Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Negotiation--a must for everyone

I know this is the wrong time of year for a post on the importance of negotiation at the point of hiring, but since Dean Dad posted on this at his blog and the jobs are already beginning to be posted, I will go ahead and write on this topic. (Props to the artist, David Ross, for the pic--check out his gallery using the link embedded in the pic.)

As a feminist, I am a serious supporter of hearty negotiating. It may be because I am a Jew from the Northeast and my father was a salesman, but I have no problem talking about money. I do have some trouble asking for way more money than anyone else, so I don't tend to do that. I am more likely to find out the salaries of current faculty and to define for myself what seems reasonable--on the high end of reasonable, of course. As Dean Dad said, where you start dictates your income for years to come, if you stay at the same school.

At public schools, you can find out the salaries of current faculty members by asking the reference librarian for the list of salaries. They are called different things at different schools: university budgets, salary books, etc. (At private schools, I believe that you need a little inside help or you have to rely on aggregate data in the Chronicle. I am a public school kinda girl, so that is what I know firsthand.) The public school salary data are housed in different places at different institutions--libraries, faculty senate offices, and institutional research offices. The reference librarian always knows where they are.

Sometimes I find the salary data as part of my campus visit (called "visiting libraries") and other times I find it on my own--at the end of the day or when I first arrive. For one job interview, I knew I would have no time on campus to do my research, and I thought it was possible that I would get an offer on the spot. So, I called the reference librarian at the school before I went, and I got her to give me the info over the phone. That kind of service is rare, but I think I bugged the librarian so much that she did it basically to get me off the phone.

Dean Dad notes the particularities of schools with unions, and I have never actually worked anywhere that had a union, though I have friends who do. Deans at union schools are limited by the union contracts as regards actual salaries, but there are any number of resources that Deans usually control that can be negotiated. These resources include: start-up research money, TA and RA support, summer pay, moving expenses, timing of the beginning of pay, office furniture and computer technology, support for conferences and research travel, and so on. Everyone should include some if not all of these resources of the job in their negotiations.

There is a piece of negotiating that is an art. The candidate (you) has to be friendly and forceful at the same time. You want to drag it out long enough to make them deal with you, but not so long that everyone on the faculty and administration sees you as a diva (male or female, though women seem more likely to get tagged as "difficult" or "arrogant"). You want to be thorough (addressing those resources I mentioned) and yet not exhausting or unreasonable ("I must have the Levenger cherry wood desk"). The best negotiators approach the negotiation as just a normal stage of the hiring process.

Remember that the Dean's job is to get you as cheaply as possible without completely insulting you or losing you to another school. Deans will often talk with you about salary equity and his/her need to keep your salary in line with folks who have been on faculty for years. Don't get too taken in by that line of argument. It does not benefit other folks if you are paid poorly. In fact, if you get paid more than they do, most institutions eventually deal with the salary compression and wind up raising salaries to address equity issues. So, really, you help them more in the long run if you get paid what the market can bear (within reason).

Your job is to get as much as you can without being petty or unreasonable. If you are coming in as a brand new assistant professor, it is unlikely that you will be offered more than a full professor. However, you can easily make as much as or more than the other untenured professors. And, as for those additional resources--if you don't ask for it, you definitely won't get it. If you do ask, and the request is basically reasonable, the worst answer you can get is 'no.' It is extremely unlikely that a Dean will withdraw the job offer because you asked for something; more likely, they will just tell you that they can't do it. Of course, if you ask for something completely insane (and we have all heard of those), you will become the topic of much discussion and speculation for years to come. So, keep your requests reasonable, related to your rank and institution. (An aside: I am always amazed at some of the resources allocated to those higher up the food chain. It actually helps me negotiate. If a President gets country club memberships, a job for the spouse, a car, and a bonus for not leaving, why not ask for a little summer money?)

I have found that negotiation has gotten easier as I moved along in my academic career. I have more of a track record, a better sense of reasonable salaries/resources in my discipline, and an idea of what I really want and/or need in a job. That is not to say it is always easy for me. During my second job search, I had one negotiation with a Dean who sought to make me feel guilty in every conversation. While I held my ground on the phone, I literally cried after every phone call. Ultimately, the job offer did not work out due to a state hiring freeze, and I must say that I probably was lucky that it didn't. I can't imagine dealing with that Dean for years.

