Companies and candidates often take long arduous journeys before reaching the stage when an offer of employment is extended. Rather than being a perfunctory last step however, the offer stage is often another precipice fraught with peril. Negotiations can get personal, feelings can get hurt, parties differ in their sophistication/approach and the balance of power is rarely equal. And while we work hard to minimize surprises, manage expectations, and navigate around the known landmines, we know better than to ever get overly confident.
Companies enter employment negotiations equipped with pay ranges, considerations of internal equity, market realities and the emotions underlying how badly they want the candidate in question. They also bring their internal processes and predispositions around ‘how’ they prefer to negotiate. Meanwhile candidates often enter negotiations expecting minor tugs of war around largely economic considerations – base pay, bonuses, vacations, stock options etc etc. Few look forward to the negotiations.
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And while negotiations around terms and conditions take place above the surface, feelings, perceptions and emotions percolate below. Companies continue to evaluate the candidate’s comportment during negotiations while the candidate considers whether the negotiation process itself validates perceptions about the company, its values and people. A study by Curhan et al argues that it is these evolving feelings, perceptions and emotions, more than the economic value of the outcome, that will determine levels of employee satisfaction and intentions to remain or leave their employers.
Curhan et al note that issues of trust and self-image (losing face versus feeling competent and satisfied that one has conducted themselves well) are intertwined in a negotiation process. Does the candidate feel that they were heard and treated fairly? Did the negotiation process itself validate perceptions about the company, its values and people or was it a cause for concern? These feelings linger and were found to correlate highly with subsequent levels of job satisfaction and intentions to leave. Meanwhile, the economic value achieved in the negotiations was found to have no association with job attitudes or intentions to leave afterwards.
The message for companies is pay attention, respect personal dignity, gives candidates a voice and some control over the process, and treat them as partners in an important relationship. Not only will companies have a higher chance of hiring them, on terms possibly more favorable, but as it turns out, keeping them.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.