How far should you stretch things to get a raise?
Some people inflate their performance record. Some people invent a fake job offer from a competitor. Then, allegedly, there’s the “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
Smollett has been at the center of a firestorm since he was allegedly attacked in Chicago last month by two men shouting homophobic and racist insults. Last week, Chicago police charged Smollett with a felony for filing a false police report, and say he paid two men to fake the attack in order to help him in salary negotiations. He was suspended from his TV program, “Empire,” on Friday. Smollett denies the charges. He is reportedly paid about $125,000 per episode.
‘My advice: Don’t lie in a salary negotiation, period. But if you do decide to lie, you certainly don’t cook up a story that harms innocent people.’
“My advice: Don’t lie in a salary negotiation, period,” said Denise Dudley, a behavioral psychologist and the founder of training company SkillPath Seminars. “But if you do decide to lie, you certainly don’t cook up a story that harms innocent people, muddies up the waters on all sorts of important human rights fronts, ties up police, FBI, and the judicial system, and lands you with a felony charge.”
Smollett’s lawyers have vigorously defended the actor, who has repeatedly said that the attack was not fake. However, the Chicago police have released a lengthy report, alleging the actor knew the two suspects and engaged in phone calls with them prior to the reported attack. The police say it was an elaborate publicity stunt to boost his profile. “You definitely don’t want to have a couple of people beat you up with ‘MAGA’ hats on,” adds adviser Monica Dwyer of Harvest Financial.
Smollett’s example is over-the-top by most people’s standards, but even less extreme falsehoods during salary negotiations can be a mistake, Dudley said. It’s never good to call anyone’s bluff if you believe you’re worth more than your pay packet. “Personally, I’m not a fan of lying on any level — fake mugging story or fake Google job offer,” she told MarketWatch. “If you’re found out down the road, it’s grounds for termination in every organization I’ve ever worked with.”
‘They should go in seeking to prove their value, and they should have an alternative. The better your alternative, the more you have power.’
Carolyn Goerner, who teaches negotiation at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, says those seeking a raise should focus instead on two keys to success: Evidence that they’re worth the extra money, and a backup plan.
“They should go in seeking to prove their value, and they should have an alternative,” says Goerner. Your employer doesn’t care why you want more money, she notes. They just care why they should pay it. And you are in a much stronger position if you have a good alternative, she adds. In management circles, she says, the backup is known as a BATNA: Your Best Alternative To the Negotiated Agreement. “The better your alternative, the more you have power,” says Goerner.
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Meanwhile, Dwyer says you shouldn’t neglect working the office politics, and learn how to negotiate aggressively. “And always ask for more than what you want,” she says. In the 1990s, the cast of “Friends” famously banded together to negotiate $1 million per episode, a record deal for television actors in the 1990s. But that was a cast of six stars rather than a much larger ensemble cast. Smollett has been cut from the two final episodes of “Empire,” which airs on Fox
Smollett is accused of promising $3,500 to the two men involved in the attack. If he is found guilty, he could face prison time and certainly the end of his acting career. For about the same amount of money, he could have taken the two-day course in “Negotiation for Executives” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. (21st Century Fox and News Corp.
the parent of The Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch, share common ownership.)
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