Salary talk in the workplace makes for a contentious and uncomfortable topic.
With the age-old taboo of keeping your earnings to yourself, revealing your salary to co-workers is a relatively new concept.
This transparency has been spearheaded by millennials and Gen Z who are more open about such matters. Getting a new job can be a good place to negotiate for oneself.
An employment offer from a possible new company sparks enthusiasm and aspirations for the future.
But it also brings up the reality of the tough stage in talks and the topic of compensation and perks tied to the employment contract.
Some employers in South Africa still require prospective new workers to verify their former compensation before making a specific offer.
This provides a hurdle for those who would like to bargain based on the value they bring rather than their historical remuneration.
“After having gone through the job search, application, short-listing, interview, and assessment process, it can feel that your job is done. But if not handled correctly, things can still go awry during the package negotiations if not handled diplomatically,” warns Africa MD at Jack Hammer, Advaita Naidoo.
These talks can be difficult because the applicant will prefer to negotiate pay in line with what they feel they are worth.
On the other hand, companies would prefer to control their expenses and risks whenever feasible.
According to Naidoo, there are several reasons why employees may be earning a salary that does not reflect the value they provide to a business.
For example, the employee may have received just inflation-linked raises for many years, raises may have been placed on hold in the past owing to company performance, or someone may have been subjected to pay disparities based on racial or gender bias.
“For those being offered a new position who believe that they should not merely be receiving an incremental raise based on their previous remuneration, but rather an offer that is in line with the value they bring and what the company is willing and able to pay, this can present an uncomfortable situation,” she says.
Naidoo went on to say that the key to securing a fair conclusion is to approach the discussions prepared and with adequate supporting evidence.
“A candidate must do their homework to determine firstly what the range of a market-related salary would be and secondly, where in that range they will fall. This information can be hard to obtain, but some resources do exist, such as industry-related salary surveys and benchmarking.
“Candidates should match current industry compensation to their own experience, skills, and track record, and then also align that to the stage of maturity, size of company, industry, location, current financial position, and growth prospects. All of these variables play a role in determining what ‘fair’ entails.”
When prepared with the necessary facts and data, justifying one's package expectations becomes a less stressful affair.
Naidoo advises candidates to have a strong grasp of their present salary package and structure before entering into offer talks, to avoid unwittingly underbidding oneself.