Locating Leverage Archives

The Bill O’Reilly Debacle – Its Most Important Negotiating Lesson for Employees

Published on May 2nd, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

“Without accountability, we cannot expect responsibility.”


From each and every event and circumstance, we can take away important lessons to guide our future actions. Some are obvious, others not. Some are important, others not. Bill O’Reilly’s recent contract termination by Fox News – despite his stellar ratings and very significant contribution to its revenues – offers one lesson for working people that, I believe, stands out among others. And, oddly enough, it has little to do with whether or not Mr. O’Reilly was “guilty as charged.”

This newsletter is less a “letter of news” than it is an observation on a societal change, and employees’ need to consider adapting to address change, in this order:
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Interviews and Meetings – How to Look Smart

Published on November 10th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“If I worried about appearances I wouldn’t be at Cubs games.”

– Billy Corgan

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: During interviews and meetings, we all want to look intelligent, wise, knowing and capable. Consciously or subconsciously, we do things to help ourselves appear that way. Some work. Some don’t. Some backfire.

Do you know how you can manage the impression you give? You may be very surprised at what researchers have recently concluded.

LESSON TO LEARN: Psychologists study a lot of things about what makes people “tick.” I recently came across an article that summarizes the many tactics people use to make themselves look smart, some successfully, some pathetically. The findings, explained below, may surprise you.

The studies suggest three lessons to learn about creating a positive first impression of intelligence at interviews and meetings: First, you can’t fake being intelligent. Second, you can learn to act in an intelligent manner, and to avoid acting like a fool. And third, there are a few small things you can do can make a bit of a difference, too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are what the psychologists who have studied “What makes people look smart” have concluded:
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A Negotiating Story – “Monticello”

Published on July 22nd, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

Negotiating Story
The True Story:

Thomas Jefferson’s home, located outside Charlottesville, Virginia, is named “Monticello.” It includes a sprawling plantation house and outbuildings that are preserved as a museum and popular tourist attraction. Monticello is considered an excellent example of neoclassical architectural design, and is registered as a National Historic Landmark.

Each day hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tourists take guided tours of the site and its main house, which have been painstakingly decorated, floor to ceiling, with precious antiques of the early 1800’s. In each bedroom in the main house, on each bed is a precious quilt, hand-sewn in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s.

For years, the museum curators found dirty fingerprints on the quilts, left there by curious tourists. Washing or cleaning these quilts posed a danger of additional wear and tear to the centuries-old, hand-sewn cloth. So, museum staff placed a sign next to each bed that read, “Please do not touch the quilts. Thank you.” The signs did not help; tourists kept touching the quilts.
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“‘Positional Leverage’ in Workplace Negotiating”

Published on March 24th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

“Boldness be my friend! Arm me, audacity, from head to foot!”
– William Shakespeare


Case History #1: Sharon, 47, was offered the position she had dreamed about for many years: Chief Financial Officer of a privately owned software design firm. It seemed the perfect combination of her two areas of expertise: financial management of growing companies, and software development.

There were two other significant advantages to the position: First, it was in the same city she presently worked, so no relocation would be necessary; that was especially important to her, as she had two teenage daughters she did not want to relocate. Second, part of the compensation package discussed was a significant number of stock options. Assuming the company did well, over five years her options would likely be worth at least $2 million.

Discussions of her compensation and responsibilities had gone well. An employment agreement was being prepared. In the meantime, she prepared and presented her resignation in a private meeting with her direct boss. Two days later, Sharon’s boss announced her upcoming departure, and that a member of her team would take her position.

It was then that Sharon received her draft employment agreement. To her surprise, it said nothing about a stock option grant, and offered a salary set at $50,000 less than she thought had been offered. She took the job, but never got over the feeling that she had been hood-winked, short-changed and taken advantage of. But she had no leverage at that late date. By resigning before finalizing all details of her employment agreement, she had prematurely changed her “position,” leaving herself vulnerable, to her substantial detriment.

Resignations can be tricky – and treacherous. To help you, we offer a 100-Point Master Pre-Resignation Checklist. All you need to know and remember. To obtain your copy, just [click here.] – Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Case History #2: Pierre had spent three years in central China working for a San Francisco-based manufacturer of vitamins as its On-Site Director of Quality Assurance. His job was to ensure that the Chinese factories, and the Chinese suppliers, did not permit “adulteration” of the vitamins, by allowing either unsafe chemicals or other things – such as dust, dirt or bugs – into their products. He was the company’s only American employee at the facilities, and was highly competent, dedicated and trusted.

Rumors surfaced that his employer was about to sell its Chinese operations to the largest vitamin company in the world, based in Europe. The rumored price – $350 million – was three times what Pierre’s employer had invested in its Chinese operations. Sure enough, the rumors turned out to be true, a deal had been struck, and a contract had been signed. The sale was to take place in two weeks.

