a real-life salary negotiation, with emails

A reader writes:

I wanted to share my success story with negotiating a higher salary for a job offer I received. I work in the social services/addiction/mental health field. I’ve worked in this field for 11 years. I was working as a front-line supervisor for a program for adults who had major mental illnesses when I was encouraged to apply for a position at a different employer that would be a step up.

Prior to the interview, I connected with colleagues who worked for similar organizations in similar roles and asked them about the time commitment, stress, responsibilities, and salaries they had. During the interview, I asked about the advertised merger with another health system, the status of the record system, and other key things that were going on based on my understanding of the field and the news. I also asked the outgoing director about the time commitment this position entailed, and she confirmed what I suspected with it needing time outside of the advertised 40 hours.

Afterward I spent time thinking about what it was worth to me to switch jobs. I loved the job I had at the time of the interview. Loved it. Working in that program, in that role, was all I’d wanted for years. However, I knew that this new role could offer me more financially, which would be beneficial to my family and me. I spent a long time thinking about this, and the dollar amount for me to feel it was worth switching from my professional love to something more administrative with more headaches was, well, high.

When they made me the offer, it was initially with a 32% pay increase for me. While substantial, it wasn’t enough to offset the headaches. Perhaps not the best response, but one fitting with my lack of need to change jobs, I said no in the moment and followed up with an email thanking the organization for considering me and explaining why I felt I as a candidate, and this role, were worth more money than they were offering. The organization called me the next day (on a Saturday!) and offered me the position again at a 60% raise! Because of this raise, my husband and I have been able to make so many good moves for our family. And the headaches of the role don’t feel as big because the compensation is great!

Here is the email exchange we had (details changed for anonymity):

From: New Job HR Recruiter
To: Me

Good Morning Clarice,

Thank you again for taking the time to talk this morning about our offer for you to join the High Inland community as the Director of Misfit Toys. As we discussed, our offer is for an annual salary of $70,000, which is based on a 40-hour week.

I invite your counter offer for us to review and consider as we keep the conversation going.

Thank you.
Yukon Cornelius

From: Me
To: New Job HR Recruiter

Hi Yukon Cornelius,

Thank you for following up with me via email! And, to clarify, I would love to come work at High Inland! However, recognizing the challenges the department is up against currently as we try and get behavioral health back on track from the previous administration, the impending transitions with the electronic health record and the ArcticHealth merger (and what that means for managing and supporting the staff of the department through those transitions), and the amount of work hours the position actually demands, it is too low for me to accept, as indicated on Zoom.

In my mind the responsibilities of the role, which include overseeing the front line supervisors and the direct care staff (and all that comes with it), managing the budgets for all of the programs and the outpatient department as a whole, filling in for direct-care duties as needed, developing programming, fine-tuning programming, community engagement, and working with ArcticHealth and ABH, are worth more than $70,000. Largely because the time spent to do this job well will invariably be more than 40 hours per week, as I confirmed with the current director, Santa, in one of my interviews. My kiddos are just too young for me to be comfortable trading that much of my time for work without remuneration to accompany it. Additionally, a good friend of mine is the manager of the reindeer team at North Pole General Community Care. The role isn’t dissimilar from this one in its scope or “level” within management. He reports to someone at Herby’s level at North Pole General, for reference. My friend makes $84,500 per year. We have the same education, employment history, and background.

I hesitate to email back a specific number to counter with. Instead, my ask is can you take the information above and reconsider the figure offered to me?

Thank you again,

From: New Job Recruiter
To: Me

HI Clarice,

As a follow up to my voicemail I just left, thank you so much for your email. I was able to share with both Herby and Mrs. Donner yesterday evening and I am very happy to be responding to you that we are able to raise our offer to a salary of $84,500 per year.

Please do not hesitate to call or email with any questions or further thoughts you might have.

Talk soon.
Yukon Cornelius

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta*

    Congratulations on the new job and well done on the negotiation!
    This maybe a culture difference but I’ve always been told its bad form to bring your children into work discussions, especially as a woman, as it opens you up to discrimination.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I probably would have recommended have recommended a more generic term “family.” Or even “My personal time is important enough to me not to be comfortable trading that much of my personal time for work without remuneration to accompany it.” But I don’t think it’s that much of a faux pas.

      Companies cannot legally decided not to hire you because you have children or are planning to get pregnant. It’s often better not to bring it up during the hiring process. But once the hiring decision is made you don’t need to be quite as concerned about it. Presumably the LW will mention kids at work, have to take sick time for kids being sick and leave early because of the kids occassionally. No need to keep the kids a secret. I can imagine a father saying and doing the same thing … okay, I mostly imagine the dad taking time off for kids’ sports and not so much illness, but some dad’s do.

