5 Characteristics of Terrible Negotiators

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: October 6, 2014

What Not to Do

One Google search will turn up a plethora of articles out there discussing what to do if you want to be a great salary negotiator. But even though it's vital to know which traits you need to emulate for success, it's equally important to know which behaviors to avoid.

There is perhaps no other endeavor so fraught with anxiety as a salary negotiation. You're dealing with your own feelings of inadequacy, wondering if you're good enough, if your employer likes you enough, and worrying about feeling rejected should you ask and get denied. But at the same time, you're also worried about keeping your employer's needs in mind. What's the company's financial situation like? Are you asking for too much? Should you be asking at all? There are a lot of moving parts and personalities and hurt feelings can all too often get in the way.

So while we can't promise you a guaranteed raise, we can show you some common traits that are best avoided if you want a successful negotiation. Here are the top five.

5. Using Weak Language

Your language -- not just the words you use but even your body language -- play a huge role in determining success during a salary negotiation.

Whether you're submitting your request in writing or in person, the words you use matter a great deal. You're going into the meeting to advocate for yourself and ask for more money. Essentially that means you're trying to convince the powers that be to have confidence in you and your performance, to the point they're willing to go above and beyond to pay you more. So if you're asking them to have confidence in you, you need to make damn sure you display confidence in yourself.

'The quickest way to fall short in this category is to use words like "maybe," "probably," "might," "worried," "confused," and "likely" to name a few. These words do nothing to inspire confidence and cast you as wishy-washy, especially compared to other similar employees coming in to their office to ask for pay increases. So be bold, be confident, and showcase your ability and results to see a few more pennies in your paycheck.

4. A Willingness to Accept Less

We get that it can be emotionally exhausting to go through the process of asking for more money. Unfortunately, because it's so stressful, too many people end up leaving money on the table.

You probably practice different scenarios with friends or family during negotiation practice sessions, and you stick to your guns when your bosses fail to give you your desired number. But practicing negotiation from your couch is a heck of a lot different than actually being in the negotiating room. If you've presented your case well and have a good relationship with your boss, there's no reason you have to accept the first offer. Negotiation is a give and take, which means taking what's offered usually translates to settling for less. But that doesn't have to be the case.

Also, if the company is truly unable to give you a bump in pay, get creative. There are always vacation days, flexible scheduling, and other perks that can be negotiated as well. If you don't advocate for yourself, no one else is going to so try not to accept the first offer.

3. Being Too Aggressive

The opposite of being viewed as too weak is coming on too strong.

Unfortunately, far too many employees get it in their heads that taking a hard line is somehow the express route to getting a raise, and acting strong and tough is the only way to be respected. And while that might be true in some instances, the danger you face is being seen as abrasive instead of strong, conceited as opposed to tough. And no one wants to give raises to people they can't stand.

Taking a hard line can backfire and sometimes it's better to be smart and savvy instead of strong and forceful.

2. Complaining

So you want a raise? Wonderful. Now you need to figure out why you deserve it and what you're going to say to your boss.

Unfortunately, petty competition is often the impetus for asking for more money. You know the deal. You find out through the grapevine that two of your junior coworkers are making more money than you are, and now you're livid. But while it's tempting to march into your manager's office and demand a raise based on this injustice, that's a bad plan. For many reasons.

When you ask for a raise and base your argument on the fact that other people are outearning you, a few negative things happen. First of all, you're risking hearing some ugly truths by finding out your coworkers -- despite being there a shorter time -- are actually outperforming you. But mostly you want to avoid being seen as someone who is petty. If you get a raise, it should be because of your performance and your value to the company. Stress your positives and accentuate all of your achievements. That's a far cry better than whining about other employees.

1. Being Unprepared

If you take anything away from this article, we hope it's to be prepared.

Great, you want more money. But what happens when your employer asks how much more money you want? Do you know? Did you even think about it? If you didn't think about it until after you asked, you've already dug yourself a hole and you've made yourself look foolish and unprepared. That's a shame because there's absolutely no reason to go into this battle unarmed.

Salary.com's entire reason for existing is to help you get paid what you're worth. You can use our free Salary Wizard to get an idea of what your job should pay, and you can also upgrade to a more comprehensive package by purchasing our affordable Personal Salary Report. But whether you use our services or poll your network to get a better idea of what people are earning, you need to have some kind of research at the ready or else risk looking like you don't have your stuff together. If they see you're prepared and you've put a lot of thought and effort into your request, you'll be that much more likely to get what you're looking for.