Mary was not happy at work.  There was the 3 hours of daily commuting, a demanding home life with a new son, and unbelievable territorial infighting at the office.  Management was under immense pressure to improve their performance and the CEO was determined to protect his own turf by restructuring the organization.

negotiation strategyA nationally known consulting firm arrived and quickly spread out through the company’s campus looking at operating and financial reports, as well as interviewing all the managers and executives.  The tone and content of their questions suggested big change.  A pall of gloom and dread spread through the various office buildings.

Mary, who had built an impressive record of performance and who was trusted to deliver results, was ready to move on. The money she was earning as a Vice President was no longer worth the long drive in heavy traffic, the loss of quality family time, or the sting of her colleagues who, in trying to save their jobs, were taking shots at her.  Hers was an industry filled with outsized egos and status conscious career climbers.

Get out while you are on top was a recurring theme in her thoughts as she slogged through the endless traffic.  It was time to find a new job closer to home without all the aggravation.

Meanwhile, half way across the country, Robert was ready to move to the next level in his career. He, too, had an impressive track record, but there were limited opportunities for  professional growth or career advancement in his current company.  He was beginning to feel the early pains of frustration and impatience.  It was time, he thought, to begin looking for a new opportunity before someone noticed his growing frustration.

Two stories, similar in some ways, radically different in others.

For Mary, a new mother and the wife of a successful executive, the urge to find a new job was more about improving her quality of life and her mental health and less about her career.  For Robert, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed aspiring manager, the next step was critical to maintain his momentum.

Both Mary and Robert were successful in finding that next position.  For Mary, it meant taking a cut in pay and title, but the office of her new company was less than 10 minutes from her home.  She was also ditching the egomaniacs for a global company with a more collegial culture.  For her, the “soft” issues — those non financial aspects of a job — were more important.  When the offer of employment came, Mary was ready to take the step back.  Her negotiating stance, if you want to call it that, was focused on:

  • The company’s benefits plan
  • Understanding how the incentive plan worked
  • Clarifying her reporting relationships and performance deliverables.

She did not push for more money or any of the other trappings of rank she had enjoyed in her last job. For her, this was a job change, not a career move.

Robert, on the other hand, focused on:

  • The base salary (his target was a 10 to 15 percent increase)
  • The incentive potential
  • Benefits
  • Title
  • Scope of responsibility

He was moving from a manger’s position to that of a Director.  For him, this was a strategic career move designed to position him for the next step forward in three to five years.  He was careful to be sure that he was being treated like other executives at his level.  He asked questions – a lot of questions – about the offer in a non-threatening manner.  He did not want to come across as greedy or self important.

For Robert, the decision process for selecting which job to take — he had two offers — represented most of his “negotiations.”  Let me explain:  Until you reach the senior leadership levels, no potential employer is going to be thrilled with a candidate who believes they are so important that they can rewrite the organization’s compensation and benefit rules.  You might be able to push a little but as an entry level manager don’t push your luck.

In the end, what drives you to make a job change will also impact how you deal with an offer of employment.  It is important to understand your ulterior motives and respond accordingly.  Do not get confused.