      1. OfOtherWorlds*

        And asking for more money because he has kids is absolutely, 100% something a dad would be expected to do, it’s traditional. It’s not actually a good tradition, it’s one of the sources of the pay gap. But that tradition means that a mom asking for more money because you have kids isn’t something that will be perceived through a sexist lens, IMHO.

        1. baseballfan*

          This is a fair point, but I would offer that dads asking for more money because they have kids is normally (or should I say historically) done for a different reason – to provide for the family financially. Where at least in this case, the woman is asking for more money because of the trade-off of work hours vs. spending time with family.

          So in this case I do see this as gendered because the LW is making the request from the angle of trading work hours for family hours, rather than needing more money to pay the family bills.

          As mentioned above, I don’t think this is a huge faux pas, but I would not recommend to a woman to ask for more money with the reasoning that otherwise it’s not worth time away from family (and I would especially not refer to family members as “kiddos” as that is definitely gendered and “mommy” sounding).

        2. Max*

          Actually it absolutely will be perceived through a sexist lens. Studies have shown the salaries go up for men who become dad’s but down for women who become mother’s, on every metric.

    2. Anonym*

      It sounds like OP was negotiating from a very strong position (only willing to move under strict requirements being met, willing to say no), so there was no harm in taking what would be a risk in other circumstances. I’m glad they had the ability to be honest about something that’s an important factor for so many. Hopefully someday the convention will change.

      1. Greg*

        Plus I’d imagine they were pretty far down the line and had a strong feel for the culture of the company they were replying to. It wasn’t as if this was their first contact with the HR or hiring manager so probably felt comfortable disclosing that. Especially from that strong position.

    3. Kate*

      I agree that is common advice and there was a point in time when I agreed with it. To me, since the pandemic, people are much more comfortable acknowledging the bald fact that work is the exchange of our time for money. OP wasn’t saying “pay me more because I have kiddos,” she was saying “I value my own time (and kiddos are why) and if I’m devoting my own time beyond the typical hours to this job, I expect you to make it worth my while.” I thought it was very well handled, balancing graciousness with a sense of her own worth.

      1. ferrina*

        I agree with this perspective. I’ve also come to this point- I value my time more because extra hours at work means extra hours away from my kids. I’ve found that saying this can build comradery and respect- I think everyone understands how important family is, and valuing family is becoming more acceptable (not just kids, but all of your family, bio or chosen).

      2. Paris Geller*

        I completely agree and I’m glad to see someone else mention. I think in the past two and a half years there’s been a big cultural shift to how we view work in general. As unemployment rates are down and the “great resignation” trends, I feel like many people are unwilling to play by the old rules without good reason–things like don’t mention your family/children, don’t bring up salary in a first interview, etc.

      1. Not a Kiddo*

        I’m not a fan of the word either, but I work in the mental health/substance use field, and almost everyone uses that term. So, it wouldn’t be unusual in this context.

        1. MCL*

          It’s also pretty regional. I grew up in eastern Iowa and almost never heard it before I moved to Wisconsin, where almost everyone uses kiddo all the time.

          In any case, congrats to the OP and I’m thrilled for you that they were able to increase the salary!

    4. OP*

      Others are right. I was negotiating from a strong position. Because I was not seeking a job (they approached me about applying for it!), I felt little risk going into this. I was only going to switch jobs if the offer felt truly good enough to leave my current job for. My industry is predominantly women in all roles and family challenges are something openly talked about. In my specific instance this is not a detriment, but if I were making recommendations to friends in other fields I would not advise it.

      1. ErinB*

        Thanks so much for sharing both your strategy and your specific reasoning here. I think it’s key to recognize the norms of one’s own field in having these conversations – while this probably wouldn’t fly in my line of work, I can also see that the way that we negotiate would seem overly stuffy and totally out of whack in yours. All in all, I really appreciate your candor and willingness to comment!

      2. Just Another Techie*

        So, depending on the person’s negotiating position, I actually would recommend a similar strategy regardless of field. I just finished a job search — my old job was …fine. But there was a concerning level of churn in the C-suite and salaries weren’t keeping up with the market.

        I’m an electrical engineer and both my former and new job are in defense: designing electronics components for military assets. It’s totally typical for me to be the only woman in the group, and in fact, at the new gig I’m literally the only woman in the entire company.

        I _still_ brought up my kids and family obligations, because I know my skills are impossible to hire right now (I know, I’d been trying to find two more me’s for my old team for the last year), I’m good at what I do, and I didn’t really _need_ a new job. So why not put that litmus test out there and see how employers react? It’s to my benefit to have that information before I start a new job.

