Posted by: davidhayden | April 27, 2010

Supervisor Beware! Your first salary negotiation is the most important one

You are frustrated.  After all you have done, all you can do and are willing to do, you are treated like a second class citizen.  Why don’t your employers know you are a person they can count on?

Does your company have your number?

Numbers matter in a company, but few are as important to your personal career as your first negotiated salary.

Negotiating salary, particularly when you are out of work, is a tough thing to think about.  And even tougher to do.  All you want is the job right?  If you just get your foot in the door, you can prove yourself and the rest will take care of itself.

That is true, things will take care of themselves, but not necessarily in your favor.   Regardless, of how good you think that first offer is, don’t be too quick to take it.

Your future salary, upward mobility, and level of respect all start with the first salary negotiation.

How you handle the first offer will determine how you will be treated and respected

First offers are first offers; not necessarily first and final offers.  Even if it is the best offer you can possibly hope for, you owe it to yourself and the company to negotiate for more.

Here’s why.  When you eagerly jump at the first offer, the first thing that will pop into the employer’s mind will be, “I should have offered him/her less.”   What happens when an employer thinks you would have worked for less?  You know the answer to this, their perception of you and what you have to offer goes down.

Perceived value – the trap that keeps you under paid

When your “stock” goes down, so to speak, so does your respect.  Accordingly, if the employer thinks you could have been bought for less, the other side of that coin is they start thinking, you are over paid.  Under these circumstances, it is unlikely you will ever get more than a token raise.

The part that is bad for the company is that when they devalue your contribution, your ability to contribute is similarly diminished.   Your opinions will matter less.

Many people feel, and justifiably so, that you have to move around from job to job, or department to department, if you are going to advance.  The reason this is justifiable is because, when you are first hired or start in a department, a value judgment is made.

If you start at $20K annual salary, you will always be considered a $20k employee.  Even if inflation doubles the price of everything, your employer will probably never cough up $40k to keep you current.

So the cycle continues, the employer thinks less of you and relegates to you to “just another over paid employee.”   You get frustrated and wonder why in the world you should put in any more than anyone else.  As you put in less, your self-worth as an employee sinks.  Eventually, you don’t even value your contribution to the company.

if you don’t value yourself, no one else will (or if they do, you won’t notice)

Pretty soon you are looking for another job . . . one where people will really respect your talents.

One of the worst times to be looking for a job is when you have let your existing or previous job beat you down.  When your esteem is low you don’t present yourself as prime employee material.  That leads to a lower offer that you might feel compelled to take because, that is all you feel you are worth.

There is an even more insidious side to all of this.  When you have been ravaged by a job and have low self-esteem, you forget what a good contributor you can be.

You might even stay at the job and get a new boss that does appreciate you.  Your new boss may try to compliment and encourage you, but all you hear is manipulation.  You suspect they are just trying to keep you around because you are cheap labor.  Or, maybe they are just using you for fodder to throw under the bus if things go wrong.

And to think this all started because you jumped at the first offer.     Scary isn’t it?

What’s interesting is that when the potential employer struggles to get you in the first place, it paints a completely different picture.  You are more likely viewed as a rare commodity and something to be protected.  They will have a “what do we have to do to keep him/her?” mentality instead of a “I know we could have had them for less” resentment.

Do what you think you need to do, but do it with a sense of confidence and expectation.  If you perform up to your abilities, you should be a valued employee.  Remember,  your perceived value starts with your first salary negotiation.



  1. Great article!
    Providing specific reasons is the key to getting your pay increase. Remember everyone wants more pay and greater benefits. A pay rise is just like a negotiation. You have to provide something in return to receiving something.

    • Thanks for your great comment.

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