Negotiating the terms and conditions of a new job is a sensitive process. Ask for too much and you appear greedy; accept the first offer and you might be missing out on a few extra perks.
For one US scholar, fresh from receiving her PhD and identified on the Philosophy Smoker blog only as “W”, discussions with her prospective university employer did not go exactly as planned.
After receiving a job offer, W decided to ask for one or two extras. In an email to Nazareth College, a small liberal arts institution in Rochester in New York state, she said she was “very enthusiastic” about the possibility of joining the college, but that “granting some of the following provisions” would make her decision easier.
These provisions were a 20 per cent increase of the starting salary to $65,000 (£39,000) “in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years”; “an official semester of maternity leave”; “a pre-tenure sabbatical at some point”; “no more than three new class preps per year for the first three years”; and “a start date of academic year 2015” so as to allow her to finish her postdoc.
“I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think,” she wrote.
Nazareth, it seems, did not take too kindly to the list of demands. “It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered,” reads an email from the university, also published on the blog. “Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.”
The college concludes by thanking W for her interest, and wishing her the best in finding a suitable position.
“Yup. That’s it,” comments the author of the blog. “End of correspondence there. It’s that last part, the refusal to negotiate before rescinding the offer of employment, that I found really flabbergasting.”
The blog provoked a great deal of response, from those saying that W could have done more to “understand the culture and needs of the hiring institution, both before and during negotiations”, to those disagreeing with the university’s decision to “violate a promise”.
In a second entry on the same blog, W seeks to defend herself against those who considered her demands unreasonable.
“I agree with those arguing that I made a mistake in negotiating,” she writes. “It was a clear case of a miscommunication between the institution and myself. This is how I thought negotiating worked, how I learned to do it, and, for that matter, how I think it should work: you ask about a number of perks and maybe get some of them.”
She says that there had already been “plenty of much warmer emailing going on between Nazareth’s philosophy department and myself” before the negotiations began (and quickly ended).
“Hopefully a few philosophers on the market can learn from my mistakes,” she concludes.
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