    5. nonprofit writer*

      As OP notes in her comment, talking about kids/family is common in some fields. Also, I’d argue that in some cases (particularly when in a position of strength, as she says she was) it’s worth forcing the issue a bit. I am in the nonprofit field, which is generally family friendly, but in my old job, I was in the minority at my organization as a person who had kids. I didn’t have kids when I interviewed and I don’t think I would have brought it up then if I had. But after they were born I made an effort to talk about my kids and how they affected my work, and to let people know what my boundaries were–partly for my own sake, and partly to set an example and blaze a path for other people on staff who would maybe become parents in the coming years. So I talked about pumping, about my need to be out the door at 5 (but that I would log on later and/or attend special evening events as needed), etc. I fought a less successful battle for work-at-home privileges which is what eventually led me to leave and become a freelancer. But overall I think it’s good to stake out a position as a human being with human family needs, when you can. Doing that at the very outset of a job is great, when it works out as it seems to have worked out here. Congrats, OP!

    6. Epsilon Delta*

      As a hiring manager and a mother, I thought that was fine in this specific context. They wanted OP more than she wanted them, and it was one of many reasons she felt her time was more valuable. Would I recommend somebody’s entire basis for negotiating salary be stated as “I have kids therefore my time is more valuable?” No. But during a job hunt, especially after we have an offer, we don’t have to pretend we are work robots.

  2. WantonSeedStitch*

    This actually reminds me of a similar negotiation I made when I was applying to grad school programs. I applied to two schools and was accepted to both. The second-choice school offered me a fantastic scholarship and actually had someone call me to tell me how great a fit they thought I would be for their program. Only problem was, second-choice school was in a place where I wasn’t really excited about moving (a state where I’d never lived, in an area without a lot to do, and all of it requiring a car when I wasn’t a great driver). First-choice school also accepted me, but offered me a scholarship less than half the size, and didn’t exactly try to woo me. But the program was supposed to be extremely good, and it was in a major city within easy travel distance of where I grew up, with good public transit. I really wanted to go to FCS.

    I called the financial aid office and told them I’d just received the acceptance letter and would love to be able to attend because of the strength of the program and the school’s overall good name, but that with the scholarship they were offering me, I’d have to have a full-time job to cover the cost of my tuition and housing, and therefore wouldn’t be able to devote enough time to the also-full-time graduate program to succeed. I asked “is there anything you can do for me?” The woman I talked to said she’d get back to me. A week later, I got a second letter from FCS…doubling the scholarship. I was AMAZED that it had worked.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I’m going to keep this phrasing in mind and wish I had a version of it yesterday when I was too chicken to ask for a raise. But I’m sure “what can you do for me?” Will also be fabulous when negotiating contracts!

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Looking back, I’m surprised I was able to manage that as professionally as I did when I was 21. It’s not like AAM even existed back then to guide me, and I was shy AF and had a hard time having grown up phone conversations!

        1. Miki*

          I did something similar: got accepted in grad program as an international student and when I got my graduate assistantship I saw it was only 50%, told my future supervisor when she called I don’t have the money for the rest of it. She called back in a few days and told me she managed to get the other half from Dean of L.
          When I arrived staff told me I am the only one who actually received 100% scholarship. Ever.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        I think there’s a key difference between “Is there anything you can do for me?” and “What can you do for me?”, though. The latter comes off as more demanding, and more of an assumption that there *is* something they could do, if they chose. (Which can feel like a very bad thing to do to someone if there really isn’t). The former leaves more of a sense that if it turns out there’s nothing they can do, the speaker will be more gracious about handing it.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, that’s an important point. I like using “is there anything you can do” because of what you say, and also because it leaves the door open to alternative ideas I might not have thought of. For example, they might have said, “Well, we can only give you that much as a grant, but can add a GA position with a stipend.” Similarly, a workplace might say “we can’t raise the salary, but we can offer you an extra week of vacation” or something.

      3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        For my current job, I got an offer letter at $XX,000 and called the HR person.

        Me: I got the offer letter and I’m really happy, thank you! I would be happier if it were (XX+10),000.

        She got me an offer later that day at my chosen rate. It was a positive experience — I felt wanted and valued, and like the company wasn’t a nickel-and-dime kind of place.

        1. Varthema*

          YMMV but I think I feel more valued when the company make its best offer right off the bat – it feels more nickel-and-dimey to know that they could have offered you that before but were trying to get away with paying you less, no? That’s what we tend to do with our candidates – we just lost out on an amazing hire because we couldn’t meet her salary request. It’s a huge shame and I respect her decision, but also, we’re a young company and don’t have infinite pockets. That’s not nickel-and-diming, that’s just our financial reality.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            Agree with this! I haaate being forced to negotiate, so I think much more highly of companies that make their best offer up front. The job I just accepted a few weeks ago, the CEO was very blunt about “this is the maximum I can budget for this role”. He’d given me no reason to believe he was dissembling, and it was near the top of the range of informal salary polling I had done among my work-friends in similar roles in the region. (I mean, once I eliminated the outliers for people I know who’d jumped to Meta or Alphabet this spring). It’s what tipped the balance between two offers, which were about equal for rapport with the team, interestingness of work, management responsibility, etc. The one place gave me a clean number and the other was like “well our rang is X-Zand we’re offering Y but there’s wiggle room”. Nope, no thank you, leave your wiggle room in the 2010s where it belongs.

