Don’t Talk About Personal Finances When Negotiating Salary


When you have a perfect salary in mind, you probably tie that desire to things you want in your life. Regardless of your reasons, US News argues you should leave your personal finances out of negotiations because it hurts your case.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you can’t pay your mortgage, need to save for your child’s education or want a new car. Your compensation is based on the value you provide to your employer, not your finances. If you feel compelled to tell your sad story, don’t. Make sure to leave the personal issues out. Instead, try describing the immense potential you have to bring value to the company. You don’t want to engender pity or despair, but rather inspire excitement and confidence. Because potential is not guaranteed, it may seem counterintuitive, but “that uncertainty can lead people to think more deeply about the person they’re evaluating – and the more intensive processing that requires can lead to generating more and better reasons why the person is a good choice,” [Daniel] Pink writes in his book. Make it easy for them to feel good, not guilty.

Personally, I’ve been on all sides of this argument. While I think it’s sound advice, I’ve both failed and succeeded by following it. I’ve also said “I need $X to live the way I want to live, so I can’t take the job if my salary is below that number” and gotten more than I asked for. So while that’s nothing but anecdotal evidence, I think you need to consider the best argument for a given situation and the person you’re negotiating with. In larger companies, you’ll do better by playing to your strengths and avoiding any kind of guilt trip. With smaller groups, you may serve yourself better with a simple and honest statement of the facts.

3 Colossal Salary Negotiation Don’ts [US News]

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  • In corporate culture say”I need X to live” and you might as well be panhandling. Even if it works, they’re doing you a favour. Plus you’re essentially saying, “I’m willing to work for the bare minimum I need to live”, which is not a strong position for any future salary negotiation. It’s far better, for both you and the business, to be paid well because you’re valuable to the business.

    When you’re dealing with small business, you’re dealing with real people. And then you can be honest and forthright, whether you want to raise your personal circumstances or not. Honesty and forthrightness just don’t mix with “Corporate”.

  • I have a salary review coming up. I do payroll, which means I know how much everyone else gets paid, along with my predecessor. I know that saying “I should earn more than Mr X” is petty and doesn’t come across well, but what about drawing comparisons to the person who was in the role before me? He was on approx 30k more, and although he’d been in the role for some time, I can’t see anything in his/my PD to explain such a large difference.

  • The best arguments are what is the going rate in the industry, your value to the business, whether the amount is ‘barely acceptable’ or enough to keep you from hunting for a better job constantly, and any useful extra skills you have over and above those required for the job.
    Businesses are not charities, and paying someone on their costs, not their value is the wrong model for the negotiation.

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