Salary negotiations redux: ALWAYS negotiate for more. Always.

Catalina reconsiders

This Monday morning, I thought I’d draw your attention to a new blog run by some librarians and archivists who write about workplace issues and are standing up for professional standards and against the casualization of academic labor.  And, it’s got a great name:  You Ought to Be Ashamed (or Eating Our Young.)  Check out “Why You Should Always Ask for More Money” by Catalina, who tells a sad tale of her first job offer and her attempts to negotiate a better salary:

Shortly after finishing library school, I interviewed for a great position with an archive associated with a religious organization.  The interview went really well, I liked the supervisor, and everyone was cool with me not going to church.  Just an hour after the interview, as I was boarding my plane, I got a call offering me the job.  Sweet, my first job offer!  All is flowers and sunshine until they mention the starting salary is $32,000.  Even right out of school that number was way too low for me to move across the country for, but on the call they mention the details can be negotiated.  I get on the plane, go home, and after much debate decide I really liked the position and if I can get them up to $36k I’ll take it.  It’s not like I became an archivist to get rich.

Despite this being my first salaried job offer ever, I was ready to negotiate and get the money.  My school had an active career services department and a few months ago I had attended a salary negotiation workshop.  I knew how to tell a potential employer I was worth more, how to ask firmly but nicely, and that if they couldn’t raise the salary to ask about relocation or conferences.  I call the supervisor back, tell her I’m really excited but the salary is on the low side.  Immediately, before I can talk about how much I want or why I deserve it, the supervisor offers me $35,000.  Looking back, it’s obvious that was how much she was authorized to give me, at the time I was completely thrown as the script I rehearsed in my head didn’t have a scenario for “they offered me money before I say anything.”

In a far less articulate way than planned, I manage to convey I was actually hoping for more, which is inline with the market, my skills, blah, blah.  Supervisor says she needs to check and will get back to me.  She calls me back, can’t do it, $35k’s the max.  I think about it, decide it’s close enough to what I wanted and that I’ll accept, but that I am going to use the tip from that workshop to see if I can get that extra $1,000 in relocation or a trip to SAA.  I ask for that, supervisor tells me she has to check and will call me back.  Finally, she calls back and let’s me know that based on my high concern for salary I’m probably not the candidate they wanted and that they are rescinding the job offer.  Bam, ask for a trip to SAA and lose a job.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  how exactly is this a story about why one should negotiate for more money, when it’s also a story about how this woman lost a job offer by asking for some crummy one-time conference funding?  Catalina explains it all:

Moral of the story: Archives are not like normal institutions and may feel threatened when you try to act like a professional, but you probably don’t want to work there anyway.  Also, the career services people who put on the negotiation workshop assured me I am the only person they have ever heard of having an offer rescinded.  So you shouldn’t read this and think that it’s a bad idea to negotiate salary – you should just read this and understand that archives sometimes don’t work the same way as everywhere else.  This is why we work to set expectations of professionalism; if you’re in charge of hiring, do a better job than the people who hired you.

I’ll give that a hells to the yes.  Had Catalina not asked for that conference money and just accepted the job, this story gives us some clues about the kind of workplace she’d be joining.  As some of you may remember, I’ve told my story about my salary negotiations for my first job, and what a mistake it was not to listen to take the anger, hostility, and unprofessional behavior of the Chair of that department seriously.  Because, readers–I took the job, and guess what?  I signed up for more anger, hostility, and unprofessional behavior!

Catalina saved her bacon by being “greedy,” friends.  I’m glad she recognizes it.  Here’s something else for the rest of you to discuss:  Catalina states above that the archives in question were “associated with a religious organization.”  My first employer was a Catholic university.  Are people at religously affiliated institutions especially bad with job candidates who try to negotiate better salaries and perks?  Are they especially bad with young women who try to do this?  Discuss.

0 thoughts on “Salary negotiations redux: ALWAYS negotiate for more. Always.

  1. When my husband tried to negotiate for more money, he was told that the offer was already as high as his employer could go at the assistant level in his department. So he said okay. Only to discover that two female colleagues, also new to his department, were both being paid more than he was. I guess he should have tried harder…


  2. Now, I’ve never heard of women being paid more, unless your husband’s department is in a field that has trouble attracting and retaining women faculty. Rest assured: he’ll catch up and surpass them soon!


