Regardless of where you are in your career, it can be difficult to ask for what you need. For some this reflects a sense that you can’t or shouldn’t ask for more than what you have; for others, they don’t know who to ask or how to ask; and for some, they have had negative experiences.

Negotiating for what you need is a skill, just like writing a high-quality grant.  So here’s a starter kit:

  1. Get clear on what you need (not what you want). Identify how what you need will advance your ability to be productive and contribute to the overarching mission of your department and the institution. Sometimes it’s useful to create a table identifying how more space, time, or money would translate into specific outcomes and how this directly relates to the department’s goals. This is the bedrock of principled negotiation.
Request Purpose Short-term Outcome Long-Term Outcome
Pilot funds of $100,000 To conduct a proof of principle experiment to serve as preliminary studies section for grants. Submit K-award within 1-2 years. Obtain first R- award/or R equivalent prior to K-award completion.
  1. Be objective. Negotiation is often fueled by emotion. Often we might feel undervalued. Get your facts straight first. If you’re examining your salary, find objective benchmarks to compare your salary and years in rank to others in similar positions (and geographic regions of the country). If no benchmark data exists or is accessible, then reach out to others who have a similar position and learn what is typical. Be sensitive when having these conversations and find trusted colleagues, at your institution or others, who are willing to have a private discussion.
  2. Use appreciative inquiry when you hit a wall. Sometimes the answer will be “no.” Don’t assume you know the reason why. Stay neutral and open to appreciative inquiry. For example, instead of “Don’t you know how hard I’m working? I should be paid more,” try, “It sounds like salary isn’t negotiable. Can you help me understand how salaries are determined and what I would need to achieve to be considered for a raise?”
  3. Know when to pivot. OK, so maybe salary is non-negotiable for the moment. If that’s the case, what IS negotiable? Align yourself, if possible, with your supervisor and ask, “What would you recommend for me?” Or if you know you need some pilot funds to support that truly excellent grant you are preparing to write you might pivot by saying, “Sounds like salary is non-negotiable at this time. For me to enhance my research success, pilot funds could really assist in generating a strong preliminary studies section. How should we proceed? What do you recommend?”


Like It Or Not, You’re a Negotiator: Getting to Yes

Salvaging an Insufficient Offer

What’s a BATNA?

Want to live on the Edge?


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