      4. Hillary*

        We use “can you sharpen your pencil?” for contracts. It depersonalizes it a little and reminds everyone this is just work and it’s our employers’ money, not our personal relationships.

    2. Spero*

      I used this strategy a couple of times for both undergrad and graduate scholarships and it almost always worked! Negotiating scholarships is far less practiced than it should be

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’m absolutely amazed.

      My attempts at this in university didn’t work out at all (nothing was rescinded, I was just at a net zero gain, and its not that I was independently wealthy or anything…)

      1. Zephy*

        Yeah, that kind of thing doesn’t work at all schools. I am a financial aid lady. There simply isn’t a secret pile of money somewhere, just waiting for a student to say the secret word in order to get a cut. Appealing your aid package doesn’t work everywhere, either; there was a lot of buzz about that in the early part of COVID, because a lot of people obviously had very different financial situations in 2018 than they did in 2020, including at least one student at my campus who unfortunately fell for a scam where she paid a company I think something like a hundred dollars or maybe $200 to write her a financial aid appeal letter.

  3. Mstery1*

    I am really curious how the increased offer, since it didn’t change the time required to do the job, made it worth it for your family? If the initial issue was that you didn’t want to give up time with your kids, how is this different? I’m not being snarky I honestly would like to know as so many of my friends are in similar positions at this point. The money would really help them have a better life with their families, but the time commitment would be onerous.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Money means you can pay to have other people clean your house, do your laundry, cook meals for you (ie takeout), etc. You can outsource a lot of the housekeeping labor to others and use that time to spend with your kids.

      1. Anonym*

        It may also not be as 1:1 as far as time. One might look at the overall picture of savings goals, finances, etc. and say “losing 5-10 hours a week with the kids isn’t ideal, but if we can meet our financial goals to buy a house, or enroll them in the camp they love so much, or replace our constantly dying car, it will be worthwhile to our wellbeing as a family overall”. The details vary, but that sort of big picture, long term calculation is pretty common. Many factors contribute to a family’s wellbeing.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Yep, people say money can’t buy you time, but in many ways that’s a total lie. It can buy you back the time you would have had to spend cleaning your home or doing yard work; the time on three buses instead of a direct drive; the time spent worrying about how your kids are doing at your in-law’s cousin’s unlicensed in-home daycare; the time spent grocery shopping; the time your family fights because your place is too small and you’re always tripping over each other. Money can buy you a LOT of time.

    2. infopubs*

      I can think of a couple of ways: room in the budget to hire extra help like house cleaning and/or yard care, which allows the adults to spend time with kids instead of doing home maintenance stuff. Perhaps a part time nanny so that kids spend less time in a car commuting to school/preschool, allowing more time for quality interactions. The amount of time is the same, but the way that time can be spent with the children improves.

    3. Sal*

      It can be as simple as “more money means I hire someone to do laundry during the week when I’m at work so I don’t have to do laundry all weekend and can instead do fun stuff with my kids.”

      I am a little confused at how this can seem so mysterious to people.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think that for a lot of people who grew up in a lower income family, in their minds that sort of help is only something rich people, millionaires can afford and it’s never occurred to them it’s avaiable to them or more middle class seeming people. It honestly never occurs to them it’s possible. Or for those that it does occur to they sometimes have feelings about paying someone to do something they could themselves, something their parents did themselves when they were growing up.

        Or just the tradeoff value. The higher salary allows a better house in a better school district. The LW may still spend less time with her kids, but that missed time is buying something valuable to her and that positively impacts her kids’ lives.

        1. Gumby*

          As someone who grew up in a household with more limited means than I now enjoy – even when you know it’s an option and can convince yourself it is an option you can afford, it can be really really hard to overcome the voice in your head that tells you that such-and-such thing is too much or a waste of money or whatever. “I can cook this myself for less at home” or “I should just order water because a soda is too much” are still things I think, regularly, and by any reasonable measure a restaurant meal will not affect my budget hardly at all.

