Why American Workers Aren't Negotiating Salary

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: September 29, 2014

Workers Are Negotiating Less Often

We love all things salary negotiation. It’s our business, our passion, and the reason our company exists. But it’s not enough for us to love it, we need you to love it as well.

Unfortunately, many of you aren’t convinced of the importance of negotiating your salary.

For the last few years we’ve conducted a survey to determine how often people negotiate, when they negotiate, and why they’re afraid of negotiating. It culminates in our annual Salary Negotiation Week, in which you can pick up some great tips on salary negotiation tactics. This year, we surveyed 731 people and asked them about their negotiation habits and discovered a disturbing trend – salary negotiation seems to be on the decline. Find out how infrequently people are negotiating salary and why.

On the Decline

Last year we discovered 41% of people didn’t negotiate salary for the job they held at that time. This year, things seemed to get slightly worse.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they did not negotiate salary in any way, shape, or form during the last 12 months. That means more than half of the people we surveyed failed to either ask for more money following a job offer or request a raise in 2014. That’s a disturbing trend when the majority of people are either afraid or unwilling to advocate for themselves financially.

Negotiating Job Offers

Do you negotiate salary after receiving a job offer? While that seems like a simple question and most people assume it happens, our survey shows that isn’t the case.

This year, only 30% of respondents said they always negotiate salary following a job offer. That’s down slightly from 31% last year. However, more troubling is the number of people who never negotiate salary following a job offer. One-fifth of those surveyed last year said they never ask for more money in 2013, but that number rose to 23% in 2014.

Negotiating During Performance Reviews

When it comes to asking for a raise during performance reviews, things are even worse.

Only 15% of those surveyed said they always negotiate salary during performance reviews, down from 17% in 2013. And in a similar trend as to negotiating during job offers, 43% said they never negotiate when it’s time for an annual review (up from 41% last year).

If you’ve accomplished your goals or gone above and beyond the call of duty at work, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for additional compensation. Just make sure you highlight your accomplishments and achievements in the best way possible during your annual review.

What Stops People From Negotiating

So, why are fewer people negotiating salary this year?

Last year, fear was a big factor. In 2013, 21% of those surveyed said they didn’t negotiate because they were scared of either losing their job or the job offer. But this year, that number dropped to 13%. The main reason our respondents didn’t negotiate in 2014 was because 19% said the amount they were offered was fair to begin with.

Other reasons for not negotiating include lack of confidence (11%), too stressful (10%), and lacking negotiating skills (8%).

The economy factored into the decision more this year, with 70% saying the state of the economy gave them pause.

Who Has the Most Anxiety About Negotiating?

When asked specifically about the stressful nature of negotiating salary, we begin to see things in greater detail.

First of all, the number of people suffering anxiety regarding salary negotiation is up to 68% of respondents, compared to 59% in 2013. We also found stress levels are much higher among women than men, with only 60% of male employees reporting stress compared to 75% of women.

Lastly, it appears experience matters a great deal because the older you are the less likely you are to stress about salary negotiation. A whopping 80% of those between 18-25 feel stressed, 74% of people 26-32, 71% of those 33-39, 69% of the 40-50 age group, 63% of those 51-60, and 51% of workers 61 and older.

How Often Do People Negotiate?

Not surprisingly, most people (32%) still think salary should be negotiated once a year during performance reviews. But that number is down sharply from the 47% of respondents who felt the same way a year ago. The biggest jump is the number of people who never negotiate salary. That number jumped from just 3% one year ago to a whopping 23% in 2014.

Also, 24% of those surveyed said raises should be requested only when the employee has done something to deserve it, 17% think it should only be reserved for when workers have a competing job offer, and 3% believe it’s acceptable to negotiate salary between 2-3 times a year.

What Happens When People Negotiate Salary?

So we know people are afraid to negotiate because it’s stressful, but what is the outcome when they do negotiate?

This is the one category that held fairly steady since last year. Unfortunately, 31% of respondents topped the list by not asking for more money. Twenty-seven percent asked for a raise but received less than they requested, 20% asked for more but were rejected, 17% asked for more and got the amount for which they asked, and a lucky 5% asked for a raise and got even more than they requested.

Are the Fears Valid?

So we know people are stressed, anxious, and fearful when it comes to salary negotiations. Many people even think they’re going to lose their job or have the offer pulled. But is that accurate? We surveyed 54 employers and asked them for their opinions from the other side of the negotiating table.

The vast majority – 80% -- of the employers we surveyed said they are not upset or offended when jobseekers negotiate during the interview process, and 57% of HR personnel expect people to ask for more when presented with a job offer. Furthermore, 48% expect their employees to ask for a raise at least once a year.

And only 9% reported rescinding a job offer specifically because someone asked for more money, while 4% fired an employee for unreasonable negotiation demands.

Check Out Our Infographic

Here's our infographic for the 2014 "Do You Negotiate" survey.

Before You Negotiate, Do Your Research

If you're interested in checking out our other helpful salary negotiation articles, click here. Then make sure you're truly prepared to negotiate, by building a foundation from which you can negotiate if you're asking for a raise. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.