Can you be rejected for negotiating too hard?
A woman identified as “W” received a job offer from Nazareth College. Armed with advice like, “Don’t be afraid to negotiate,” she responded. Although she was thrilled with the offer, she said, she wondered if a few changes could be made. She asked for a higher salary, maternity leave and some reductions to her teaching load.
The university withdrew the offer, suggesting that W’s requests showed she was not aligned with their mission.
When W’s story went viral, many people criticized the college. Others criticized W’s approach to negotiating. Although she opened with a warm expression of thanks, she presented a numbered list of demands as a set of bullets. She didn’t seem aware of the culture and limits of this particular college.
What caught my eye was a reference to misguided advice and a suggestion that W was influenced by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Some time ago I created a video, “Dangerous Career Advice In The News,” which you may remember. You can watch it here:
Published advice rarely gives you a context or a set of guidelines. Sometimes the advice isn’t even meant to be serious.
This week’s New York Times magazine includes a mini-feature on their “One Page Magazine section:” How To Reboot Your Career After 40 by Marlo Thomas. Ms. Thomas suggests you find your dream, find resources “within yourself,” and team up with people around you to “do this together.” She concludes, “Sometimes two heads make better than one.” (No, that’s not a typo. We don’t know what the two heads are supposed to make.)
It’s hard to imagine a more ludicrous discussion of career change and it’s not clear why Marlo Thomas chose to address this topic. The Times must have been desperate to fill that space.
You find bad advice everywhere. A female advertising executive wrote a book on her own climb to the top. She encouraged readers to be proactive. Move to a vacant office. Announce you’ll be changing your hours. It worked for her, but backfired for “Tom,” who tried this tactic in a different industry with a different company culture. He was fired on the spot.
Business owners fall into the same trap. “Iris” heard a tip on a teleseminar: why not team up with another business owner to share resources? Great idea, she said.
She called me immediately with a request to share my teleseminar recording service. Unfortunately, this type of service doesn’t lend itself to sharing; there’s a lot of coordination and most business owners wouldn’t want to share access to all their past recordings.
Additionally, she simply assumed that I was eager to save a few dollars a month. She hadn’t considered my business in relation to hers.
Good negotiators begin by knowing their own strengths and opportunities. They understand the risks and they know when they can walk away.
Finally, always make sure your offer has been communicated in writing. Companies do change and withdraw offers. I’ve talked to quite a few people who found the written offer looked quite different from the verbal one.
One of my business school classmates found himself in this position. After he asked about the discrepancies, his offer was withdrawn. He felt he had escaped a potentially bad situation. I think he was right.
Have you ever followed bad advice you read in a newspaper or magazine? Or experience a change in the terms of a job offer? Reply below!