Negotiation At Work: What To Know

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Whoo! This is a topic that I know a lot of people like to shy away from. Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Am I really writing this?” It’s like there’s this taboo on dealing with money as it pertains to your career. Lord knows how many times I have accepted less than because I was afraid of broaching the subject and looking greedy!

Negotiating is a lot of work! It’s also pretty scary and intimidating and as a woman, it’s even more intimidating! So many emotions and thoughts run through my head when I think of negotiating: “Will this make me seem greedy?”, “Will I be labeled as only caring about the money and not the actual role?”And even worse, sometimes your manager or HR or whoever you are negotiating with makes you think maybe you do only care about the money. You’re not alone so don’t take it personal, well at least not really personal. The best advice I ever got about negotiation was, “Look, it’s your career — you need to steer the ship! You are your strongest advocate.” In my current role at Shopify, I do a lot of negotiating. I negotiate with potential and current payment partners on agreements daily and I learn something new every time. There’s so much that goes into it that you can even take courses to learn how to be a master negotiator (there’s a course at Harvard that costs $1900!). Since I don’t have $1900 to take a course on negotiation, I have been learning a lot from my role and decided I’ll share some tips for a successful negotiation:


1.RELEVANT DATA IS KING

You need to come armed and prepared! This should be simple but this is where a lot of people lose the negotiation before it even begins. If you don’t have data, go back to the drawing board until you do. Get relevant data on the current ecosystem and your experience as it pertains to this. What does the current market look like for your role? For your industry? Figure out what you bring to the table in terms of experience and your kickass (is this appropriate for LinkedIn?) personality! I remember when I went through my first salary negotiation and I was not prepared at all. I was stuttering and I couldn’t bring forth relevant data to back up my ask. I made it too personal. Are you saying spending thousands of dollars on a Masters degree isn’t enough?! Suffice to say, I didn’t win that negotiation!

2.“I DESERVE”

Yes, it’s about you, but you should never utter the words “I deserve.” It makes you appear entitled. There’s nothing worse than making a negotiation about you. Use the data you gathered to speak to your employer about making an informed decision. Why should you get an increase in your salary or total compensation package? Tie it back to the role and the impact you’re making. It’s not about what you deserve, it’s about what’s reasonable for the role and your level of expertise. Focus on closing that gap!

3.UNDERSTAND WHAT DRIVES YOUR OPPONENT

Ever played chess? Me neither, but based on what I’ve heard and seen on TV (horrible, I know!), understanding what your opponent is planning to do and interfering with their plan is an important skill. Know what the person you are negotiating with finds important and valuable. What do they care about? What are their goals? How can you use this to your advantage? I always make sure to understand the person I’m negotiating with and the data gathered in step one is also beneficial to understanding this. Not only does this make me more prepared, it also makes me feel at ease knowing whether or not we are on the same page. If we’re not, I try to understand how we can come to a place of understanding.

4.KNOW YOUR BATNA

This is your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. In Roger Fisher and William Ury’s Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, your BATNA is defined as:

The only standard which can protect you from accepting terms that are too unfavourable and from rejecting terms it would be in your interest to accept.


You should not be afraid to walk away from a negotiation! In April, the Black Employee Resource Group @ Shopify hosted a networking event where I moderated a panel. One of the guests on the panel gave his story about negotiating and it was simply inspiring. By walking into a negotiation knowing what his BATNA was, he was able to 1) understand his worth, 2) know what he wanted out of the negotiation and 3) walk away with a higher offer!

I always went into negotiations afraid of losing and thus, I was not willing to walk away. A few jobs ago around when I had just finished my undergrad, I accepted a low salary because I was afraid of losing the job offer. I didn’t like my current role and I had to choose between a lower salary and staying at the current position. But honestly, it made it worse. As much as I hated my current job, I was used to it and knew what I was doing and I could have just kept looking but instead I put myself in a situation where I ended up resenting the new company for it. At the end of the day, my situation didn’t really change — I was still on the losing end. Having a good BATNA increases your negotiating power. Had I known what my BATNA was, things might have turned out differently.

Negotiating is intimidating and it will take time to truly understand the right way to negotiate. As a professional, it is extremely important to know how to negotiate. This will be your strongest weapon as you navigate your career. Get a group of friends and begin practising. During my Masters program at the University of Waterloo, we had classes where we practiced negotiation skills to truly understand your BATNA. It was extremely helpful and has informed me in my current role at Shopify.

I am nowhere near where I want to be but I wanted to share as I navigate this journey of life.

Leave a comment below - I am more than willing to chat and give some more insights.

Written by Victory Omotayo