When to Walk Away During a Negotiation

Response to my last month’s article was a little heated – and I loved it! Who could guess that tips on how to ask for a raise would be controversial?

As a matter of fact, two TV stations interviewed me on the topic after I posted the article. Here’s the footage from FOX 26 Houston:

Feedback, or maybe “push back”, I received from the article includes:

  • Asking for a raise sounds like you are threatening your boss. It is an ultimatum and implies you are going to leave if you don’t get one. 

  • Asking for a raise only annoys your boss.

  • If the company is preparing for layoffs, you could jeopardize your job.

  • It’s risky. Your boss may not have received a raise lately either.

  • Most bosses don’t have the authority to give you a raise.

  • If it’s not the right time in the corporate cycle, asking for a raise is fruitless and a bad career move.  

Wow! All of the comments and criticism I received are valid. Timing is important. However, I was making a different argument. One critical point is often ignored: We are responsible for our own careers. No one has the vested interest you have in your work, family and financial career – no one. And if asking for a raise is part of advancing your career or letting others know you are ready for more responsibility, then ASK!

There is a lesson from this great “ask for a raise” debate. As my friends pointed out, there are times you should stop negotiating and even times you need to walk away, especially in business deal making.

When deciding whether to keep negotiating or walk away, remember:

  • Not all deals serve your purposes. If you find yourself accepting business or requests you can’t manage or aren’t qualified to perform, pass on the work. Those desperate decisions just to pay the bills end up costing you for a long time. Also, be cautious of deals with low profit margins, tight delivery times or slow payment terms.

  • You don’t have what the other party needs. Sometimes a party’s request does not work with your business model. Although you want to make the deal, it requires you to invent or finagle a special product or service just for them or the work falls far outside your area of expertise.  Walk away. Don’t tie up resources creating something unusual that you’ll never use again. Most likely, you will become exasperated and the other party will be unhappy with how you perform.

  • It isn’t worth it. You need to feel good about the return on your investment of time, effort and resources. If you are in the middle of the agreement without a graceful way to exit, honor your word, finish the work well and learn your lesson. However, if a deal you are considering takes too much time and money for the return, then you don’t need it.

  • It doesn’t feel right. Trust your gut. If the deal doesn’t feel right or sounds unethical, run don’t walk. If you don’t trust the potential client, partner or vendor in your initial meeting, don’t do business with them. Your credibility and reputation distinguishes you over the long term. Don’t proceed with an opportunity which could hurt your good name.

  • The deal doesn’t align with your needs.  Make sure deals fit you. Part of a negotiation is structuring an arrangement where your needs and expectations are met, too. Don’t be so desperate that you agree with the other party just to make a deal.

There will always be opportunities. Stop working so hard on ones that don’t fit. Instead, focus on work and relationships which serve you too. Start identifying the best deals for you and your organization. And, when you something isn’t right, give yourself permission to walk away and even run.

 Journey On!

About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Byars Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker.