Negotiating Your Pay Package

  • When to negotiate with employers
  • What to negotiate with employers
  • How to negotiate with employers
  • How to get a ‘win-win’ outcome
  • Getting the reluctant employer to negotiate

When to negotiate

Some employers seem to begin negotiating the pay package at or near the beginning of the recruitment interview. Some will ask you: ‘What sort of money were you thinking of?’ You should be aware that this question, at this time, is a selection test not a negotiating ploy. If you don’t answer it correctly you do not go onto the next phase of the selection process.

At this point you too have a selection decision to make. Do you want to work for an employer that seems to make decisions about your suitability mainly on the grounds of cost? Do they want the cheapest person or the best person for the job? It may be best to rescue the recruiter from this inept question by saying that you would be happy to talk about your salary expectations after your suitability has been established and a job offer made. If they persist with an immediate response then you might say firmly that you are ‘confident we can make a deal’. In reality if you are unhappy with your pay in year one or they are unhappy with your performance it will be sorted out in the first year anyway.

At the job offer stage you may be feeling very good and you do not want to spoil a good thing by haggling over terms and conditions. At this point you may just want to refer to the research you have done on the package your predecessor received and the rates established by the independent Committee on Golf Course Salaries (click on CGCS Recommended Salaries link above).

What to negotiate

What package you get at this stage is less important than you negotiating the mechanism that will improve your deal every year – assuming you deserve it. The first priority to negotiate is not the package but the pay review periods and the performance criteria your pay is based on so that you can go back for more if you are not happy.

One course manager at a prestige club did not do this and called me when his pay review was six months overdue with a challenging request ‘I finally have a pay review with my boss tomorrow and I think I’m worth another 40%, what do I say to him?’

I told him to not be like Oliver Twist. Don’t just say ‘more please’. Negotiating is different. It is not about asking, it is about trading. You have something your (new) employer wants; and you just need to agree the value of what is wanted.

Always go into a pay negotiation with two ‘shopping lists’. One list of items that will cost your employer money (to keep you from looking elsewhere for a job); and one list of ‘no cost’ or ‘low cost’ items.

10 Items that cost money

  1. Pay rates – how much you earn
  2. Pay increases – how much your increase will be
  3. Cost savings incentives – where you get a share of any savings you make
  4. Company car
  5. More pay for extra qualifications/responsibility
  6. Overtime/extra hours rate
  7. Annual holidays
  8. Training and development budget, including attending Harrogate Week
  9. Travel expenses to get to Harrogate Week and regional courses etc.
  10. Private Health Plan/Dental Plan

10 Items that are ‘No cost’ or ‘Low cost’ to your Employer (but are of value to you)

  1. You attend all club management meetings
  2. You take charge of all greens staff ‘hiring and firing’ decisions
  3. You become a member of the group that devises the business plan
  4. You take charge of all greens budgets
  5. Contribution to and ‘sign-off’ of club policy documents
  6. You visit other clubs to monitor ‘best practice’
  7. You take over and run meetings with members’ representatives.
  8. You take all purchasing decisions for greens purchases
  9. You take charge of the greens staff pay budget
  10. You take over the club completely for a week at a time (as career development)

Now that you have your shopping lists you will need to find a way to pay for them so be clear on what are you trading in order to get what you want. For example are you offering:

  1. Cost savings?
  2. Greater productivity?
  3. More leave, in lieu of a pay rise?
  4. Set pay budget that you control?
  5. Greater flexibility e.g. hours worked?
  6. To take on additional responsibilities?
  7. Long term pay deals in return for loyalty?
  8. To give up some ‘perks’ in return for cash?
  9. To reduce your overtime rate for a higher basic salary?
  10. Additional vocational qualifications and the better work that comes from them?

How to negotiate

In your preparation you will need to anticipate what the employer wants from you and his/her likely reactions. You might consider having what are known as ‘positions’ i.e.

  1. An optimistic position – the most you think you can get
  2. A pessimistic position – the least you will accept
  3. A realistic position – what you think you will actually get.

It is important to ask for more than you want. This is so that your employers can ‘knock you down’ and feel that they have ‘won’ the negotiation.

You should move politely from discussing ‘concerns’ to making tentative proposals at the same meeting, or at another time, to suit both parties. Make as many tentative proposals as you can so that you can ‘trade’ them later on.

Listen carefully and note reactions and counter-proposals. Give understanding nods when you hear your employer’s concerns and summarise their views saying that ‘you want to get this right’. Once you are clear on both sides’ tentative proposals, suggest that you are, or will soon be, ready to offer concrete proposals and make a fair deal.

From this point onwards it is vital to preface every firm proposal with the words ‘if you …. then I’ as in ‘if you (agree to an increased training budget), then I (will report clear benefits to the club of every training course attended’).

Tackle ‘easy to agree’ low cost items first and save the important stuff until later on to give you a chance to trade up at the end. If you can get more ‘little ones’ you will feel better if you did not get the entire ‘big one’ (your pay) this time around. Always consider phasing the ‘big one’ over time, it worked well for the guy who called me wanting a 40% increase.

How to get a win-win outcome

At the end of the negotiation congratulate the other side on a job well done and immediately write up your understanding of the deal. Finally, remember there is no win or lose in negotiation, just more negotiation next year and the year after. A good employer wants a win-win outcome – for both sides to be happy. If they think you took them to the cleaners one year they will want ‘payback’ the following year e.g. ‘You did very well last year now this year it is our turn’. The same could apply to you – you will want payback after a poor year and if you do not have confidence in your employer’s desire to achieve ‘win-wins’ on pay then you may start looking for a better paid job elsewhere.

Getting the reluctant employer to negotiate

Some greenkeepers tell me their employers do not want to negotiate; they just want to ‘announce’ the new pay rates every year. This may be because the thought of a proper negotiation makes some employers defensive. If this is the case then call it by another name. Maybe you could call it a ‘review meeting’. I know that if one of my people said to me ‘I’d like to discuss my future, when would be a good time to meet?’ it would really get my attention, especially if I had to wait a day or two before meeting them

At ‘the meeting’ begin by sincerely asking ‘how are things’ for them before saying that you have ‘some concerns’ you would like to discuss. Indicate that you ‘want to stay in the job’ but you ‘need some clarity on your future prospects’. You can then get a discussion going about your future which could include your future pay and how it is negotiated.

The author is Frank Newberry, who offers further information on the following link: This link enables members to request CV Samples, Interview Advice and Negotiating Tips.