      2. Leia Oregano*

        I think for many they just don’t realize those are options for “regular” people, because there’s a layer of privilege (financial, class, racial, etc) to many of these services. I grew up in a mostly single-income, lower middle class household (my mom worked sporadically) and my dad was in the navy. He never wanted to progress high in the ranks, so he never made much money. My parents also came from low/low-middle class backgrounds in very rural places, where no one is paying someone else to do their laundry or clean their bathroom except maybe the rich cattle farmers. It blew my mind a couple years ago when my supervisor mentioned having a housecleaner who comes in a couple times a week, but it makes sense! He and his wife are busy people with high-level jobs who are very active and involved outside of work, and they have two kids. No one could manage their lives and still have some downtime without some outside help: they have a housecleaner, a meal subscription kit, probably more that I don’t know of. Even now, I’m in my first real professional role and think it’s slightly extravagant but necessary-for-me-and-my-life to get a meal subscription box. The time I used to spend planning meals, shopping, putting groceries away, deciding what to cook each night, etc, is cut way down and I can stay on top of other things instead. But if you’d asked me two years ago, when I made $10 an hour part-time and constantly stressed about money, if I’d ever see myself paying for something like meals delivered to my door, already planned, that I just had to assemble and cook? I would have laughed out loud. Now it’s just another thing I’m privileged enough to have the means to pay for, but I never had that privilege before.

        1. Estimator*

          This is completely accurate. You don’t realize options are available until you can afford them. My household income has more than tripled over the past 5 years and I occasionally find myself buying things that I previously wondered who on earth spent money on them.

        2. TechWorker*

          Also depends what you mean by ‘regular’ – idk if OP has a partner who also works or not but median household income is in the 70s; think it’s still true that those who can afford cleaning are by far a minority?

          1. A Genuine Scientician*

            Sure, but there’s a world of difference between “Rich people, like movie stars” and “Rich people, like dentists” and “Rich people, like accountants”. To someone who grew up without money, all of those are rich, but they’re very different levels of common.

            A year or two before the pandemic, I had several summer work trips so I decided to look into how much it would cost to hire someone to take care of my yard so I didn’t risk it getting too long and the city fining me. It was *so much less* expensive than I had just assumed it would be. My household income is somewhere around the 60th percentile for my city, and it is absolutely worth it to me to pay for someone to cut my grass every 2 weeks so I don’t even have to think about it (I kind of hate yard work).

            1. SpaceySteph*

              We finally outsourced our lawn after our 3rd kid was born. It just became one chore too many. Our life is significantly improved for $30 a week, and the lawn guys are much better at it so it doesn’t take them anywhere near the time it took me or my husband to do it and it looks better than when we did it too. Should have done this years ago.

        3. Sal*

          Interesting; I mostly hear it from child-free people (more often men) who simply don’t understand (I think) the hours of domestic labor that come simply from parenting–still high socioeconomic class, for the most part.

          Before kids, I too could binge a rerun marathon for 6 hours after work and not do laundry for four weeks (just buy new underwear, duh!) and order takeout at 9 PM when I looked up and realized I was hungry. The biggest adjustment to parenting (for me, besides “holy shirtballs, they don’t sleep–ever”) was the sheer hours of the day it takes to handle a day appropriately for a small person depending on you–feed them appropriate foods at the right time, make sure they have clean clothes and linens appropriate to their upcoming day before the day begins, handle getting them hygienic and put to bed at an appropriate time.

          Apologies if I jumped to a too-salty frame of mind re Mstery1’s q.

        4. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          Also some people never see that labor at all, because it’s women doing it (whether mother or hired help), so they don’t enter it into the calculations.

      3. lost academic*

        Some of it is philosophical. In my own experience I see two groups who cannot countenance the idea of spending money on housekeeping/cleaning services. The first is comprised of women from my parents’ generation – there were not lifetime career options for them for a variety of reasons and so there’s a value placed on keeping a home in a certain fashion with your own labor which translates to a certain value or personal worth. (I am by no means suggesting that this is something applicable to everyone within that gender and age group.) It’s not that they couldn’t have used those services, but it Wasn’t Done. (I get so much bizarre passive aggressive commentary from my MIL when she visits it’s disturbing…). The second group is more socioconomic – the cost of those services is not accessible and so it becomes somewhat ingrained that it never will be. I struggled with that one for awhile. It’s super gendered still even in higher socioeconomic brackets.

      4. SpaceySteph*

        Yup. A load of laundry takes only 10 mins of “active” time, but I used to sit home all day Saturday because I needed to keep the laundry moving to get through it all. I don’t pay someone to do my laundry but I do it on WFH days, so I can just take a quick break to switch a load and go right back to work, and its a huge improvement in our weekends that I’m not chained to the washer all day. (Its also convenient the laundry room is between my desk and the bathroom so it’s an easy stop along the way)

        1. Sal*

          PRECISELY. If I don’t have a WFH day, I’m either giving up at least one weekend day (both if I want to actually get stuff put away by the kids’ bedtime Sunday) to being around the house to switch loads etc., or laundry is going to be catch as catch can for a week or two (lingering unfolded in hampers, half the colors done, etc.) until I do.

