Lion Heart - Part II
“Horse sh*te piped into a parfait glass, covered in Chantilly cream, and drizzled with ganache may appear to be a beautiful dessert, but it will still smell and taste exactly like what it is—horse sh*te gussied up.”
This is just one of many gems I spouted in the midst of a tense round of negotiations. If you’ll recall, the best writer and strategist you’ve never heard of was up for a role at a financial firm. They lowballed her, and made it clear that they favored a zero sum approach—this was going to be a take it or leave it offer, and it looked like I was going to have to leave it.
I figured I might as well learn a little something and stress-test the situation. I was about to employ a business tactic a client whom we’ve named ‘Mr. Dominick’ taught me. How would the company respond if I made them aware that I understood all of the tactics they were employing?
To their credit, they tried every trick; I was implored not to focus on the money (which is easy to say when you’re not the one trying to survive in a major city on $34,000). It was stressed that I was receiving this offer (the same offer they would make to a newly minted graduate with zero (0) experience) because of my diverse talents and experience. Finally, I was told that this was an “opportunity.” … Yeah, an opportunity for them to get the deal of the century!
The Pet Shop Boys knew what a real “Opportunity” was:
“I’m looking for a partner; someone who gets things fixed. Ask yourself this question, do you want to be rich? I’ve got the brains; you’ve got the looks. Let’s make lots of money.”
Once The Skulking Glamazon let the jackassery commence, there was no going back. When Mr. Dominick explained this approach to me, he said, “The most important thing you need to remember when you intentionally act like a jackass is that you never want to make it personal, and you never want to say anything that isn’t true.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, hoping I could find a way to prolong his candid behavior.
“Remember that this is a cold, calculated move. You’re not acting like a racist prick, and then trying to backtrack. You’re not calling someone an alcoholic in the middle of a dinner party. You’re pointing out the truth! And the truth is, Jackson is trying to screw me on this deal, and you caught the tail end of me calling him out on his sh*t,” Mr. Dominick said.
“Sweetie, the one thing you never want to do is let someone lowball you—not even one time. Do you know why?” he asked.
“Aside from the fact that getting paid less than you’re worth sucks, why?” I asked in turn.
“Because, if you bend over and accept a low number, your humiliation doesn’t end. Pretend you’re up for a job at a company you’re really excited about. You love them, they love you, you’re living the dream…until they lowball you, and refuse to budge. M’kay?”
“Okay,” I replied.
“Honey, I know this is a little direct, but you’d be better off if someone offered to jerk off in your pretty face for the same amount of money,” he said.
My hand shot up to cover my gaping mouth. Did he really just say that?!
“Sweetie, let me explain,” Mr. Dominick quickly continued, “Your humiliation would be one and done. If you bend over and accept a lowball offer, you are being humiliated month, after month, after month. Don’t ever think that a company will do right by you later. Business is a lot like sex; if you let them screw you in that position once, you’ve just let them know that they can screw you in that position again—no matter what you say. They’ll screw you on raises, they’ll screw you on your annual reviews, they’ll screw you on promotions…all because you let them screw you that first time. Once is never once.”
Although I found our conversation incredibly vulgar at the time, now I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Dominick was a little bit clairvoyant.
It was time to figure out how to serve up my Hail Mary…”stick to the truth,” I reminded myself. The appetizer would be a reply to my most recent email. I would leverage their own quotes; if they chose to point out what industry we were in, I too would acknowledge our industry. This was not a passion project, non-profit, or startup—this was a company that admittedly operated in two of the most lucrative and influential spheres of commerce: finance and technology. No one goes into either of these industries to be poor.
After making it clear that this was neither a real negotiation, nor a real offer, I then organized an entrée, dessert, and aperitif—a fact-based mini document of three (3) pages (less cover, table of contents and introduction), which spelled out how my career trajectory led me to apply for the role; why they were incorrect in their assumption that I had no other means of achieving my career goals; and the specific details proving why/how the offer was too low, why their tactics weren’t working on me, and the many opportunities they had bypassed to come to the negotiation table in good faith.
This hardcore approach made me a bit uncomfortable, but I began to realize that Mr. Dominick had been correct—sometimes you’re left with no other option but to drop the polite pretenses. No educated person would believe that a successful financial firm with a parking lot full of luxury vehicles couldn’t scrape up an additional $1,000 USD to at least pretend they’re upping the ante. They never countered once! They really did want me to bend over and take this with a smile.
“You’re not my future husband, so I don’t have to put up with that!” I thought to myself.
Once I’d finally pressed the send button, there was nothing left to do but wait. Mr. Dominick said you always hear back, one way or another. “Sweetie, once you know what they will try to get away with, you see what you can get away with.”
Just what could I get away with?
-Hesper Rose, The Skulking Glamazon