“Motivate Before You Monetize” – A Workplace Negotiation Pointer

“You can get everything in life you want if you will just
help enough other people get what they want.”

– Zig Ziglar

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: Over the years, we have noticed a certain dynamic during the course of negotiating workplace issues that is surely worth sharing. We usually begin negotiations by addressing the employer’s concerns, but our clients want, instead, to start off by raising their own concerns, first. We have found that, when we first raise our clients’ “wants” instead of first discussing their employers’ “needs,” things don’t go as well. And, so, we often counsel our clients, before going into negotiations, this simple thought: “Motivate Before You Monetize.”

Case History 1: We had begun negotiating an employment contract for a senior executive. As is commonly the case, our client wanted a long-term agreement, which represents considerable job security. She decided that a firm 3-year term of employment should be the first item of discussion, and perhaps even a condition to the discussions going further. The employer did want to go past a 2-year commitment. Quite needlessly, that issue ended the discussions altogether, because, I believe, we “monetized” before “motivating.”

Case History 2: Another client had been promoted, and was offered increased stock options as part of his new compensation package. He felt the number of stock options was not what he had expected, and expressed disappointment. We counseled him to focus not on the number of stock options, but to begin first with a discussion of what metrics of success in his work would trigger the vesting of his stock options, because that is what his employer was most concerned about. In our discussion of the metrics of success, we ended up agreeing upon a formula for triggering options grants and option vesting for different levels of success that would ultimately give our client more options than even he wanted to ask for. Talking about success, that is “motivating,” led to an easier time “monetizing.”

Case History 3: We were negotiating a severance package for a client. We began by discussing what our client’s legal claims were, and their probable enforceability. We were focused on convincing the employer that the way our client had been mistreated during employment justified the better severance terms at the end of employment. Our client became quite impatient that our discussions were focused primarily on “why” he should be treated better, and not focusing on “how much” better severance he should receive. Acting without our knowledge, he spoke directly to his employer on the subject, and demanded a hefty increase in severance. His doing so was not helpful, to say the least; in the end, we believe, it resulted in a smaller severance package. Lower motivating so often leads to lower success in monetizing.

LESSON TO LEARN: The observation that underlies our advice to “Motivate Before You Monetize” is this: Employers are more flexible, more generous, and more understanding of your needs and desires after – and not before – they are confident that you are flexible, giving and understanding of their needs and desires.” So, before you raise your “numbers,” explore their “needs.”

And, conversely, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” That is, if employers are first confronted with requests that initially seem audacious, one-sided, larger than they had anticipated, and not directly related to their achievement of their own objectives and goals, they are often turned off from the start of discussions, and sometimes irretrievably so.

What you want, need and feel you deserve in a negotiation is surely on your mind as you enter into that negotiation. But holding that off for the moment, and addressing your employer’s wants, needs and feelings of what they deserve, is a wise move, indeed.

Monetization – that is, speaking in terms of numbers of dollars – should wait until employers are most receptive, and they are most receptive when feeling greater confidence that their needs come first.

There is a Yiddish saying that “God gave us two hands, one to give and one to receive.” I have always noticed that the “give” in that saying comes before the “receive” in that saying. Keep that in mind in your own workplace negotiating, and you may observe how well that works, as we have, over these many years.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: In your own workplace negotiating – whether it is about a new job, a promotion, transfer to a different department or location, compensation, performance reviews or performance improvement plans, the resolution of claims of harassment or discrimination, severance, or anything else – address, discuss, explore and seek to resolve your employer’s concerns, desires and needs before your own, especially when your desires and needs are set forth in dollars and cents. That is, “Motivate before you Monetize.” Here are some thoughts to help you do just that:

a. Ideally, workplace negotiation is a collaboration, not a competition. Bear in mind that most workplace negotiations are not zero-sum games. If we approach them correctly, workplace negotiations don’t represent having “one pie to cut up,” but rather finding the best way to make “more pies to share.” Though often difficult, strive to bear that in mind. Strive, too, to convey that sense of mutual support and reward, and to incorporate that spirit into your workplace negotiation. Investment of energy in that effort way well come back to you as considerable benefit. Speaking first of achievement of mutual goals, and holding off on dollar-denominated requests, can only help.

b. Even in heated disputes, the more you listen, the more you learn, and knowledge in battle is power. Even in severance discussions, which can become heated, if we hear from your employer – openly, or “between the lines” – that it is concerned about loss of customer relations if you leave, we can then propose – in return for better severance – that you work on transfer of your client relations to your replacement as a central part of your transition. We could even propose a “severance bonus” if you are especially successful in these efforts.

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c. Prepare (but don’t initially share) a list of your “wants”; it will serve to reduce your worries that they will be forgotten. I’ve heard from many clients that they are fearful that “I am concerned that, if we get off on other subjects, we won’t get back to my points.” Preparing a list of what it is you seek, and not sharing it at first encounter, will serve to diminish any anxieties that they will get lost in the shuffle.

d. Make your “wants” seem to be a way to achieve your employer’s “needs.” If, for example, your employer expresses a need to increase sales, your desire for a larger staff budget is not entirely consistent with increased sales. However, if you can present a request for more staff so that you can sell more, or support those who do sell more, your request is more likely to be seen and responded to in a more positive fashion.

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e. When “numbers” are detached from “needs,” they can seem so “cold.” It’s no coincidence that we sometimes hear the phrase “cold cash.” Dollars and cents, by themselves, can seem so impersonal, superficial, selfish and unappealing. On the other hand, when dollars and cents are viewed as earned because your employer achieved it results, they can seem rightful, deserved, worthy, merited, even dignified. It’s all in how they are presented and perceived. First “motivate,” then “monetize.”

f. People reward their friends more often then they reward their enemies. The more your employer feels you are “on the team” and not “against the team” the more likely it is he or she will give you what you want and need. But you need to create that impression, that is “motivate” before you begin asking for what it is you want, that is, “monetize.”

g. Negotiations, by their nature, are almost never truly completed. Last but not least, bear in mind that negotiation is a process, and is never really over. Anything negotiated can be renegotiated, too. If a request is turned down, that does not mean it will never be granted. It just might mean your efforts to “motivate” are not yet successful enough to permit you to “monetize” what you want.

P.S.: For individual attention and assistance, Mr. Sklover is available for telephone consultations lasting 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 2 hours. If you would like to set up a consultation, just [click here.]


SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. Understanding how to pace and order your negotiation discussions is an important part of that process.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the state of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.

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