          1. A Genuine Scientician*

            When I was a kid, my parent assigned time that any chore was worth, and the kids had to put in a certain amount of that time each week. The list of available options was always longer than what would fill our requirements — which ensured we had some choice in the matter — and we’d take turns picking what we’d do.

            A complete load of laundry, from going into the wash to folding / hanging it, counted as 25 minutes, even though it took longer on the clock but less time actively doing things because a) you could do other things during it, but b) you were stuck at home.

            I typically filled my chore list almost entirely by just doing most of the laundry for the household by setting timers to remind myself to change loads while I was reading. It felt like the easiest chore to me, and my mom was thrilled to basically not have to do laundry other than her underwear by the time I was 10, so a win for everyone.

            As a bonus, I was then able to teach most of the guys on my floor in my freshman dorm how to do laundry, as a shockingly large percentage of them never had. Given that one of our school colors was dark red, I felt mildly proud that none of them ended up with pink socks due to a laundry mishap.

        1. londonedit*

          And some of us who don’t have kids still have a hell of a lot to fit into our non-work time and aren’t just sitting on our arses watching TV and ordering takeaway.

    4. Be Gneiss*

      And sometimes it’s not just housekeeping stuff. Maybe it’s the extra income for the kids to participate in activities (sports, camps, classes, trips) that wouldn’t otherwise be in the budget, or it gives the family the ability to save for college. I could be more accepting of a less convenient schedule if it opened up opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be able to provide.

      1. hbc*

        And for many people, it’s the things you don’t have to do anymore that are the real time saver. Clipping coupons and researching prices can eat a lot of time. My least favorite part of grocery shopping is feeding my used cans into a sticky, slow, error-throwing machine to get my deposit back, so being able to just drop them at a charity is heavenly.

    5. OP*

      It allowed greater financial freedom (cleaning, childcare… buying a larger house) which freed up more time.

    6. RL*

      The first time I ever negotiated for a woman further ahead in her career and life reminded me that I could say no if I didn’t want the job and that I could say no if the job didn’t pay enough. It was a big step up in responsibility (and time commitment) and my kids were young. She said something about the raise needing to be big enough to buy cut fruit at the grocery store instead of cutting it yourself. After years of buying, washing, cutting, etc the fruit in my house, now I buy the already washed, cut and ready to eat stuff. It’s a small thing but it makes a difference in my life not to spend my time that way. And I still talk about needing a big enough raise to buy cut fruit.

    7. Esmeralda*

      And also, when negotiating, you don’t have to be excruciatingly complete in all details. I mean, don’t be unethical, but there’s no need to tell the other party everything, complete and unvarnished.

      I’m sure the kids will miss OP — or maybe the kids are getting old enough to be ok with OP around less. Or maybe OP plans to do that extra work time when it doesn’t impinge too much on the kids. That’s not the employer’s business. It’s a nice personal touch, gives a personal reason that sounds very reasonable. Doesn’t have to be 100% true.

    8. BubbleTea*

      I’m semi-casually looking for a new job, and most are full time whereas I work 0.8 right now. I’d need my gross salary to at least double to be worth the extra day, not least because the additional childcare costs would be significant. I’m not LW but I’m someone who would definitely feel that if I’m going to be losing time with my kid, I need at a minimum enough money that it won’t be a net loss, and ideally enough that I can afford to do more stuff with him when I’m not working.

  4. ThatGirl*

    Thanks for sharing this, OP. The one thing I am struck by is that you *did* name a figure — what your friend made — and then said you hesitated to name a figure. I’m not saying that was a bad move, but I am a little curious about the thought process there. If it were me I might have said “I have a friend in a similar position at blah blah blah who’s paid in the mid-80s”.

    But either way, it seems like a great outcome and I wish you the best in your new role :)

    1. cubone*

      I thought this was also interesting because as soon as I read “my friend makes X” and “I hesitate to name a number”, I instantly knew the offer would be the exact same as what OP said their friend makes. And it was. I do think the real life example of what another company is paying helped your case, but yeah, i do think it ended up playing out as salary matching (which is fine! It was still a great negotiation and increase)

    2. OP*

      I was afraid they wouldn’t budge above $75-78k if I didn’t give a frame of reference. For what it’s worth, I’m actually younger in my field and more newly licensed than most at this level of leadership. I felt compelled to cite evidence of others in these positions. Plus, I was not terribly experienced with salary negotiating. In the end (now being the person who sees salaries), I know I would not have made more, now knowing what the outgoing Director was making. Once again, though, in other industries it may be different.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That’s fair, just found the contrast interesting – it’s easy for the peanut gallery to second-guess why you did things :)

      2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        Yeah I even wondered if that was on purpose–like, technically you weren’t ASKING for $84.5k, in case that turned out to be too much but that was actually what you were going for.

        It’s a negotiation and they’ve already said a number, so you kind of had to say some sort of number, right? It’s great that you didn’t mention the other salary and then ask for a number in between, you just let the other salary hang there. I’m not sure exactly what you could’ve done differently.