  3. Like Historiann, my first job was at a small Catholic university where I was badly paid and badly treated. When I received an outside offer they did not even bother to counter it. So off I went to a much better job. But my salary again stagnated with no merit pay or even automatic raises with promotion. For personal reasons I have not tried to get outside offers (although this may change). So the only way I could get a raise is to accept a big service responsibility. Marching into the Dean’s office and demanding an “equity review” (vs. a dollar amount, good advice given to me by a senior woman) did get me a raise. But now I’m half way into an academic year in a service position that is exhausting and frustrating. This is a problem that the ever-brilliant Tenured Radical has pointed out in several blog entries. The only way to get a raise these days is to either receive an outside offer, or take on significant service responsibilities. Still negotiating with the Dean was good experience and I would urge anyone asked to be chair, run a program etc. etc. to use the opportunity wisely.


  4. Catalina is right – salary negotiation does depend a lot on the organization, and how they do it can tell you a lot about whether you really want to work there. I’m all for negotiation normally, but at my last job, I had gone in saying I hoped for $40,000, but realized the recession was on, it was a small non-profit, et cetera. Their first offer? $40,800. The extra $800 made it work out to even numbers for the office manager, who wrote the checks and did basic accounting. That office was small, and they worked really hard to make sure everyone was happy (and healthy – good insurance). I don’t regret where I am now, but I’ll miss that company, and I’d recommend working there to anyone.


  5. All good advice. I was clueless about negotiating when I took my first faculty position, and ended up just being lucky that my institution has rules that keep salaries “trued up” over time at various levels of seniority. In fact, at one point, all of the more senior assistant professors got huge raises because the institution raised salaries for incoming assistant professors in response to perceived market forces.


  6. When I was a graduate student I was told outright that women in my field tend to not negotiate as hard as men do – they end up with a lower starting salary and hence a lower salary overall because of merit increases based on a % of their starting salary. So when my first offer came I did negotiate a higher salary, although I didn’t get much (just a bump up 1 level for my teaching experience). I negotiated much harder for other things that I ranked as being “more important” to my career, namely start-up funds and lab space.

    The reaction I received was mostly surprise from my department that I was going to negotiate with them, but they were open to it. Later I learned that the female faculty members in my department were impressed with my “hard” negotiations and that, furthermore, many of them had not negotiated at all but actually just said yes to the base offer for everything.

    I think that I entered my new job with more respect from my colleagues than if I had not negotiated. So just like Catalina had an unexpected consequence, albeit negative, I had an unexpected positive consequence just by negotiating, regardless of what was negotiated.


  7. The university offered a buyout to those of us with 25 years of work and above. My oldest son who is an academic expert on business contract negotiation suggested I approach the dean with an offer that is 2.5 larger. My response was “you don’t know my school, they live in a cave.” I am an obedient father and I went to dean with my request.

    My negotiation with the dean went nowhere. The only thing I got out of him is the realization that he has the ability of a high schooler. I did, however, indicate by my negotiation willingness to retire. In the following annual raise I got the minimum the dean could afford to give me with me suing him.

    I don’t regret the negotiation and I’ll do it again if the opportunity arises. It’s always give and take in any employment.


  8. Thanks for your tales from the front. I hear you on the no merit pay and no raises front, widgeon! Good luck with that administrative job. Friends of mine with children have gone that route, and it’s made a difference in saving for the college fund. (But it doesn’t make the day-to-day frustrations any easier!)

    psyc girl, I’m glad your negotiations were effective. koshem Bos, I’m sorry yours weren’t.


  9. I’ve been pondering just this topic of late. I did a bit of research and concluded that my current salary puts me in the 20th percentile nation wide, in rank (it would be even lower in my geographic region). To maintain the same loser standing upon promotion, they would need to give me a raise larger than any I’ve ever heard of in my college. I’m not sure “please continue to show the same level of disregard” sounds right as a negotiating tactic but I might give it a try.


  10. Somebody at my place, before I came, according to rurban legend here, at least, got a big retraction when in the opinion of the dean (who had appropriated from the dept. the prerogative of making the initial “offer” call) he negotiated too “aggressively” for just the “possibility” that his spouse could get some work out of the deal. Not a full spousal hire, mind you, just that they would look out for the possibility of some assignments. Reportedly didn’t set too well with her blueness, I mean dean-ness, and the offer got yanked. But, he’s at a much better place, and she is too, from what I hear tell.

