Salary Negotiations

This is a draft. These ideas or not thought-out. I don’t even know if I believe them yet. I’m just spitballing and thinking things through.

I’ve recently accepted a job with Keen.io, which has had me thinking a lot about the hiring/interviewing process. The interview process sucks in pretty much all regards, and that’s a hard problem, but there’s one part of obtaining a new job that I find unnecessarily stressful: salary negotiations. Pretty much for any job, but especially for engineers, it is commonly accepted that you’re foolishly leaving money on the table if you’re not negotiating your salary. Intial offers are given under the assumption that you negotiate. Common thinking says that the only reason you wouldn’t negotiate your salary is because either you don’t know you should, or you’re too chicken to try.

I’m writing this post with future employers (hopefully those don’t exist for me. <3 you, Keen) in mind. This is often an awkward and aggressive conversation to have, and it’ll be easier if I’ve got this in written form.

Here’s the deal: I’m not negotiating with you.

The common and simple thinking of the salary negotiation process paints the employer and employee as two opposing forces. They want opposite things. The employee wants to make as much money as possible, and the employer wants to spend as little money as possible. It’s simple incentives.

But that’s dumb, and simply not true. Companies invest a ludicrous amount of money in their employees - paid for both in valuable time and real dollars. New employees need equipment - desk, laptop, swag, software, office space, etc. - and they need training - potentially months of lead time before they actually start generating value. None of that is even considering the amount of money spent to convince that person that they might want to work there.

So let’s be clear - it costs an incredible amount of money for a company to hire someone - way more than the float on that person’s salary range. If a new hire quits their job - say they negotiated a better salary at a different company - the company loses all of the money they’ve invested. They also lose the time it takes to hire and onboard a replacement. That’s real money.

So economically it doesn’t make sense. The simplest bargaining chip for keeping an employee onboard is their salary. It would be ridiculous to lose an employee over something as simple as salary. But the economics aren’t the most important part, here. The real reason I’m not going to negotiate with you is because of the relationship I want to have with you.

Our goal here - both yours and mine - is that at the end of the day I should work for your company. Nine of my sixteen-ish waking hours every day will be spent devoting myself to the continued success of your company. I’m going to spend that time not only working for you, but interacting with you. Simply put, the relationship between me and my employer is one of the most significant relationships in my life. I want that relationship to be postiive - built on trust and a desire for mutual gain.

I want you, my employer, to care about how happy I am. I want you to make sure that I never have to worry about feeding my family. I want it to be important to you that I can afford the comforts that I consider necessary. In return, I want to achieve and surpass the goals that you have set. I want to make you the most money I possibly can. I want to build a strong culture of excellent teammates that deliver wonderful results to our customers.

This is mutual. We’re a team. We’re working together to meet each other’s goals.

Teammates don’t argue over inconsequential amonts of money.

So I won’t negotiate with you. There is a certain amount of money that I need to make in order to support my family and enjoy the few comforts I require. It’s not a crazy amount of money. I don’t desire to be a millinoaire. I just need enough money to cover these basics. I will not ask for more. You can trust me.

I expect you to offer me the amount of money that you think I am worth. I expect this number will be closely related to the amount of value that I will provide you. Value probably has something to do with the going rate for the type of work that I do, but I’ll let you do the math. I trust you.

If I say no to the salary you offer me, it means you’ve either offered less than what I need to make, or that I believe you are offering me less than I am worth to you. I’m fairly good at estimating that stuff. If I say no to your offer, I am confident you will know for which reason I declined.

But I look forward to saying yes. I look forward to not negotiating. I look forward to trusting you, and building an awesome company where salary isn’t a stressor in our relationship.

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