As an administrator/faculty member, there are a few extras to factor in. First, it was important to me, based on some great advice I got from other administrator friends, that I get at least a 10-month contract, but not a regular 12-month contract. The difference is important: a 10-month contract means I will need to be around a little in the summer, and my time attending meetings and working in the summer is paid, but I still basically have a faculty position. A 12-month contract means I have to act more like staff--at the office everyday, during regular office hours, and probably fairly well-dressed. (Okay, I admit it... I really like faculty life. I want to come in late, dress more casually, and work at home if it suits me. I have been surprised at how easily I have moved into spending more time in my office, but I fool myself into thinking that it is really optional.)

I have also learned that there are additional things I should have negotiated: support student/staff, funds for administrative training (separate from research monies, since I am still expected to do research), an office appropriate for meetings with students/faculty/staff/potential students and their families, a guarantee that I would qualify for a sabbatical like other faculty members, and travel to administrative/leadership conferences. Some of these I have had to negotiate post-hire, and others have yet to be negotiated. Hopefully, I will take what I have learned into my next negotiation.

I also hope that we will all take what we have learned and share it with doctoral students and colleagues. When we talk with doc students about job hunting, I am the one who focuses on the negotiation process. I want students to practice negotiating. I want the Dean to explain what it is like from his or her side, and what s/he thinks when s/he is negotiating with a candidate. I want there to be workshops on negotiation at our national disciplinary conferences. The better we are at negotiating up front, the more we raise the salaries in our discipline, the better off we all are in the long run.


meansomething said...

A really useful post--thank you for your candor, esp. about the things you should have negotiated up front. And thanks for the urging to negotiate. Can I recommend this Chronicle column and also the book Women Don't Ask? Both are very helpful for convincing yourself that you should negotiate and helping build a strategy for how to do it.

Not about negotiation per se, but while reading Women Don't Ask, I made a list of things I could ask for from various people and have been putting that into practice slowly over the last couple of months.

richard said...

And rule #1, of course: plan ahead. It's easy to doubt yourself during interview days, but you need to think far enough ahead not to lowball your value. If you lowball yourself at the beginning, the rest of your time with that employer won't let you catch up to lost dollars.

On the other hand, the right job might cost you a few dollars: I left some on the table with the job I have now, and I'm OK with that.

undine said...

Excellent advice. Do you have any favorite phrases or approaches for those of us whose idea of negotiating is "sure--that sounds fine to me"?

Lesboprof said...

I find that I say things like, "That is a really good offer, but lower than what I was thinking." And then I shut up. They will ask you what you were thinking, and you need to respond with something higher (within reason) than what you actually want, so you have room to negotiate.

The Chronicle article noted above by meansomething has good suggestions about having reasons for your requests. If it is salary, I talk about cost of living, of having to support my family for some length of time after the move, etc. And I always say, "Well, you know how important it is to get a good salary now, because it dictates what I will earn throughout my time at your school."

I also listen fairly sympathetically as they tell me about equity issues, because I know it is a real challenge. But it isn't my problem. So, I refocus on the market ("Yes, the market really is causing salaries to rise"), and what I need/want. I often say something about "I think if I could get $X, it would make me really happy and excited about taking this position."

In one negotiation, the Dean asked me "what $X (the amount I was asking for) means to you?" I was so pleased to be able to reply, "Well, it is what my current Dean is offering me to stay." That ended that route of discussion. Had I not had a counteroffer, I would have said that it represented what my colleagues who were recently hired at similar institutions were paid, as well as a figure close to the average salary of what people at the new institution with my level of experience were making (info gained thanks to the salary book).

And I do think that, like with car negotiations, there is an order. Start with the salary and come to some agreement there. When they cannot match your original request, it gives more room to ask for the other negotiables.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Your advice came right at the perfect time. Thank you so much.

Confused said...

Thanks so much for a very useful blog. I'm drowing in all the different info sources on negotiations, and still confused.
I was wondering what would be a reasonable request for number of summer salary support would be in the social sciences. I hear that one month (i.e. the 1/9 rule) is common, but I had asked for 3 months of support for the first two years. Is the 3/9 rule too much to ask? The salary was raised to meet what I'm currently making (as their levels were so low), so the summer salary is an important factor in overall household income to me. But I'm concerned the Dean will just laugh it off. Any suggestions?
Lastly, I realize that gender is a critical issue in the crap/scared/insecure feelings we often have, but it's also further compounded by race, nationality, and religion. How much can we expect with so many axes of difference operating to put down into a box? When is ok to negotiate professionally and firmly, but have white men just laugh it away or call me difficult/arrogant? :-(
Please write soon! Thank you!

Successful Researcher: How to Become One said...

Great post -- just found it!