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This ‘risky’ negotiation strategy doesn’t always work out, says pay transparency expert

Hannah Williams isn’t afraid to ask strangers how much money they make. In 2022, she quit her six-figure job to make a business out of it, Salary Transparent Street, which brought in $1 million last year.

Since launching her TikTok channel, Williams, 27, estimates she’s interviewed upwards of 1,000 people, from teachers to nurses to entrepreneurs and more, about their earning power and money habits.

She’s learned a few important salary negotiation strategies, including one popular tactic that may be on the riskier side: Leveraging an offer with a new company in order to get a raise with your current employer.

“That can be risky, and that can get them in bad blood with their current company,” Williams says. She suggests people remember why they’re considering leaving their job. It’s rarely just about the money, she says.

As she sees it, if you’re so dissatisfied in your current position that you’d interview elsewhere, “more likely than not, a couple months down the road, you will still probably be leaving that company because it’s not just money. Usually it’s other things.”

Some HR professionals agree: An employee who stays for a counter-offer may be back on the job market within months when the novelty of more pay or new responsibilities wears off, especially if their main dissatisfactions are issues with a manager, the company or something bigger. On the other hand, accepting a counteroffer may be worthwhile if you truly enjoy your job, your work environment and new career opportunities you map out with your manager.

Another important takeaway Williams often sees is that base salary isn’t the only thing that’s negotiable when discussing your total compensation.

“If you’re asking for a raise at your company, and the company does not have the means to increase your base salary, that’s not the end of the negotiation,” she says. “Anything that you get from a company or that you give to a company is negotiable,” including a sign-on bonus, commuting benefits, 401(k) match, stock options, pet insurance, or child care, to name a few.

“There’s a ton of things that are on the table that may not increase your paycheck, but will increase your total compensation and oftentimes your flexibility,” she adds, “which I think goes hand-in-hand with work-life balance and overall happiness at your job.”

The biggest lesson Williams has seen, however, is to recognize that negotiating salary is difficult, and there’s really no trick to getting around it.

“The hardest part is actually choosing to negotiate versus thinking about negotiating, like putting the action plan into action,” Williams says. Of course, there are plenty of resources to figure out your market rate, know what to ask for specifically, and practice the pitch, but “having those conversations is the hardest thing.”

Deciding to negotiate pays off, she adds: “A lot of people I’ve spoken with are just like, ‘You just have to ask. if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have gotten it.’ And it’s really that simple.”

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