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Three Ways to Recover from a Blown Salary Negotiation

Three Ways to Recover from a Blown Salary Negotiation

You lowballed yourself during your salary negotiation and now your paycheck is smaller than you'd like. In some cases, you can go back and ask for a higher salary without jeopardizing your job, experts say. 

Of course, the best time for negotiating salary is before you accept the job offer. Asking for more soon after you're hired is not without risk.

"Going back to renegotiate areas about which you have already agreed does have the risk of making you look like someone who doesn't honor your agreements," says Janet Civitelli, PhD, a workplace psychologist and career coach in Houston. "It can leave a bad taste in the mouth of the hiring manager and launch your relationship with your new boss on a sour note."

Instead of asking for more money, consider negotiating compensation and benefits not addressed in the initial round, such as a signing bonus, more vacation time, tuition reimbursement, professional memberships or a flexible schedule.

"This way, your total compensation package goes up and your reputation remains intact," Civitelli says.

Still want to go for it? Try one of these three negotiation strategies:

Argue Pay Parity

Sometimes you don't realize you should be earning more until you find out what your coworkers are making. That's what happened to Ashley Baxter, a Texas marketing professional who found a male coworker was getting $10,000 more for doing less.

"I put my resume on the market and received a job offer from another company," she says. "I then went to my employer and let them know that I felt slighted by the way they treated my salary negotiation and did not appreciate being monetarily undervalued in comparison to my coworker who did less work."

She got an immediate 8 percent raise, but her relationship with her boss changed. "He became reluctant to approach me about everyday tasks and avoided emailing or talking to me unless it was absolutely necessary," Baxter says.

Three months later, she left for a job offering a better salary and benefits package. "I'm very glad I went through the experience, as it has given me the confidence to not be afraid of asking for what I deserve in business situations."

If you find out you're being underpaid compared with coworkers, try this line, says Michael Schatzki, a negotiation trainer and principal of Negotiation Dynamics in Far Hills, New Jersey: "You convinced me that this is all you could pay, and it turns out everyone is making $X more than me even though they have less experience. Can you explain to me what's going on?"

That statement will back the boss into a corner, so help him back out by saying, "I understand you were probably under pressure, but we need to fix this, right? We need to have equity, right?"

Have suggestions ready, such as a new title or a new area of responsibility that will bring you to where you should be financially while staying within company salary bands.

Get a Competing Offer

Using a competing offer to increase your current salary is a wonderful, but tricky strategy because nobody likes being threatened, says Lee Miller, author of Get More Money on Your Next Job…In Any Economy.

"Be nonthreatening, nice and positive and yet let them know that you know you're below market," he says.

A good line for this tactic comes from Richard Deems, PhD, coauthor of Make Job Loss Work for You: Get Over It and Get Your Career Back on Track: "I realized that this job is paying well under the market for what I do, and it's my fault for not asking for more going in. I have another job offer, but I don't want to take it because I love it here and working here is right for my career. In light of where the market is, can you adjust the salary to bring it more in line with the market?"

Don't have a competing offer? Don't lie and say you do. Use this line instead: "I have been talking to other professionals in this same position and they say the going rate is $X."

Blame It on the Cost of Living

If you're relocating, blame the high cost of living in the local market, says Dianne Durkin, president of Loyalty Factor, a corporate consulting and training firm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Try this line: "After a more careful scrutiny of local financials, I underestimated the cost of living. Would it be possible for me to accept the position at X dollars?" And X should be no more than 10 percent higher than the original offer, Durkin says.

Not all companies will accept this strategy, so consider carefully whether it's worth pursuing, she adds.

Keep Looking

If you try one of these tactics and it doesn't work, be on guard. Work extra hard to repair any damage you may have done to your relationship with your new boss. Keep your resume updated, your network fired up and continue to seek better-paying opportunities.

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