Best Practices for Negotiating Compensation

By Rebecca Zucker
Partner, Next Step Partners

Negotiation may not be something you do every day, but doing it well can have long-lasting benefits.

A lot of us go through life hoping that merit will be rewarded. The problem is that if you are waiting for everyone else to do the right thing or to meet your needs, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll get less than what you want and deserve. 

My colleague and Next Step Partners co-founder Rebecca Zucker is a master negotiator who has helped hundreds of clients score better compensation packages than they imagined possible.

In Episode 14 of my Career Stewardship podcast, Rebecca and I discuss why you should always negotiate compensation – even if it gives you the heebie-jeebies. We also share best practices and examples of how to frame these high stakes conversations. 

This conversation is loaded with rarely discussed, real-life examples, including a personal story from Rebecca about a bold ask that she was able to close by framing it strategically.   

Why negotiate compensation

Negotiating base salary is always a must. As Rebecca explains, “This is going to be compound interest for years to come. This is what your raises and bonuses will be calculated on, so small improvements can make a big difference longer term.”  

We discuss the challenge for women. One of our clients conducted a compensation audit that showed a gender gap. They found there was equity in offers but an overall gap in salaries. The variance reflected the difference between men negotiating and women not negotiating as much. And while research shows that women are not always rewarded for using the same strategies that men use in the workplace (women are penalized when they are not perceived as “likable”), it is possible to stand up for your interests.  

We also talk about how people will respect you more if you negotiate and share the story of a client who learned that the hard way.

Know what’s important to you

There are many levers that can be adjusted to come up with a good package. You have to know and be able to articulate what you want. 

Rebecca and I talk about how we advise our clients to give thought to all the things that would make a great offer. Bonuses, a signing bonus, equity, weeks of vacation, education budget, title, relocation, etc. can all be negotiated in a compensation package.

Areas of flexibility will vary from employer to employer. Some might be much more flexible in salary, but will never give you a different title because they need to align it with lots of other people in the organization. The opposite might be true of a startup where cash is more constrained.

More practical tips for negotiating 

Over the course of our 20-minute conversation, Rebecca and I share a range of practical negotiating tips and real life stories:

  • Framing the negotiation: how to elevate your position
  • “What are your requirements?”: how to answer this tricky question
  • How to maximize the offer: what to say and what not to say
  • Salary ranges: how to figure out what yours should be
  • How and why to position yourself as being on the same side as your counterparty

About the Career Stewardship with Michael Melcher podcast

This ongoing podcast from career expert, Michael Melcher, will help you figure out what to do about your career during lockdown and beyond. Each episode offers best practices, stories from the field, and bite-sized tips to help build your career success in both the short and long term.

As one of the partners at Next Step Partners, Michael is a seasoned expert on developing leaders and helping senior professionals make career transitions. A former lawyer, foreign service officer and startup CEO, he has navigated several career transitions himself.

Subscribe to Career Stewardship with Michael Melcher on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcast or your favorite platform. You can find additional resources on the show website:

About Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a partner at Next Step Partners. Her clients rely on her intelligence, pragmatism, and unwavering professionalism to demystify the process of growth to achieve their goals. In addition to coaching leaders across the globe, she regularly publishes articles on leadership at Harvard Business Review and Forbes.



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