News at Smith

Negotiate Like a Boss

Nov 18, 2013
Experiential / Reality-based Learning


Six Tips to Help Get What You Want

Negotiation is crucial for your career. Wages and promotions aren’t like grades awarded on merit. If you want a raise, you have to persuade someone to give it to you.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or asking for a raise at your current one, Vice Dean Joyce E. A. Russell can help you achieve the results you want. Russell — Tyser Teaching Fellow, executive coach and director of the Smith School’s Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program — has been helping Smith students make the most of their opportunities for more than 25 years. Here are some of her top tips for successful negotiations:

1. Be prepared.

Sites like, and can help you determine reasonable salaries for your position in your industry. Be sure to consider the cost of living in your location. Set your target salary figure about 20 percent higher than your desired figure to give yourself room to negotiate.

2. Know your BATNA.

The most powerful weapon in your negotiating arsenal is your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Offer (BATNA). If you don’t get what you’re asking for, what is your best alternative? If you have a good alternative, you can negotiate from a position of strength.

3. Show your value to a firm.

Talk about your salary requirements in the context of your role and its value to the organization. Document your accomplishments, including money you have saved, clients or project you have brought to the firm, employees you have trained, awards you have won and unique skills you possess.

4. Be calm and collaborative.

When discussing salary with your boss or your prospective employer, keep your cool — even if you feel tense, angry or frustrated. A confident, pleasant tone and a collaborative approach are more effective than an aggressive one.

5. Use silence strategically.

Sometimes saying nothing can be an extremely powerful tool. People often try to fill the silence, and this can reveal valuable information — or even a concession.

6. Take your time.

It is natural to want to wrap up a difficult negotiation. But Russell advises going slowly. Don’t try to finalize all the details in one conversation. Power rests with the person who controls the timing of the conversation. So after you receive an initial offer, ask for time to think about it, and then counter-offer.

Say This

Interviewers often ask for salary information, but you have no obligation to provide it, says Russell. In fact, you’re better off gently deflecting those questions. Here are some great phrases to have in your back pocket.

What was your previous salary? 

  • Salary matters, but to me this is more about the fit between me and the job.
  • Do you see that as relevant to my fit for this job?

What are your salary expectations?

  • I will consider any reasonable offer.
  • I am open.
  • It is negotiable.

What salary were you looking for?

  • I'm much more interested in learning more about the work and the company than I am in the size of the initial offer.
  • I'm open to reasonable offers.
  • I'd like a salary commensurate with my value to the organization.
  • You are in a much better position to know how much I'm worth to you. 

Read This

“Getting to Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton.

“You Can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen 

Vice Dean Joyce E.A. Russell writes the Smith School’s “Career Coach” column, which appears each Monday in The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. Join Russell for monthly live chats on The Post’s website.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.