kind words and encouragement, it means more than you know!


    1. Voodoo Priestess*

      Congrats OP! I hope you’re feeling better about all of this and I can relate to why you have/had the feelings you did.

      I see this from 2 directions: 1) 5k / year is about $96 a week or $416/month. Honestly, that’s not much difference for a company. And 2) Feelings aren’t rational or logical. Acknowledge they’re there, but they don’t necessarily mean anything. You did great! You are awesome! You are worth the package and you shouldn’t feel guilty.

      Again, congrats and good luck!

  38. Wendy Darling*

    I don’t see any evidence of this in the letter but I did have an experience where I felt weird about having negotiated a salary because my manager made it super weird. The initial offer was WAY below average for that job in my area and I negotiated it up to something that was merely a little below average. My manager agreed to it but she held it against me the entire time I worked there. Every time she was unhappy with me I got a lecture about how I got paid SO MUCH and I needed to prove to her and her bosses that I was worth it.

    It was symptomatic of a lot of other dysfunction and I eventually quit.

    It doesn’t sound like this is happening with the LW but I just wanted to put it out there that it’s something that CAN happen and it doesn’t mean you made a mistake by negotiating, it means you work for jerks.

  39. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

    OP1 I think there are two good options. Wear an outfit that does expose your scars, or ask them about the dress code.
    In the first scenario, there is nothing wrong with scars. They are on your body.
    If you ask about the dress code you’ll get an idea of their attitudes towards appearance, but you’d still have to guess how they’d react to scars. Even at an office with a strict dress code, it is unlikely they would ask you to do this.

  40. GoldMine*

    In reverse please don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you have to work extra hard to “earn” the 5000USD + cash for benefits. I’ve caught myself falling into that trap and am working on slowly extricating myself from it.
    I took on a job in autumn first negotiating a WFH because of COVID, as a consultant and with the understanding that I’d join this spring as a full employee. For various reasons my contract was extended by a few more months but as there was some miscommunication between their HR and me, the employer has to fork out more to cover some extra taxes and I’m feeling like I don’t deserve this. I get to keep my net consultancy fee intact while the employer pays extras, on top of accommodating my reluctance to move during COVID and also me telling them that I do not see myself in that role due to changes made during new round of restructuring, meaning amidst all this they have to work to refill that role…

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