Key tips you should use when you next negotiate your employment contract

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If you face the task of negotiating your employment contract with all the enthusiasm that you bring to dental surgery, you are not alone. Less than one per cent of employees try to negotiate the terms of their contracts – a statistic that suggests that few are being paid their full worth.

Take heart. Even if negotiation is not your strong suit, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the pain and perhaps improve the outcome.

Above all, bring a positive attitude to the exercise – negotiation is an expected part of the process; you are not being quarrelsome. Do not feel unnecessarily hurried; you are entitled to a reasonable period of time to consider the employer’s offer. And get some help, especially if you are on the rise in your career and new to negotiation. Where you start may determine your career trajectory for years to come. 

Evaluate the offer

There are four steps to this:

  1. First, recognise your own priorities. If you require a certain minimum salary, make sure that the offer includes that. If work/life balance is more important, define as clearly as possible what that means. If you want to either limit or maximise international opportunities, say so. Try to put numbers and dates on as many of the truly important things as possible. That way you can evaluate whether those priorities are being met. You are setting up your next negotiation.
  2. Second, think of your employer’s offer as merely an opening gambit – a place to begin the conversation.
  3. Third, have some information about what comparable employers are offering for comparable positions so that you can be sure that your expectations are reasonable; and
  4. Finally, give some thought to what you would be willing to relinquish. Once you have defined items that are not negotiable, you may be able to identify areas where your expectations can be more flexible.

 Ask for what you want, plus some

Many experts advise negotiators to begin with salary before moving on to other benefit package details. Get as much information as possible about internal salary structures and gradations within large salary bands. Employer claims of confidentiality or proprietary privilege are a big warning sign. No one should be asked to negotiate in the dark.

In addition, many also advise paying particular attention to timing questions about when and under what circumstances salary, bonuses and promotions will be re-determined in the future. To the extent possible it is important to eliminate employer discretion about timing and benchmarks. 

You may want to negotiate for a longer notice period in the event of termination, particularly since you may not be covered by statutory protections. The same is true of redundancy pay. These terms should be included in your contract, not simply set out in company policies.

Carefully review any time or geographic restrictions concerning future employment, and try to limit them as possible.

On the other hand, consider that a successful negotiation should leave both sides feeling victorious. Your contract and the process of negotiation is the basis for a future relationship. Neither you nor your employer should conclude the process feeling angry or resentful, as this will only poison the prospects for future cooperation. Neither do you want to be seen as someone who is unaware of the value of her work?

Be prepared to walk away – with style

Especially in smaller industries or among an up-and-coming group of young professionals, the people you meet today are the people who you will meet again. People remember, so hang on to your dignity.

If you ultimately accept the negotiated offer, do so in a writing that spells out and is conditioned on your understanding of all essential terms and conditions. Make sure that your employer confirms your understanding in writing.

If negotiations are not successful and an agreement cannot be reached, decline the offer in writing. Best not to go into details. No one will think badly of you for declining a bad offer. This is your opportunity to send the graceful “wishing you well in your future endeavours” letter. Enjoy the turned tables, if you must, but move on. A new offer and another negotiation are around the corner.

The attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers will be happy to help you evaluate your employment offer and negotiate the terms of your new contract. Please call us to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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