Insider Secrets of Pay Negotiation

Ever wonder what’s going on inside an organization when you’re in the process of pay negotiation? Here’s my insider’s perspective, based on my many (many!) years of helping companies figure out how to pay people.

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It’s not personal

It absolutely feels personal, because your pay impacts so many facets of your life, but it’s not. How much an organization is willing to pay says a whole lot more about the value of the job to the organization than about what you’re worth, personally.

I was talking with a woman the other day who was telling me that she had multiple job offers (yay!), but with wildly different starting salaries. She wondered why some places valued her more than others.

After getting more details, it sounded like the different companies wanted to hire her for different levels of jobs. They all valued her and her experience (enough to offer her a job!), but each organization valued the job they wanted her to do very differently. That’s an important distinction.

Companies are kinda mercenary (and you should be, too). Bottom line, the company’s job is to get the best talent (that’s you!) in exchange for a competitive pay package. Your job is to get the most from the company that they’re willing to give in exchange for what you’ll contribute to them. Business. Not personal.

So yeah, a bit mercenary-ish. But that said, recruiters and headhunters advocate better for people they have a connection with, and nobody likes to deal with jerks. If you can get into the mindset of negotiating on behalf of someone you like, and of curiosity, it can be easier to take the emotion out of the negotiation.

Some stuff just can’t be negotiated

(and that’s also not personal)

Especially in larger companies, salary & benefits elements can be policy-driven. This can include who’s covered with benefits, bonus percentages, 401K contribution, stock treatment, and stuff like that. Making exceptions to some policies can put the benefit plan itself at risk with government regulators, so that may be a reason you’re not able to negotiate on specific things.

Some companies are simply more flexible than others when it comes to pay, too. Smaller organizations can often have flexibility with the mix of elements in the pay package, trading more of one thing for less of another. But larger organizations often have more & different pay & benefits and less flexibility about mixing.

There will also be things at play internally that you don’t/can’t/won’t have visibility. Internal equity (how people are paid relatively to each other inside the organization) can often be a factor. If your salary requirements are higher than others doing the same job, that can be tough for the company to accommodate. If they’re higher than your new boss’ pay, it can be a dealbreaker. And that’s not saying you’re wrong about what you’re asking for, but it can make things a mismatch between you and the company.

Know, too, that with equal pay coming to the forefront, there may not be much wiggle room with starting rates, either. But that shouldn’t stand in the way of asking for what you want, because . . .

Lots of stuff can be negotiated

The most common things for folks to negotiate include:

  • Start date
  • What’s included in a relocation package
  • Base pay
  • Sign-on bonus or stock
  • Paid time off (especially in the first year)

When negotiating, start with the big/ongoing stuff first (base pay, bonus, annual paid time off) and move to the less important/one-time things afterward (sign-on bonus, relocation costs, vacation in the first few months). And when I say “important,” I mean “important to you” and what you stand for. It’s cool if you care more about vacation time than base pay, or vice versa, or something else. You do you.

And just because you could negotiate something, it doesn’t mean you should. Pay particular attention to how the negotiations are progressing, and remember that negotiation fatigue is a thing.

For more tips on how to negotiate pay and why your negotiations might not be working well, check out my blog posts.

What’s your big “aha” about an insider’s view of pay? Tell us in the comments below!

“Never Eat Alone,” by Keith Ferrazzi: Book Review

Want the ultimate guide to connecting with people at work? Read Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. There’s about 3 books’ worth of great advice here, but my biggest takeaways are:

  • Service first
  • Be authentic
  • Persist
  • Get creative
  • Follow up like a boss
Ever wonder how some people seem to be connected with EVERYBODY? Check my book review of 'Never Eat Alone,' by Keith Ferrazzi, and find out how they do it! #networking #communications #peoplegenius Click To Tweet

Service first.

Ferrazzi’s networking & communications foundation is built on service to others: we should seek to serve others before serving ourselves. If you’re just in a conversation for what you can get out of it, you’re missing the point.

By helping others, they’re more likely to reciprocate when you need it. Not to mention the fact that you’re generating a bit of positive cosmic energy. Woo, but true.

Be authentic.

Make sure any networking or other communications you do are rooted in what you stand for. People can tell when you’re being fake, and you can’t build trust with them from that space.

