Workers are now in a position to negotiate for more money because of a tight labor market, but most people aren't, a new survey says — and as a result, they likely are earning less than they could.


Many folks are afraid to ask for more, and women may be even more reluctant to ask than men.

"People tend to think it's hard to do," said Trisha Plovie, regional vice president of human resource consulting firm Robert Half in Troy, Mich. "It can be uncomfortable to negotiate in an interview situation and some people may be fearful that by negotiating, the company may decide not to make them an offer."

But, Plovie said, right now, the labor market is tight, which means that employees have the leverage to find jobs, earn more and it's less likely that they will be passed over — or told no — than it was just a few years ago.

"Candidates are really in the driver's seat," Plovie said.

In December, the latest month the data are available, the national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent.

The survey by Robert Half asked 2,700 people whether they negotiated their salary and broke down the results into 27 metro areas.

The top metro area, as you might expect for negotiations, was New York, with 55 percent of professionals negotiating their salary; the city at the bottom was Indianapolis at 24 percent. Cities in the middle were Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Minneapolis, with 48 percent, 41 percent, 36 percent, 35 percent and 26 percent of professionals negotiating pay, respectively.

The overall survey results also suggested that gender and age affects who negotiates.

Of professionals who did negotiate for more money, 46 percent of them were men, compared with 34 percent of women; and younger workers, the so-called millennial generation who are between 18 and 34, were more likely to negotiate than older generations of workers.

Plovie said that younger workers, especially those graduating college, are entering "super hot employment markets." They likely feel confident because they are out of school and may be working with a recruiter who can help them negotiate — or negotiate for them.

Chanel Hampton, the founder and president of Strategic Community Partners in Detroit, said unlike their parents or grandparents, millennials don't plan or expect to stay at one company their whole careers, so they want to get as much pay as early as they can.

"For many people, it boils down to confidence," Hampton said. "A lot of people don't realize negotiating is an option."

Ursula Adams — a leadership consultant and owner of the SheHive, a women's development center in Ferndale — said that in more than 25 years of working in human resources at the United Way and Compuware, she never negotiated her salary and now regrets it.

"I think how much more I could have done," she said. "The work I did was worth more."

Her advice: "Be OK with the uncomfortable conversation and be OK with what could potentially be an uncomfortable result. It's much easier now that you can ask what you are worth because of the job market. There are other jobs to be had and its easier to start your own thing now."