    3. MM*

      I thought this was brilliant, honestly. Classic anchor and sway. OP gave them a new number to peg to and then didn’t tie herself to it: if they matched it, great, but if not then at least the new offer is almost certainly going to be in that ballpark. (Or, if it’s not: then OP knows there’s not much point negotiating further.) It also leaves room for creativity if they couldn’t quite hit that number (benefits, vacation time, flex, etc).

  5. ecnaseener*

    The “I hesitate to name a number” bit is interesting! Is that something that usually works (at least in absence of the “I know someone who makes this specific number” part)?

    1. another idea*

      @ecnaseener*, for me when I negotiate salary I often don’t put a certain number out but a “can you do any more”? I think that puts the burden back on the employer to see how much more they can do (what’s the top of the range they can offer). I know as an employer I have made job offers with authorization to do a $X increase, and if someone came back with “can you do more”, I would offer them the max additional.

      On the other hand, as the OP points out, it might not move them as far as you were hoping. I think if you have a number in mind, it makes sense to provide a number. If not (just seeing if there’s anything else you can get), it makes sense to just ask. My experience, YMMV!

    2. LabTechNoMore*

      In my experience, countering with another number invites them to meet the half-way mark to that number, provided it’s within the same ballpark. It doesn’t matter what context the number is provided in (“I won’t go any less than $XX” or “Could you do $XX?”). The only exception being competing offers, which they are compelled to match. OP was clever to implicitly frame it as a competing salary without actually having a competing offer. I’ll have to keep that strategy in mind next time I’m negotiating.

  6. MPH Researcher*

    I think it’s really interesting that the initial offer included the closing sentence “I invite your counter offer for us to review and consider as we keep the conversation going.”

    That strikes me as someone who had to make an offer at a specific number because of HR/position grading/salary bands/equity or some reason, but was just BEGGING you to name a higher number so they could use that to negotiate a higher offer for your. Even when I’ve secretly hoped that I could pay people more and really wanted them to counter (like because I thought the pay I was authorized to offer was below what the role was worth), I’ve never actually, specifically ASKED them to make a counter offer.

    1. Elenna*

      It sounds like before the email exchange they had a Zoom call in which the HR person stated the initial 70k salary and LW had said that it wasn’t enough – so the HR person already knew LW was going to come back with a counteroffer, the email was just a summary of the discussion.

      1. OP*

        Actually funnily enough, the call was just me flat out saying “no” and “thanks for your time!” The recruiter was a bit surprised by that, and (I know now) would have been asked to follow-up with me. I was not expecting as much at all! I just completely went about my life after thinking it was done for!

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          I feel like the fact that you were totally fine declining put you in a really strong position – at that point they were begging you to reconsider, putting them in a much weaker position. On the other hand dang, I’m so used to being noncommittal in the initial call (“I’ll consider the offer and get back to you.” etc.) that it kinda shocked me you said “no” straight up! On reflection, it’s great that you know your own worth and have that kind of confidence.

  7. Elizabeth West*

    Saving this just in case. *fingers crossed* It’s really impressive to do that kind of research into the typical salaries. I never thought of asking people.

    The anonymizing details made me chuckle. Off-topic Mandela effect: the elf’s name is Hermey! I thought it was Herby for DECADES and only realized this a few years ago.

    1. Chocoholic*

      When I saw the name “Clarice” I was thinking that this was going to go in a Silence of the Lambs direction. Glad it didn’t

  8. MagentaPanda*

    I excited for the OP on negotiating a higher salary and best wishes to you in your new position. Thank you for sharing the email exchange. I must admit though that I make $80,000/year, and I definitely don’t work that hard.

  9. Tommy T*

    Congratulations OP, well done!
    Reading the offer email from the company, looks like they were expecting the counter offer. I hate all the backand forth: here is the offer, is the offer negotiable, yes it is, blah blah. Based on the streamlined process, I would say you are in a good company.

  10. College Career Counselor*

    I’m simultaneously thrilled for the LW (awesome story!) and sad that healthcare/mental health professionals aren’t compensated more generously out of the gate. Because they absolutely should be!

  11. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    Alison, if we could go back in time, I’m curious if you would have advised the LW to not mention the specific dollar amount her friend makes? Or do you think that would have been more vexing to the company to try to reevaluate things on their own without some kind of ballpark of what the LW was looking for?

    Regardless, congrats LW! I hope to one day be making anywhere near that dollar amount in my lifetime :).

    1. Dawn*

      I know I’m not Alison and you asked this question of her, but I was thinking that I wouldn’t have been quite so specific about where my information came from and maybe exactly what salary they got.

      But some of that’s hindsight based on the fact that the company came back with exactly that number.