If you’re not a naturally exuberant glad-hander, don’t try to fake being one. You can still connect with people, no matter your personality dynamic.


When people don’t respond to an email or call, it’s not because they hate you (!). Folks are incredibly busy, and with our 24/7 inflow of information, emails, social media, calls, meetings…well, you get the picture.

That said, Ferrazzi advises against being a pest, and the line between persistent and pest-y can get pretty fine there. Persist, and be self-aware.

Get creative.

With connecting, sometimes the easiest way in isn’t the front door, so to speak. Getting to know gatekeepers (like executive admins), connecting via a mutual friend’s introduction, or building a bridge through your kids’ Brownie troop can all be great ways to meet and serve.

And if there’s someone you’d like to get to know, make a plan on how to get to know them, don’t just leave it to chance. It won’t always work, but what if it does?

Follow up like a boss.

Since connecting is faster/easier/better when there’s trust between people, follow up is a crucial part of the equation. And in this crazy world, it’s a great way to differentiate yourself. Most people don’t because they’re super-busy & don’t prioritize it.

For those of us in consulting roles, being known as a “do-what-you-say-you-will” person is a critical piece of our personal brands. So follow up, say thank you, send a note when you think of someone, and for heaven’s sake, when you tell someone you’re going to do something, do that thing.

What’s your best networking/communications/connection tip? Tell us in the comments below!

p.s. Want even more tips on networking? Check out my blog post.

Network Like the Pro You Are

Networking – ugh! It can feel so fake and weird.  What to do? Network like a pro with these tips for:

  • Before the event
  • During the even
  • After you network
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Have a plan.

Know what you want to get out of the networking event. Is it a recommendation for a vendor (general contractor, anyone?), or a lead for a job, or an idea for a blog topic?

Know your elevator speech.

It doesn’t have to be long & involved (in fact, it shouldn’t be). Write it down, and practice saying it a zillion times until you get the words just the way you want them. Include what you do, who you serve, and the results your clients/customers get. This is a great approach, whether you work for a large firm, small organization, or you’re an entrepreneur.

Know what you’ll wear.

I know, I know, but it’s important. You want to wear something that’s comfortable and also is consistent with the personal brand you want to portray. Make sure it doesn’t require any major adjusting when you sit down or stand up or write on a business card (because you will be doing all of those things while networking).


Look at the person you’re talking to.

Nobody wants to see your eyes darting around the room, looking for someone More Important and/or Cooler Than You. Seriously. The person in front of you is the most important one at that moment, so treat them like it.

Be curious.

Ask interesting questions that will help you get to know your network-ee better. “What do you do?”: not interesting. “What’s the toughest problem your industry is facing right now?” or “What’s the best thing about working where you do?”: more interesting. And more likely to get authentic answers.

Carry a pen.

This will come in handy – you can write a little note on any business cards you collect with any follow-up action the moment you’re done networking with your person (who you’ve looked at, not annoyingly, the entire time you’ve talked with them). A side note, if you’re getting new business cards made, make sure they’re easy to write on.


Know how you’ll capture your information.

I have an app on my phone that lets me scan a business card, and it’ll automatically load it to my business software. That’s a huge time-saver for me! But you can also keep the paper cards in a file or hand-enter information into your address book. Whatever works for you!

Have a follow-up plan.

You won’t need to take action with every single business connection you make, but you’ll definitely have some. It might be sharing a link to a lecture you spoke about or an article you discussed, or it could be adding someone to your newsletter list (note: that’s only cool if you have their express permission). Maybe it’s setting up a phone call.

Whatever your little scribblings on people’s cards say, make sure you have time the day after the event – or the day of, if you can – to do your follow up. Being meticulous about your follow up will put you well ahead of most people, and will help you add “a person of their word” to your personal brand.

What’s your favorite networking tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Joy, Gratitude, and Abundance…at Work

I see a lot of people working hard in their personal lives at getting more joy, gratitude, and abundance. Which is AWESOME. But why limit it to your personal life? What is possible when joy, gratitude, and abundance come to work with you?

