Set your personal goals in advance: Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

Major League Baseball All Star pitcher Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels last August admittedly left millions of dollars on the table when he passed up free agency and signed an $85 million five-year deal with the Angels. In announcing the deal, he said “Could have got more, whatever. Who cares?”

You might suggest that it’s easy to say this when you’ve just signed a deal worth $17 million a year. But it’s relatively rare among top athletes and professionals to do what Weaver did – and it highlights three important lessons, as generally noted in a recent Harvard Negotiation Newsletter.

1. Set your goals and interests

Weaver focused like a laser-beam on his own personal and professional goals and what made him happy and gave him satisfaction – and it wasn’t just the money. He had grown up in southern California, went to college nearby, and really enjoyed playing for his hometown team.

These non-financial goals and interests appropriately played a huge role in this negotiation.

Similar non-financial goals and interests play an equally important element for millions of others in the salary negotiation context, especially in an economic environment in which any raise may be off the table.

Nonmonetary interests include: workplace location (working from home vs. an office), flextime, a new title or responsibilities, different kinds of benefits, better support staff, agreement for future raises, a collegial work environment, a better parking spot or office location, and the list goes on.

2. Beware of social comparisons

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Iris Bohnet has found that most are less likely to accept a new job – even if it’s much better than their current job – if a peer has received a better offer. Comparing yourself to others (for Weaver, what other star pitchers were getting) thus has the potential to undercut your psychological satisfaction and ability to satisfy your interests.

Of course, it’s critical to research the compensation of similarly situated peers. This market value analysis – relatively easily accomplished on sites like Salary.com – can be a powerful move to justify your or your employer’s offered package as reasonable.

But this analysis needs to be incorporated into your personal evaluation of whether the offer – including the nonmonetary elements – satisfies your goals and interests.

3. Learn from your successes and mistakes

I always recommend to my seminar attendees and clients that they debrief after their significant negotiations – even if it’s only for 5 minutes – and identify what worked, what didn’t and how they can improve. And I suggest they keep a running list of these so they learn from their successes and mistakes.

Weaver had previously gone through two contentious and difficult salary negotiations with the Angels – one in 2004 that he said was “a rough time for me and my family,” and the second in early 2011 when his case went to arbitration and he lost.

The nature of his third experience stands in marked contrast to these others, suggesting that Weaver had decided to approach this differently and had learned from his previous experiences.

As we start a new year, resolve in your next negotiation to 1) set your goals, 2) beware of social comparisons, and 3) learn from your successes and mistakes.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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