Smith Brain Trust / October 15, 2021

After the ‘Great Resignation,’ How To Have a Great Negotiation

For a record number of Americans, 2021 has been the year they said, “I quit.”

After the ‘Great Resignation,’ How To Have a Great Negotiation

In August alone, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs, the most since the Labor Department began tracking these stats 20 years ago. They join the 16 million Americans who had handed in their resignations over the previous four months, another record.

Some were burned out—exhausted by pandemic stresses and added workload at home and at work. Others were rejecting return-to-the-office mandates, seeking work with greater flexibility. After 18 months of toiling in a pandemic, expectations about what makes a good job had altered.

Rellie Derfler-Rozin, an associate professor of management and organization, has been thinking a lot about those workers. She teaches and researches workplace negotiations. Writing recently in USA Today, she offered important advice to job-seekers:

Don’t mention money too early

It’s tempting to get everything out in the open, but don’t ask about pay or benefits early in the interview process. Her research has shown it can cost you the job. “Being motivated by both the work itself (what’s known as intrinsic motivation) and by factors like high pay, flexibility, benefits and vacation time (known as extrinsic motivation) is not just common—it’s actually better for organizations and for employees,” she writes. But in a series of studies, she and her co-authors found hiring managers were 20%–23% less likely to hire candidates who voiced an interest in the pay and benefits structure. They judge these candidates as less intrinsically motivated.

Focus on the whole package

Don’t focus entirely on base salary. Employee benefits—such as generous retirement plans, health insurance policies, or tuition reimbursement—can add to your on-the-job and financial satisfaction.

Remember to factor in other perks as well, such as vacation time, flexible schedules or telework. Some perks can make a big difference in your quality of life, without costing your employer dearly. The trick is to make the correct tradeoffs (known as log-rolling) and to suggest several options that might work for you but differ on some parameters. This way you are being flexible while still getting what you desire, and both parties (you and the employer) are happy.

Do know your value

Research what people are earning in similar roles in your industry. Consult sites such as or, and reach out to people you know—or seek out contacts through your network—to gain insights about what the norms are, what is open for negotiation and what your leverage is, she says. “And be sure to compare apples to apples. Look for results that reflect your level of experience, education and geography.”

Don’t pass up the opportunity to negotiate

People—especially financially vulnerable people—too often stifle their own economic advancement because of the way they negotiate, Derfler-Rozin says.

“In another study, we found that financially vulnerable applicants tend to view negotiations as a zero-sum game, rather than a situation in which everyone can win. It’s a psychological barrier inherent in fewer opportunities to observe wealth and value generation.” Learn to see yourself as an important contributor to the company, and negotiate the terms that would keep you happy at the firm while conceding some issues that are of higher importance to the company.

“In our ideal job, we work because we enjoy it,” Derfler-Rozin writes. “But even in that ideal role, we work for compensation. Make sure yours is adequate.”

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