Salaries, Salary Transparency

Employees Reveal Their Salary Negotiation Horror Stories

Creatives in action

It’s almost always a good idea to negotiate your salary, whether you’re accepting a new position, a promotion, or you rocked out at you annual review. But that doesn’t mean the conversation always works in your favor, as these five employees know all too well. They’re here to share horror stories of how salary negotiations went very wrong. Prepare to cringe—and hope that your own negotiations go much better than these examples.

I threatened to go to another company—and my boss said, “go ahead.”
“I’d worked at my company for several years with very few pay increases—and the ones I did get were so small they almost didn’t count. So when a coworker moved to a competitor and I found out what he was making there, I went to my boss and said something like, ‘I’d like to discuss my salary because I’ve realized I could go to XYZ company and be paid 30 percent more for the same job.’ I thought my boss would realize our company’s pay wasn’t competitive. Instead, he said, ‘go ahead and go there.’ He basically left me no choice but to quit and try to make more money somewhere else.” —Katherine S.

My boss gave an entire list of reasons why I shouldn’t get a raise.
“When negotiating a raise with my prior boss, I was listing out all the reasons I thought were valid for a raise, but the conversation went completely south as he started to list the reasons not to give me a raise. I was flabbergasted. Needless to say, there was no raise.” — Amanda T.

My employer gave me a pay bump—and then rescinded the offer.
“A few years ago, I applied for a public relations position with a company. I negotiated with them to take my salary from $45,000 to $50,000. When I received an offer letter stating I would make $56,000, I gleefully accepted. But after accepting the job and being employed for about a week, I was told that my offer letter was incorrect and that I had only been offered $50,000. When I tried to go back and renegotiate my salary, I was told that I should be happy because it was more money than I had been making.” —Stephanie C.

I found out my employer paid someone more than me—all because I didn’t ask.
“I was in my young 20s and has just landed my second professional job. This new offer was significantly more than I had been making, so I took it without negotiating at all. That was a big mistake. I later learned through the grapevine that another woman—same age and same experience as me—was hired one week later, and she was given $5,000 more a year and an extra week of vacation, all because she countered the company’s initial offer. If I had only done the same, I would have been making even more. I still kick myself.” —Jamie K.

I asked for a raise over and over again and there was always an excuse to say “no.”
“When I took my job at my last company, I was promised they’d put me into the training program within six months. After completing the training, I’d get a promotion—and a raise to go with it. Well, six months came and went, and they never put me into training. I spent another six months asking to start, but there was always an excuse why I couldn’t: So-and-so was on maternity leave, and they couldn’t afford to lose me in my role. We were picking up business, and they needed to hire new employees before promoting current ones. It was a random Tuesday, and my boss simply didn’t have time to discuss it. So after a little more than a year, I decided I’d been lied to and that they never intended to promote me or pay me more, and I left.” —Victoria M.

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