Q: I'm going to be negotiating salary with a new boss, and this always makes me nervous. I don't want to settle for less than I should and I hear that she's a tough negotiator. Do you have advice for me?
A: Know your value to your boss, and know what you need in order to take charge of the negotiation.
The inner game
For a lot of people, especially women, negotiation raises a great deal of anxiety, and it's common to leave money on the table. So, bravo to you for recognizing this tendency in advance while you have time to avoid it.
Get centered to find your strong inner core. Take some deep breaths, letting any anxiety ease. Put your focus on the way you want to behave and be perceived. In negotiation, you want to be strong and assured. Envision that, and practice bringing that vision back if you start to feel tentative or nervous.
Create a clear vision of your desired outcome. If it is purely a salary negotiation, how much do you want? Also essential to know: How much would you accept? Consider other factors you'd like to bring into the negotiation, such as time off or extra development opportunities. These may be a primary part of your desired outcome or add-ons that would help you feel OK about taking a less-than-optimal salary.
Now, get inside your boss' head. What is the result that will create a win for her? Think about what you know about her and ask around to find out what being a tough negotiator means. It could mean she always lowballs her offer, so you need to prepare for that and not be intimidated. Also consider the reasons she wants you on her team, and be ready to play those up. This is not the time to be humble about what you bring.
The outer game
Create a structured preparation plan to get yourself ready. You can find helpful approaches in the resources that accompany this article.
As far in advance as you can, write out the terms you'd like to achieve and the supporting points that you can use to persuade your boss. Also list the challenges she could raise and the responses you'd offer.
Then practice. Out loud. It's easy to think of all the things you'll say, but practicing the physical act of speaking them can make all the difference — and it's amazing how often this step is skipped. While you don't want to sound rehearsed, you do want to sound confident.
Right before you meet, spend some time getting centered. Breathe, move around a little, maybe do some stretches so that you release any extra tension.
When you're talking to your boss, don't be afraid to ask for time. If you aren't comfortable with her offer and want to think about it, say so. It takes confidence to walk away from the table, even temporarily, and she will respect strong negotiating skills on your part.
The last word
Negotiate from a position of belief in yourself and desire to achieve a win-win, and the outcomes will follow.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.