Many of us avoid negotiating because it seems so tricky and so confrontational. You don’t want to miss out on that money, though. One easy, non-confrontational way to haggle your salary? Make a ridiculous joke.
It’s Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we’re looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done. We like to think we’re shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That’s up to you.
In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, University of Idaho professor Todd J. Thorsteinson conducted a series of mock negotiations and found that when subjects joked about being paid a ridiculously high amount, those subjects had more successful negotiations.
When asked about starting salary in the negotiations, the “joke” group simply said something along the lines of, “I’d love a salary of $100,000 ($128,394), but I’m really just looking for something fair.” Specifically, they were offered an average starting salary of $US35,385 ($45,432) compared to $US32,463 ($41,681) for the control group.
This works, the paper explains, because of anchoring. Anchoring, as we’ve told you before, is a cognitive bias in which we rely too heavily on one piece of information to make decisions. Plenty of studies (like this 2015 one from Columbia University) have shown that anchoring plays a big role in negotiations. In fact, it’s the reason why it’s illegal in some states for employers to ask job candidates about their current salary – if the salary is low, it could serve as an unfair anchor.
Making a ridiculous joke works the same way: you’re obviously not expecting a six-figure salary when your earning potential is nowhere near that, but presenting the figure as “joke” is a sneaky way of tossing that anchor out there. It should go without saying that your mileage is going to vary with this one, but it’s an interesting (and slightly evil) approach to consider during your next negotiation.