Negotiating Tactics: The Offer Offer

How a clever tactic gets you hooked before you have a chance to say “no”
Thursday, October 06, 2005

It occurred to me last night that I am working with a master negotiator when I realized the subtlety of his tactics at hand. I have been offered an offer for a job, but I have not yet been given the offer. What this means is that over the few weeks I was given to decide whether or not I want the offer, I will have to decide and convince myself that either the job is the right one and I want it or that it is not and I do not want it. If I decide that I do not want the job, then we each just go about our merry ways. On the other hand, in deciding that the job is the right one, I will have invested myself emotionally in the job before even getting to the point of real negotiations.

Since I will have decided that I want the job before knowing the terms of the job, I am in a tough position to negotiate, given that the negotiator’s strongest play is to not need or want the thing being offered. For example, when I bought my car, I didn’t need it, and I certainly didn’t need it right away. Therefore, I was able to walk into the dealer and tell him exactly what I wanted to pay. If he wasn’t willing to give me that price, then I could walk out, and it would make little difference to me; I could always just go to another dealer, or wait to talk to someone more flexible. With a job, if I do not need the job (because I have one already or am fantastically rich) or if I am not convinced that I really want the job (because it doesn’t quite fit my aspirations), then when we start to talk terms, I can easily walk away. But, if I am invested emotionally in the job, it will be harder to walk away over something silly like stock options or health care benefits. It is a subtle tactic, one that I am not sure my negotiator is aware he is using, but since I have recognized it, I am one step ahead. Hopefully.