As a follow up to last month’s post by guest blogger Teresa Fuller (MBA ’17), Darden Alumni Career Services is offering additional insight on the art of negotiations. This month, Alumni Career Services Coach, Mac Ling (MBA ‘06) addresses the nuances of negotiating during a pandemic.

Negotiating during a pandemic can be doubly daunting. However, as long as you are clear on your ask, understand your context and prepare for how to approach the conversation, there is no reason not to ask for the things you deserve, despite the current climate.

Here are three top tips on how to conduct yourself in a negotiation during COVID times:

  1. Don’t automatically lower your expectations. Base your ask on facts.
  • Prepare your ask according to what is justifiable. In other words, base it on what you would have asked for before the pandemic. Focus on what you’ve brought to the table, how you’ve excelled during these tough times and the proportionate benefits you deserve (versus the challenges you’ve encountered).
  • Avoid thinking with a scarcity mindset. Your achievements are still your achievements and should be proportionately matched.
  1. Prepare with flexible options.
  • Take into account your company’s overall financial position and potential salary caps or freezes that may be in place. This knowledge shouldn’t diminish your confidence, but rather prepare you to pivot quickly during the negotiation if your first or second asks aren’t feasible.
  • Ask yourself: “What is it that I truly need or am looking for?” Identify pragmatic alternatives that meet those needs if a salary increase is not possible. If salary cannot be increased due to the current climate or policies, would an increase in bonus or deferred bonus, better flexible work benefits, child care stipends or more vacation time suit your needs? How about mentorship or training opportunities? Another option to consider is suggesting pay “triggers” through which you will receive increased benefits or pay if you can achieve a certain agreed upon metric (for instance, if you attain a certain level of sales by a certain date).
  • If you are negotiating within your existing company, make sure you have a clear set of achievements to share that highlight how you’ve delivered value to the company during the pandemic. Focus on what you’ve delivered over the last 4 to 6 months to emphasize your contribution during these difficult times (versus simply the past year or two, before the pandemic).
  1. Embrace the digital nature of the negotiation.
  • Take advantage of the fact that most negotiations nowadays will be digital and have your notes close by during the call for easy reference.
  • Don’t be afraid of what may seem like awkward silences. Allow for time lags and silences during the conversation without feeling that you need to jump in. Let the other person process and consider your comments in their own time instead of undercutting yourself with too much talking.
  • Remember that you’re negotiating for total compensation, not just salary. Take into account the alternatives you’ve thought out beforehand and don’t leave the conversation empty handed. For new job negotiations, ask to see the total compensation package so that you get the full picture.

If you need assistance preparing for a negotiation, please reach out to Alumni Career Services.