      1. MM*

        The specificity may also have something to do with OP’s field and the discussions she’d had with the prospective employer thus far.

  12. Curious*

    As an HR person who always tries to get my candidates the highest offer possible while maintaining equity, I can’t believe the original offer was so low compared to the final offer. If they could go that high without equity issues they should have started off at a higher offer. It makes me wonder about how they determine pay for all of their staff.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. We’ve established a practice of making the highest offer we’re comfortable with and not allowing negotiations as an equity measure. This kind of jump causes huge discrepancies between people who are willing to advocate for themselves and people who are not.

      OP after you settle in I might encourage you to discuss your salary with your coworkers so they know if they should kick up some dirt.

      1. Anecdata*

        For people who hire at companies that don’t negotiate as a policy, can I ask how you communicate that with candidates?

        FWIW, at my current job the hiring manager told me they don’t negotiate and their first offer was their best. I took that at face value… and then after I’d been there a couple months I overheard another manager mention that he’d had a candidate ask for nearly 50% over the offer — and senior leadership jumped in to say we could offer him more and even come close to meeting his full ask. And that’s always left me wondering what I should do in the future if I get a “we don’t negotiate and we’re offering you X” offer

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I can’t speak for every company, but I say it basically exactly how I said it in my comment. “Here’s how we got to this number, it’s a firm offer we don’t negotiate as an equity practice” and I’m happy to answer questions about that if people have them. We also review salaries annually to make sure raises are being given according to our outlined standards, cost of living increases are reasonable (or with inflation like it is right now at least the best we can do), and no discrepancies have formed along protected class lines due to merit raised or promotions.

          It sounds like that company wasn’t sticking to their policy. You can always play chicken and see if they’ll come around if you’re willing to walk, but you’d really have to be willing to walk.

        2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          Yowch. Honestly that’s something I’d consider asking the hiring manager about.

  13. PersephoneUnderground*

    Curious to hear Alison’s take on this example- what pieces she would recommend others should use as broader models, and what pieces she thinks were successful due to more specific circumstances, for instance. @Alison care to share your opinions on this example? Not if you agree or disagree with LW’s approach, but what takeaways you think are most applicable/useful for readers?

  14. The Tin Man*

    This is all great to see, thank you!

    Just makes me annoyed by capitalism that I make slightly more than this but what I do is nowhere near as high-level or high-importance – it’s just in a field that can pay pretty well.

  15. AdAgencyChick*

    “I hesitate to email back a specific number to counter with. Instead, my ask is can you take the information above and reconsider the figure offered to me?”

    This is BRILLIANT phrasing. Well done!

  16. Tuba*

    Can’t it be as simple if I’m working stressful 70+ hour weeks I can’t do it for X salary and need Y salary? Many people are willing to exchange peaceful free time but only if they make enough it lets them meet any number of financial goals. If my salary is 60k in general I might say I’m making enough to get by. If my salary is 60k and I’m working 100 hour weeks I’d be looking for a new job real quick. I might take the 100 hour week job for six figures though. It all depends.

    1. Dawn*

      GENERALLY SPEAKING, and this isn’t universal, salaries at the offer negotiation stage are going to be mostly tied to the market.

      Depending on the position there’s some room there for ephemera but at the hiring stage, unless you are particularly in demand or there aren’t many/any other good candidates for your position, there’s a high chance they’ll move on to their next candidate.

      Sometimes it’s still worth taking that chance but you’re in a much more solid bargaining position if you can say, “Here is the market rate for this kind of work” and then possibly tacking on an additional “to reflect the benefits/what I know of the position/additional costs to me/etc I would additionally like this amount.”

  17. Greg*

    Congrats to the OP on the new job, and good work on the negotiation!

    I chuckled at the fact that you mentioned what your friend made, said you didn’t want to make a specific counteroffer, and then they came back with … exactly what your friend made.

  18. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Always ask, always negotiate! I just started a new great job, and when they made me the offer I asked if there was any wiggle room at all for the salary, despite having been told twice in interviews that it was firm at the advertised rate. They discussed and came back with another 10% more than the original offer. I was thrilled and accepted. Always ask, they could say yes!

  19. Spicy Tuna*

    This was a great example to share, so thanks to the OP for doing so. Incredibly helpful to see it in action. I do agree with the other commenters about mentioning the kids. One – because of potential discrimination and two – people having kids or not shouldn’t have anything to do with how much they are paid. The second item that stuck out was commenting about her friend making $X amount. It might have been better to say something along the lines of ” in my research of similar roles, $X seems more standard given the title, level, responsibilities”

    But, overall, excellent negotiation and congrats to the OP!

  20. Despachito*

    Thanks for sharing!

    I loved that OP gave specific reasons why they thought their salary should be higher (more time required etc.). I feel it added a lot of weight to the required increase.

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