4 Tips for Singaporeans Who Are Too Paiseh to Negotiate Their Salary

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Directness is definitely not one of Singaporeans’ virtues. One only has to look on Stomp to see that passive-aggressive behaviour reigns instead of a straightforward approach. When it comes to negotiating salaries, that puts many people at a disadvantage. Most job seekers here simply accept the first salary offer they receive or walk away if it’s unsatisfactory.

The thought of doing something as confrontational as, gasp, asking for a higher salary goes against everything Singaporeans have learnt about respecting authority. In fact, most Singaporeans would pick job hopping relentlessly over opening their mouths and asking their bosses for more money. Here are four tips for not letting that happen to you.


Let the employer make the first offer

The first rule of negotiation is to always let the other party make the first offer. Of course, most employers will try to get the upper hand by asking you what your expected salary is. If what you expect is lower than what they are willing to pay, you can bet they’ll immediately lower their own offer to match.

It’s important to note that there is no way the employer can force you to tell them your expected salary. If they ask you, always tell them you’ll need to think about it and can’t tell them immediately. If they try to get you to enter your expected salary on the form you fill up before you go for the interview, leave it blank.


Negotiate on terms other than salary, too

Singaporeans know all too well that money isn’t the only thing to be concerned about when it comes to work. Just ask the 57% of Singaporeans who said in a recent survey that they would pick better work-life balance over a higher salary. Successfully negotiating on other terms can do even more to enhance your experience on the job than simply getting paid more will.

Some terms you might want to negotiate on include vacation days, being allowed to work from home on some days and flexi-hours. A friend of mine once had a 6-day work week with only 7 days of annual leave, which on hindsight he should totally have tried to change. Unsurprisingly, he quit after 3 months. On the other hand, two colleagues at a previous job managed to negotiate staggered hours or a part-time arrangement, even though the company wasn’t accustomed to allowing them.


Get it in writing

You might have arm-twisted your interviewer into agreeing to a higher salary thanks to your glib tongue, but you might later get a rude shock when HR calls you with a lower offer. Just because that one guy has agreed to offer you a particular salary doesn’t necessarily mean management will agree, especially if it’s a big company.

If you’ve managed to wrangle a fantastic salary offer, lock it down by getting it in writing. Send a thank you email to the company after receiving the offer stating the exact figure clearly. That should make it harder for them to change their tune later on.


Always have a counteroffer ready

Negotiating is like fighting a duel. Just because the employer has given you a crappy salary offer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight back. You should always have a counteroffer up your sleeve. In fact, you should mentally prepare more than one counteroffer, so if your first gets shot down you still have a chance to negotiate in other areas like annual leave or working arrangements.

For instance, if the employer refuses to budge from the salary he originally suggested, you shouldn’t just accept this. Make a lower counteroffer, or ask if you may work from home a few times a month instead. Employers who are very price-sensitive may not care as much about working arrangements so long as the work gets done at the same cost.

Have you ever successfully negotiated a higher salary? Tell us about it in the comments!