    As for religious institutions and “perks,” I’m thinking it can’t be vows of poverty, per se. According to some breaking academic news I just heard today, a research presentation next month is going to report that in the U.S. today, religious organizations own between 15 and 25 % of all non governmentally-owned land in the country! More, I think, than the French Catholic church in 1789. Maybe it’s the old land-poor syndrome.


  11. I’m actually a little surprised to hear that it’s legal to rescind an offer, even a verbal one. I mean, it’s one thing to say, nope we’re not meeting your new demands/ requests, but I thought an offer had some legal heft behind it. . .

    Anyway, I’m always preaching the “always ask for more” line. I negotiated at my last job, and got $4 added to the starting salary they were offering – which I needed because I knew I was going to accelerate my tenure clock. I got a little flak from the chair for not seeming excited enough about the bump, but otherwise it was a smooth process.


  12. The perennial re-blooms! Rather than retype my old rant-comments, I would encourage all interested persons not to make a fetish of individual negotiation (in the ever-popular mode of Women Don’t Ask advice). Bargaining can succeed but it can also fail. Some fare better when they ask for more; some fare worse. Catalina’s outcome can be interpreted as either a loss or a gain to her.

    Dicker if you like to dicker; take what you’re given if you don’t. There’s no safe path and no wrong choice. We should all refuse to use victim-blaming to account for unjust salary disparities.


  13. Perpetua–surely you mean $4,000, not $4.00? Shame on you for not being grateful for what you’ve been given, Missy!

    LadyProf: I agree with you about the victim-blaming, but I still think it’s good for people to ask for more. I’m hopeful (if not optimistic) that if more people (or women) negotiatie, that will make negotiation normal. The woman supervisor in Catalina’s case was clearly unskilled at the game. First she caved, then she appears to have become angry with Catalina because SHE caved. A$$hole.

    But I take your larger point, which is that individual actions can only be said to directly benefit (or hurt) an individual, whereas collective action can benefit us all.


  14. I hate to do anything to discourage people from negotiating — especially women, who regularly don’t get paid what they are worth — but true tale from the front:

    Faculty member was offered a TT job, and was asked for her current salary. Faculty said what her current institution was prepared to pay to keep her. Second institution said: oh, that’s way too much, we rescind the offer. Didn’t even occur to them that people might have other reasons to take a job than just the salary.

    This definitely is not as bad a story as Catalina’s, but this kind of BS does happen. Still, even knowing this, I’m a fan of negotiating.


  15. Even back in the dark ages, I semi-negotiated. The only thing I’d add is to make sure you have the comparable institutions right. The Dean of the Faculty asked me what I expected to make, and I told him what I’d heard was the going rate for new assistant professors. But different institutions had different rates. In my current institution, my contact knew someone in economics, so gave me a salary range way out of line. So… just be careful.


  16. To pick up on Historiann’s query about salary negotiations with religious institutions: Many years ago, a religious institution offered me a salary for a tenure-track position which was $7000 less than what I made at the time at another tenure-track job. The offer soon went up by $4000, and when I asked if the university could possibly match the offer of the job I currently had (and of another job I was being offered simultaneously), the department chair told me that the university always relied on “moral incentives,” not financial ones. Aside from feeling like a money-grubbing philistine, I have wondered ever since how one paid the rent, or the dentist, or the bus driver, or the vet, with a moral incentive.

    I ended up taking a job at yet another religious institution, where my gentle request for a printer was answered with “That would cause serious equity problems in the department.”


  17. This topic is near and dear to my heart right now. I did not negotiate when I started where I’m at now. I had no clue on salaries or anything ( might have been around, but I didn’t know about it). I was psyched to make more than I made as a student. A few weeks in my new boss made some comment about my salary that “must be okay since you’re here.” You know it’s bad when you’re own boss thinks you’re poorly paid.

    But sometimes I’m pretty sure I was chosen over other competing candidates due to my lowball salary requirements. And then I wouldn’t be here, x years later making 20% less than the interns. I agree with negotiating, but when you are facing joblessness it’s real tough to negotiate. Or even now when I’m looking for a competing offer, and probably should be making 75% more for my experience but in this economy can probably only hope for 50% more at max. Then I’ll be underpaid again. I mean there’s just no winning. Do I hold out for 75% or keep hoping for the 50% and accept low pay somewhere else? I’m sympathetic with those who don’t negotiate. I will probably negotiate, but I suspect I will only get some feedback about my being ungrateful or greedy in return. The fact that I would like to make more to support my husband so he can go back to school only adds to the sexist misery that nobody can understand (“that’s not fair, why let him off so easy?” “um, cause i love him, and i would like to make his education the most successful it can be for him?”)