How do you get more joy, gratitude, and abundance at work? It's easy! #joy #gratitude #abundance Click To Tweet


Hearing a baby laughing, watching your dog play, smelling freshly-baked cookies, can all bring a sense of delight. But those are most likely to happen away from work rather than at work. What can bring joy there, especially when you’re having a rough time of it? Try stacking up some micro-joy at work by seeing things that light you up, getting outside, and being a little silly.

Make sure you have images that make you smile – of your favorite people, places, and things – where you can catch glimpses of them during the workday. My favorite “glimpse-catchers” are my phone & computer screen savers, bulletin boards, on my desk, and inside a notebook.

You can also change your environment at work, even temporarily. It’s great to get more light, and to get outside if you can. (Ever have a walking meeting? They’re great!)

Play, acting silly, or elsewise being a goofball, can bring you joy, too. Share your kid’s favorite knock-knock joke, wear silly socks, or waltz down the hall, and give yourself a dose of joy.


Gratitude at work can sometimes feel a little awkward. But as more and more people practice thankfulness in the workplace, it makes it SO much nicer to be at work! And it’s a huge part of compassion, a key leadership skill.

Should I thank someone for doing the job that their employer already pays for? (Yes. Full stop.)

Is it super-weird to write a thank you note at work? (No. But it is rare, and it’ll help you stand out. If it’s consistent with your personal brand — who you want to be seen as at work — go for it!)

Is it dumb to write about work stuff in my gratitude journal? (Absolutely not. But don’t force it. Forcing it is dumb.)


Scarcity, rather than abundance, is the norm at work. We never seem to have enough time, resources, or even patience to accomplish what we’d like to. How, then, to bring abundance into the work environment? The best place to start is a mindset shift.

One of my favorite sayings is, “you can do anything, you just can’t do everything.” Bringing focus and intention to your work can free you to do anything (abundance thinking).

Competition, a la Highlander (“there can be only one!”) is the ultimate scarcity thinking. By encouraging collaboration and shared goals, it’s possible for your entire team to succeed. At the same time. Yes!

Need more joy, gratitude, and abundance at work? What will be your first step to getting it? Tell us in the comments below!

“Joyful,” by Ingrid Fetell Lee: Book Review

You may wonder why on earth a coach and management consultant chose a book on joy to review. In my practice, the topic of increasing and enhancing joy comes up over and over – both for my leadership coaching clients and for the companies I consult with.

So I got curious about joy, and picked up Joyful, by designer Ingrid Fetell Lee. In the book, she details ten esthetics of joy: energy, abundance, freedom, harmony, play, surprise, transcendence, magic, celebration, and renewal.

What's the key to becoming more joyful? Check my book review of Ingrid Fetell Lee's book, 'Joyful.' #joyful #abundance #celebration #bookreview Click To Tweet

I’ve split them into categories: visual, feeling, and experience, although all of these have elements of all three.


We take in tons of visual cues that can literally shift our moods to become more joyful and expansive. Fetell Lee talks about color studies showing higher positive energy and substantially less crime when vibrant paint colors are used in schools and in crime-ridden urban areas.

Seeing abundance (tons of the same thing together, like a bouncy ball pit) and harmony (balance and symmetry, as with chorus line dancers and snowflakes) also trigger deep satisfaction for us.


In addition to visual cues, things we feel can bring joy. Freedom, which we feel by being in open spaces or in nature (or by taking off high-heeled shoes, in my opinion!), helps people feel happier, as does transcendence, which Fetell Lee uses to describe the feeling of being up high or feeling lighter than air.

And play, whether it’s in the form of organized games or just goofing off brings joy, too.


Experiencing surprise (like from a jack-in-the-box), contrast (like rainbow-striped socks paired with a business suit), or whimsy (like a plastic flamingo in a front yard), can break us out of our routines and create pops of excitement. Same goes for anything that appears to be magical.

And Joyful shows that both the act of celebration and renewal (blossoming, growth, and newness) spark happiness and delight.

Joyful also includes deep questions and worksheets at the end of the book designed to help you understand the specifics of joy to you – don’t miss those!

The one piece that feels like it’s missing from Joyful is relationships. For me, they bring the most joy of all! Better understanding the things that spark bliss in you can help you in your quest for becoming more joyful.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of joy? Share it with us in the comments below.