Salary Negotiations; what you need to know

I was recently invited to speak at a webinar and when my host asked me what subject I wanted to speak on and mentioned salary negotiations, she was like, ‘I like it! That’s a very touchy subject for very many people. Are you sure you are ready for the questions?’. We laughed.

If you have ever been employed, I bet you have found yourself in this situation where you have to negotiate a package with a potential or existing employer. When it comes to salary negotiations, many people become very shy. Why? Because you are not sure whether you may be over or under quoting. In most instances in Kenya, jobs do not have the salary package on the advertisement and so it’s up to the candidate to negotiate their way to what they hope to get.

The fact of the matter is that what you will be paid by any employer depends on a number of factors, some of which may include; the size of the company, the health of the industry it’s operating in, the availability of the talent you possess, the position itself and ofcourse what you are able to negotiate. So whether you are negotiating for a new position or a salary increment, there are basic fundamental items you must keep in mind:

  1. Know your worth: you determine your worth by taking into considerations your academic qualifications, years of experience in the role, your skills and competencies and any other qualities you may possess that are required for the role.
  2. Do your research: have some background information about the company, how long they’ve been operating, the industry and health of the sector at the time, who their biggest competitors are, what’s the reporting structure of the role to determine seniority etc. This will give you a rough idea of how much you can quote.
  3. Prepare a presentation: this is very important especially when it comes to asking for salary increment. Your presentation should include what you have done in the company for a given period, your successes / achievements, areas of improvement, plans for the coming months etc. Ensure you build a strong business case that communicates to the employer the value they are looking to see. There has to be a return on investment. If the employer fails to see the value you have brought, is bringing and intends to continue bringing, your request is considered an additional burden as opposed to an investment. Your years of service to the company should be the last thing you mention as the reason your salary should be revised (I personally prefer you leave that out as I consider it irrelevant). It is the quality of those years that you should be discussing, not the number.
  4. Be flexible and open minded: Do not be focused only on the basic pay. Stay open to other benefits that could come with the position that may be beneficial to you like health cover, transport allowance, airtime allowance, paid vacation, flexible working arrangements etc. All the above if added into the salary could be higher than the basic amount you had intended to ask for.
  5. Do not issue ultimatums: Ultimatums close all the doors and windows to effective negotiations. Infact, it’s no longer a negotiation but rather a take it or leave it affair. No employer appreciates ultimatums no matter how great they are. In addition to that, it’s a very risky affair as you may end up on the loosing side as they employer may take it as a threat. No one likes being threatened. The only time you may issue an ultimatum is when you are sure you are okay with getting a “NO” as an answer and in this case then, you have a fall back plan which may include quitting the job or not taking up an offer if it’s still at the point of recruitment.
  6. Do not fear walking away: When you have done everything you can possibly do and you feel in your heart of hearts that the offer being presented to you is way below your worth and you’d not be at peace with taking it up, respectfully ‘walk away from the table’. It’s nothing personal, just that you and your potential or existing employer could not agree. It doesn’t make you a bad person either but someone who understands their worth and doen’t want to settle for less.

All the above factors taken into consideration, as a candidate or existing employee, you must remember that using personal problems as a reason to ask for more money is probably the worst way to go about it. That you have just added another wife and family financial responsibilities have increased is absolutely non of your employer’s business. They simply don’t care! And I mean this in most respectful but realistic way. Or that the cost of living has gone up and that’s the only factor you are bringing to the table to negotiate is a No! As I have stated above, you must always build a business case. Let your (potential) employer see the value you are bringing and plan to bring on board so that it can be tied to the financial aspect.

Finally, the part most people forget is this: if it is not written, it did not happen! Verbal salary increment promises from your boss remain just that. Promises! Selective amnesia is a very serious disease especially when it comes to money. Doctors are yet to find a cure for it. In the meantime however, remember that people will ‘forget’ what they said very easily especially when it’s convenient for them to do so. Whether it’s an offer you have negotiated during recruitment or it’s a salary increment offer, always ensure that it is documented for future reference. If the potential employer indicates that your salary will be revised after successful completion of probation period, that too needs to go into the Contract, otherwise, consider it just another one of those nice bedtime stories they tell babies at night before they fall asleep. It has been tested and tried in most organizations that when such promises are made verbally, by the end of the probation, the story is always different. Ask them to put it down in writing!

All the best in your next salary negotiation.


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