  18. I was denied tenure at my first job. On the market again, I interviewed at a Catholic SLAC. The provost who made the offer had called my (soon to be former) dean to check out the reasons for my dismissal. Apparently satisfied, she also found out what I was making. Her offer was at the associate level (I had previously been an assistant) and $1,000 more than I had been making and with the same teaching load. It seemed inappropriate to negotiate for more.


  19. polisciprof–I can see your point. Being denied tenure is an intimidating thing.

    Meander’s stories are hilarious. I find it interesting where institutions draw the line. In some ways, the school that suggested you should accept less pay for the satisfaction of “moral incentives” was more honest. I can understand how a huge starting salary would be a problem for some of your new colleagues, but how on earth would a printer be an occasion for serious concern about equity?

    Then again, I’ve never really wanted a printer in my office, so maybe I just can’t see how one would be an object of serious envy. . .


  20. I just wanted to jump in and say that I failed to negotiate at my first t-t, and while in retrospect I do think I could have – and possibly should have – been more aggressive, the institution added many sweeteners to help make the salary, which they knew was low, more palatable (course releases, very generous, if temporary, pots of money, summer funding, high rates of reiumbursement for the move, high set up fund, etc etc). While it’s important to keep your eye on the base salary (because that’s what raises are based on!), such fringe benefits can make an enormous difference.


  21. My biggest regret in taking this job is not asking for more money. I spent so long getting a spot at the on-campus daycare for my infant that I just gave up. Thankfully, my school has an active gender equity program and I’ve heard of more than one female faculty member approaching their chair successfully for a raise. They had to research it, but in one case *every singly TT man in her department made at least 10K more than her.*

    I know a man hired 1 year after me makes 15K more than me. I’m also on the market, but if this situation continues past the supposed economic recovery this will become a significant tool in my pocket.

    I will probably get a large “merit raise” this year, which is actually a bonus and not an addition to my base salary.


  22. For any of you reading this who may be about to negotiate and have an infant/small child, @wini raises an important issue you should know about: You *can* try to negotiate for a spot for your child(ren) in the campus day care as part of your offer, and you should, esp if you’re moving to a smaller place w/ limited child care. Waiting lists for campus daycares are notoriously long (I’ve been on one for 3 yrs).


  23. Clarification: I did get a spot! I just gave up on the salary. I don’t think that was clear. And while the center is amazing and a little bit subsidized, that would still be the case if I was making more.


  24. (Delurking) Thanks to an awesome adviser (who coached me to not say “Yes! Yes! Yes!” when I first got the job offer), I’m mostly happy with how I negotiated my first tt job offer. Subsequently, I’ve realized how rare this kind of mentoring is and am trying to spread that love a bit.

    Even with such good training, however, it still amazes me how susceptible I was to the chair-negotiator’s pressure to not ask for too much (a 1 semester course release for Spring semester, in addition to 1st semester; normal load is 4/4) because it might make me look lazy/like I’m not a team player.

    In response to Historiann’s original question re religious institutions, my (formerly Catholic) SLAC relies less on “moral incentives” than the institutional history (some still wandering the halls) of nuns who dedicated themselves totally to the college. Thus, the mostly explicit expectation that faculty be in their offices, with their doors open, at least 4 days a week.


  25. Sensible–and don’t forget that the nuns worked for free!!!

    We’ve talked here before about how teaching is modeled on an ideal of faculty who’ve already taken vows of poverty (and ideally obedience, if not chastity as well.)


  26. @ wini – I hear you! No one should have to choose between good quality daycare and adequate compensation! (And we all know it’s women taking the hit on that front.) In the town where I am currently, however, I think I would actually trade (or have my partner trade, since he’s the one with the job here) a raise for a spot at the CDC, since it’s the only decent game in town pre-K.


  27. Pingback: Link Love of December 4 « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured

  28. I know I am writing a response to this blog 4 years after the fact but perhaps being religious institutions does have something to do with it. Judging from these 2014 blog posts about a similar situation with a certain W with a Nazareth, it seems a common occurrence:


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