Negotiating Salary During Divorce

Salary Negotiations in the Midst of Divorce

Why would tips on salary negotiations appear in a divorce coaching post?

Divorce, like all other life transitions, is a time to take stock of our resources, to try new things, and to prepare for positive change. This may include salary negotiations.

Perhaps you and your soon to be X have decided once and for all that, no matter how hard you work on your marriage, staying in the marriage will not be the right way to continue living your lives. You have arrived on the shores of a new world where the days seem twice as long and you and your soon to be X must meet the challenge of supporting two households on the earnings that once, very recently, covered only one household. It may be time to engage in salary negotiations at work.

You and your spouse have seemingly competing interests that make your present income seem less adequate than ever. Nothing in life seems certain but feelings of chaos, fear, and stress. I have been right where you are. This is temporary. You will survive. As Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell write in The Optimist’s Guide to Divorce this time of chaos can be the birthplace of a new financial life of abundance.

Allow yourself to visualize the new financial life you want and begin creating your strategy for getting it.

As a divorce coach, I work with men and women on much more than the ins and outs of child and spousal support. One particularly powerful two hour session I had with a client, whom I will name (for purposes of privacy) Martin, involved salary negotiations and how to negotiate his salary at a company where he had been employed for three years. Through our entire session, we focused on how to ask for and negotiate a raise. At 2:00 PM on a Tuesday in early autumn, we laid everything out on the big conference table with the mini pumpkins in the middle and Halloween candy in a big bowl between us and threw ourselves into the learning and analyzing process. By 4:30 (it took a tad longer than 2 hours), Martin smiled broadly. We had put it all together and he emerged from our session feeling equipped to negotiate more skillfully, confidently, and effectively.

Kevin P. Mohan, a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, published an article in Negotiation Briefings, on negotiating salary. Mohan begins his report by providing advice on negotiating for job satisfaction and life success. His tips on negotiating for the other assets beyond salary alone are important and I encourage you to check them out. However, since we are discussing the period directly before or after divorce, when time is of the essence and increasing household income becomes particularly important, we will get right to tackling the nuts and bolts of asking for a raise in compensation and benefits.

Mohan’s First Rule:

Match your negotiating strategy to the organization’s expectations and characteristics.

Do you work for a large, established company like Honeywell, where management measures job candidates against well-defined job categories with a set range of salaries? In this environment, you would begin by figuring out what pay category someone with your education and experience would receive, then build a case for a salary at the high end of that range.

In their book 3-D Negotiation, Lax and James Sebenius recommend making a “non-offer offer,” a statement that grounds the discussion of what you believe you should be making in your favor without making your expectation appear outlandish.

An example of the “non-offer offer:”

Your research suggests that you probably fall into the $80,000 to $100,000 pay range, but the next-highest category is $110,000 to $120,000 and that seems to you to be a possibility. Lax and James suggest saying “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that people like me typically earn $110,00 to $120,000.” This statement is not a demand but it creates a powerful context—a reference point that could steer the numbers toward your upper goal.

Maybe you work for a start-up where you are one of 10 employees. Your salary will not be determined by existing pay scales. Here, it may be appropriate to structure a creative package that includes stock options.

Mohan’s second rule:

Avoid holding yourself back in job negotiations.

Time for some soul searching. The tendency to feel vulnerable and insecure about our worth becomes more palpable when we are in the midst of hiring negotiations. Be consciously aware of all of the possible opportunities to negotiate. Do not focus on what you perceive as your weaknesses. Give the other side the chance to articulate their position. Really listen when they do and do not make concessions in your own head while they are speaking, an activity referred to as “bargaining down your own position in your head.” Do not be intimidated about asking for multiple outcomes. Do not bargain with yourself to give up two of the outcomes you seek in order to “fairly” fight for the third.

Mohan’s Third Rule

Recognize your bargaining power.

Position yourself to be an effective self-advocate. Gather information so that you will feel that what you are asking for is fair. Prepare to explain the value you bring to the company. Meanwhile, examine your vulnerabilities and plan ahead to compensate for them.

Suzanne Riss remembers, “What helped (during my divorce when I needed to ask for more from my boss at work) was keeping it professional and unemotional, sticking with the facts and providing solutions, rather than burdening my boss with my personal problems.”

Career coaching is often an important part of Divorce Coaching.

salary negotiations during divorce