Pierre’s supervisor in San Francisco asked him to fly in for a meeting. At the meeting, Pierre was heartily congratulated for his three years of hard work. Pierre’s boss told him that the buyer was very interested in keeping Pierre on as their Director of Quality Assurance, at least until they became familiar with the plant and its operations. In fact, there was no one else in the world who knew the language, knew the factory, knew the local suppliers, and – most importantly – could be trusted not to succumb to the local custom of “polite bribery.” In fact, Pierre’s boss told him that, if he signed a contract to work for the new company for at least one year, his present employer would give him an $85,000 cash bonus.

Pierre retained our firm to review the papers for him. We soon learned that the sale contract for the Chinese operations had an express condition in it: Pierre’s agreement to continue in his position for one year. In effect, the $350 million deal had become subject to Pierre’s “approval.” Foolishly, Pierre’s employer had changed its position by entering into the contract without first making sure Pierre had already agreed to stay on. In doing so, it gave Pierre enormous positional leverage – without him doing a thing.

We negotiated for Pierre. Instead of the $85,000 bonus Pierre was promised upon the closing of the deal, we secured for him a bonus of $1.7 million. You see, his employer could not “go forward” without Pierre, and it could not “go back” and lose its $350 million deal. An error for them, a windfall for Pierre.

LESSON TO LEARN: Negotiating is a matter of motivating another person to do what you would like them to do. How can you motivate others to do so? We use the word “leverage” as a synonym for “motivator.” Leverage comes from many different sources, the most common of which are “risk” (sometimes called “fear”) and “reward” (sometimes called “greed.”)

But often times great leverage can be gained – or lost – from a change in one of the negotiating party’s “position.” This is what we call “positional leverage.” It may simply be “being in the right place at the right time.” Or it may simply be “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” “Positional leverage” can also be gained or lost simply by not changing your position until the other party changes theirs.

Think of it this way: almost every playground has a piece of play equipment commonly called either a “see-saw” or a “teeter-totter.” Remember how where you sit (that is, your “position”) on that “see-saw” or “teeter-totter” can give you greater or lesser weight (that is, “leverage”) relative to your friend on the other end. That’s a graphic illustration of what we call “positional leverage” in  workplace negotiation.

As noted in our Two Actual Case Histories, above, being aware of your “positional leverage” can make a very big difference in the success or failure of your workplace negotiations and navigations. Without knowing it, you may give up great positional leverage, or without others knowing it, you may strategically increase your positional leverage. As always, it’s all up to you.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are six (6) ways you can gain the substantial advantages of “positional leverage”:
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“In negotiating my severance, can I use as leverage the fact that I know how much different employees are paid?”

Published on May 25th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi. I was terminated last Friday. The reason I was given was that I did not get along with my manager. The reason we don’t get along is that I complained to my manager’s boss (not in writing) that my manager and his buddies were constantly engaging in inappropriate language. I have seven days to decide whether to accept a severance package including one month’s salary and three months’ health insurance.

Because I worked in finance, I had access to files that contained the salary levels of all employees. Can I use that as leverage? I’d like to tell HR that I won’t reveal what I know if I am given more health coverage, a good letter of recommendation, and outplacement assistance. Is that blackmail?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Answer: Georgette, I’m glad you wrote in: what you are contemplating is illegal, and a serious crime, at that.

If you were to threaten to reveal what you know that would constitute the crime of extortion, which is generally defined as “to obtain something of value by threat or intimidation.” It is a serious crime. “Blackmail” is a common synonym for “extortion.”

Even if your employer did not report you to local law enforcement authorities, at the very least, I would not be surprised if your severance offer was entirely withdrawn in response.

From what you’ve said, I think your best leverage to gain better terms of severance would be that you were fired in “retaliation” for registering a complaint about inappropriate language. Most companies have strong policies against such retaliation.

Though it would have been better for you to have complained in an email, so there would have been proof, even though you complained “with your voice, not your fingers,” you can still raise the issue, and say, “If this is not resolved at this level, I would like to raise my concern about retaliation with senior management, the CEO, or the Board of Directors.” That is not extortion, because it is “threatening” to bring information to people who (a) you have every right to share it with, and (b) are appropriate under the circumstances. I suspect it will work better than the extortion you are considering.

I hope that helps. At a minimum, it should keep you out of jail.

Deadlines are important; don’t let your severance deadline expire. To help you ask for more time, we offer our Model Request for More Time to Review/Sign Your Severance Agreement. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: You might be interested in our Master 94-Point Severance Negotiation Checklist, to give you the peace of mind and freedom from worry that you forgot to raise or entertain certain points of discussion and negotiation. To obtain copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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