How To Know When It's Time To Walk Away From A Negotiation

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How do you know when to walk away in a negotiation? And once you’ve decided to, how do you actually do it?

In the case of a negotiation about money, like a request for a salary increase, one way to determine whether a potential agreement is no longer a good deal to you is to refer back to your wish, want and walk values. If you’ve done your due diligence and prepared for your negotiation in advance, you’ll know exactly what these are and will have assessed your alternatives.

Together, your wish, want and walk values make up an important part of your negotiation strategy. It’s challenging to set these values in hindsight, so you’re much better off thinking them through in advance. Let’s break them down.

Your “wish” value is your starting point — the highest number you can say out loud without laughing. It’s important to start out high so you leave yourself room to negotiate. It can be scary to start out by asking for a high number because you’re worried about how you’ll come across to the other side. Will you seem greedy? Unrealistic? Women, compared with men, tend to set more modest goals to begin with, so starting high is an important step toward winding up with a fair deal that reflects your value in the marketplace.

You can think of your “want” value as your target — the amount you’d be thrilled to get in the end. Some people confuse their target either for the bare minimum they think they’re likely to be offered, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a fantastically high number they’ve picked somewhat at random. Sure, we’d all like to make a million dollars, but that doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate target. You should set your target based on research you’ve gathered about the market rate, rather than comparing it with your existing offer.

Finally, it’s critical to set your “walk” value in advance. Otherwise, you’re in danger of negotiating yourself down. Let’s say you’ve set your target at a 15% salary increase, but you haven’t set your “walk,” or your bottom line. If you’re offered 5%, you might think to yourself, “well, it’s better than no raise, and it’s not like I’m going to quit tomorrow if I don’t get 15%, so I may as well take it.” A better strategy would be to determine that the minimum raise you need to continue feeling valued and satisfied in your current role is 10%. If you’re offered less, you can go back to the negotiating table, or you can consider starting a job search to look for a better opportunity.

To recap: if your negotiation is about money and you’ve set your wish, want and walk values in advance, you’ll know it’s time to walk away — or pursue your best alternative, which may be starting the search for a new opportunity — if your offer doesn’t meet your walk value.

Walking away from a job offer might sound difficult, especially if you’re worried about seeming ungrateful or feeling guilty about “wasting” your interviewer’s time. But both you and your interviewer will ultimately be glad that you didn’t accept something you weren’t satisfied with. Eventually you’d feel resentful, your performance would suffer, and you’d wind up moving on anyway. It’s better to be up front about your needs, and be open to creative solutions to meet them. Perhaps they can’t offer you the full salary you’re targeting now, but you could qualify for a raise in the next performance review cycle.

The most important thing you can bring to the negotiating table is an open mind — even when you’re declining an opportunity.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.
 

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.