How to Combat Pushback On Salary

For most people there’s no aspect of a job more important than salary. It’s a big reason why potential candidates don’t accept offers, and it often determines whether a person is willing to leave a current position—which is why it’s never a good idea to lowball an offer. So what do you do about employees (whether current or potential) who push back on what they’re making (or offered)? It can be tricky when you don’t have the means to offer more, but it’s possible to build and preserve positive relationships throughout the negotiation process if you’re equipped with accurate information. 

pushback on salary

The Data Is Often Incorrect

People who argue about the amount of money they receive will often cite data concerning established rates in the industry—and they should do their research before having a conversation about salary. But picking an accurate source and finding the correct industry to match salary against is trickier than it might seem. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to find “facts” that back up a personal opinion—it’s your job to sift through the information and stay informed regarding current salary norms.

Salary Is Subjective

The truth is, there’s no single, consistent way to calculate the value of a job and employee. Just look at how little teachers—the people responsible for imparting knowledge to the next generation—make on a yearly basis. Most companies purchase surveys to come to a pay gradient that, ideally, reflects the value of the position in question. If your organization’s salaries have been researched, you can confidently tell potential employees the role has been priced by compensation professionals who have done their due diligence and come to a salary range that acknowledges the candidate’s education, experience, and ability.

Arguing Is Counterproductive

At the end of the day, remember that arguing with someone—whether over research sources, the timing of the request, or even the idea that a salary increase is reasonable at the moment—just adds fuel to the fire and will likely lead to tempers flaring. It’s most important that you remember your role and remain calm and understanding, even if you have to stay firm regarding additional compensation. Admittedly, these kinds of exchanges are uncomfortable, and it’s essential that your current or potential employee feels heard. Everyone wants to know they’re being listened to—especially when making this kind of request—it’s very likely they’re feeling more awkward than you are. Listen carefully, and respond in a way that shows you are. If you need some time to think about the conversation before you reply, say so—but make sure you follow up.

Work On A Compromise

Is the current (or potential) employee a valuable member of (or addition to) the team? Do they actually deserve additional compensation? If so, you need to work on a compromise. If the budget for the year has been closed, find out when it will reopen and ask if the employee is willing to wait for an increase in pay. If they’re flexible, put your agreement in writing and—you guessed it—follow through. Discuss special benefits, perks, bonuses, or the coverage of expenses that could help make up the difference between what you're able to offer and the employee’s request. There are creative ways to show how much the company values and appreciates top talent—compensation isn’t just about money, after all.

This kind of conversation is uncomfortable, but with a rough script in mind, you can reach an agreement that’s fair and reasonable and will, hopefully, satisfy all parties involved.

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