Nazareth College rescinded a job offer to a woman for an assistant professor position in philosophy back in 2014. At the time, this sent shudders through the higher education and student affairs worlds. At the NASPA conference, it was a dominant topic of conversation among grads and other job seekers.
As a person who has tried to encourage professionals in my field (and especially women) to negotiate job offers (see this blog post: http://buff.ly/1h2dIrA), this seems to have reinforced the belief that negotiating a job offer is a risky thing to do; it would be safer to just accept what you are offered. That’s what most people want to do anyway, so it is nice to have that confirmation. Boo, I say!
First of all, negotiation is not about getting what you want; it is a conversation about value, worth, and potential contribution. This conversation should come from a place of confidence and from recognizing that salary and benefits (formal and otherwise) are social constructions, influenced by institutionalized belief systems and the salary and benefit system that exists within the organization making the offer. Negotiating CAN result in an enhanced package, though not always. Not negotiating NEVER results in an enhanced package.
So, I think there are a few things to consider in this situation before using it as a reason not to negotiate when you receive your job offer.
- The reason this story is such a big deal is because of one fact: it is an anomaly! This is a man-bites-dog story. If it happened all the time, there wouldn’t be a story about it. I would be stunned if we could find two or three more examples of a job offer in student affairs being rescinded due to a person merely countering the original offer. This should NOT be taken as evidence that one should not counter a job offer.
- The woman’s counteroffer (including limited course preps, a pre-tenure sabbatical, a later start date to complete a post-doc) created the impression that she was actually looking for a position in a research university, rather than the teaching college Nazareth is. The school in their message back to her basically says exactly that. Should they have rescinded? I would say no, but I understand their rationale. The lesson for other job seekers is: Be careful about countering with requests that indicate you do not know what the job entails or could be interpreted as you really wanting a different job. It isn’t about NOT negotiating; it is about negotiating with awareness.
- I am also left to wonder: What if the candidate had been a man? Would they have rescinded the job offer? We’ll never know, but what we know from research on negotiating is that in our current society women are “punished” more for negotiating than men are. It doesn’t matter if the person making the offer is a man or a woman; if the person countering is a woman she is thought less of than a man is. That does not mean women shouldn’t negotiate; it means that they should be aware of this and take steps to mitigate possible negative feelings/reactions of the negotiator (subject of future blog post!)
Dear female colleagues: I ask those of you who have had positive results from negotiating to please share those stories, so that other women can have stories that counter the negative impact of this one highly publicized bad result.
Comments and critiques are most welcome!
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For the whole job search story, get my book Job Searching in Student Affairs: Strategies to Land the Position YOU Want. Seriously, it will be the best $9.99 you spend this week!