Thursday, March 20, 2014

Has anyone had an offer rescinded for negotiating?

This has zinged its way around Twitter already, but I thought I would talk about it a little. From Inside Higher Ed: 
The candidate, identified in the blog as “W,” sent the following email to search committee members at Nazareth College, in Rochester, N.Y., after receiving a tenure-track job offer in philosophy: 
“As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier[:]
1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.”
She ended the email by saying “I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.” 
In a reply, the search committee said it had reviewed the requests, as had the dean and vice president of academic affairs. 
“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,” the email continues. “Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.” 
The search committee ended by thanking the candidate for her “interest" and wishing her “the best in finding a suitable position.”
Here is the best explanation for why "W" may not have been on the best footing, where someone who is a professor at a small college notes that this e-mail may have been a sign that W had a poor understanding of the actual requirements of the job. I agree with Megan McArdle that e-mail was probably not the best way of attempting to negotiate, although it sure seems like to me that W was being more than flexible. A final caveat that I'm neither an academic nor a philosopher, so I don't really understand their culture well enough to say what is and is not the norm.

But I'd like sure like to know if there are any industrial chemists out there who have had a job offer pulled for being too strong on the negotiation. I've negotiated a little, but not enough to say that I'm really a champion at it, and I've not had a job offer retracted.* Has anyone else heard of this? I'd love to know.

*A couple of times, I wonder if when salary questions were asked during the interview, if I quoted a number that was too high. No job offer from either one of those interviews. 

32 comments:

  1. I wonder if there weren't already some warning bells going off during the interview and the decision meeting, such as half the people in the department liked her, half didn't, the chairman had to split the tie, and then along comes this email. And yes, this should not have been negotiated via email. Really, email? Some people's kids...

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    1. Could the offer have been made via email? If it were, I'd say negotiation through the same medium is fair game.

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    2. I think an offer via email would be weird too.

      Despite all the email and other modern means of communication, people still negotiate orally, ideally face-to-face, but phone calls can work to. The only people who don't are lawyers filing briefs, motions, etc and look how productive that is.

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    3. When you're negotiating with a place in a different country and many timezones away, email is the norm, with a few skype calls. This wasn't the case here with this Nazareth college place, but I'm just saying...

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    4. That I would agree with. (and isn't it a pain in the posterior?)

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    5. Actually email is better for summarizing things and putting everything down on paper(email). It does make everything take a bit longer it seems, and sometimes you really want to call the people, but are not too sure if they want to talk to you at this point, or they still need to think about something.

      Plus in light of this news about rescinded offers, it makes you very apprehensive. It would be better just to have a couple more skype conversations in the near future, but I'm even afraid to ask for that now.

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  2. "Dear W., don't you know that negotiating makes women seem pushy? Next time accept what we're willing to give you and leave the negotiation to men!"

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    1. I think we'd have to know what the initial offer was to make any sort of judgement on this. I don't know if W is barred from revealing it, but if not it seems strange not to. I'd also be interested to know if $65k really is what assistant professorships in philosophy get these days. It seems rather high. We also don't know if there was a hurry on the position. If they need someone fall 2014 and she asks to postpone it seems imminently reasonable that they would decide to move on.

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    2. ACS salary survey data gives $65k as median for chemistry *associate* professors at master's-granting schools, so I'd be inclined to say W was overconfident at best, and delusional at worst.

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    3. ...and the AAUP survey lists $58k average for all assistant professors at Nazareth Coll Rochester.

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    4. "W" has responded, she claimed that it was a less than 20% ask:

      http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2014/03/w-speaks-about-her-pfo-fo.html

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  3. Pfft. Beggars can't be choosers. She deserved what she got. Stupid on her part, but I guess she just couldn't see through her entitled attitude.

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  4. I guess women are supposed to lean in, but not too much. This comes on the same day that a politician said the answer to the gender pay gap is to be better negotiators.

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  5. It happened to a friend of mine. The company offered her 5k less than her last position, so she politely asked if it was possible to increase the offered salary by 5k. They emailed her back saying they changed their minds and had offered the job to the other candidate.

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  6. This is a small college. Small colleges aren't research universities that have rolling hiring for new faculty, they need to have someone for the start of the semester to teach or else they need to scramble to find someone else. Not being able to start the semester they need could be a serious problem. Based on her requirements, I think they assumed that she would hold out a bit and then refuse their offer, leaving them with less time to find someone else so they preemptively said no thanks.

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  7. clearly the patriarchy has reared its ugly head once again

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  8. A former colleague (in industry) almost got an offer pulled for asking for a few grand more in salary. The VP in charge of the site thought it meant my colleague wasn't a team player; more reasonable people talked him out of rescinding the offer.

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  9. She negotiates with the subtlety of Putin.

    2 and 3 are things she should have found out on the interview--smaller schools tend to have pretty rigid policies on those things.

    You'd think a humanities PhD would be better at using words convincingly and/or appropriately.

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    1. Unless she is a humanities PhD who thinks gender is a social construct and that what really is inhibiting her from the wealth she deserves is an oppressive patriarchy.

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    2. And people wonder why there are so few women in the sciences...

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  10. My group (industry) pulled an offer back for someone who asked for more money after an initial verbal agreement. There were other factors involved as well....

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  11. I agree with the article that #4 shows a real disconnect with what life for a faculty is like at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI). Asking for a pre-tenure sabbatical might have been a real sticking point as well (depending on teaching loads) as PUIs often have less flexibility in hiring. The salary seems high for a PUI and there is no indication of what the original salary offer entailed.... if the original was $40K, then asking for $65K was a non-starter (especially if Assoc/Full profs were making that as their 9month salary).

    #2 is one that most schools have an official policy... but my undergrad institution (a PUI) had a new asst chemistry professor (female) that championed the idea of putting a generous maternity leave policy into place "for recruiting purposes" with excuse from teaching lab courses (to avoid chemical exposure). (as a note, all professors directly taught the lab sections with no TAs, but it was a new building with excellent air-handling) Some of the other faculty (both men and women) felt betrayed when she proceeded to use it as soon as it was approved as there was not allowances (with the administration) for hiring adjuncts during the time before leave (when she was excused from teaching labs) and they had to pick up the slack by working extra sections for an entire academic year.

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  12. http://www.naz.edu/philosophy/faculty

    For a small school (2000 undergrad, ~800 graduate), they've got 4 tenured faculty and 5 lecturers in the Philosophy department...Half the tenured faculty are woman, so I doubt there was 'the good old boys club' at play here. Remove #2 from the list and make the candidate a man and I think his offer gets pulled as well.

    Supply and demand. With the current oversupply of PhDs candidates in many fields in academia, people have very little leverage when it comes to negotiating. Had the school come back with a "take it or leave it" type of response, I wonder if she'd have accepted the position? It looks like they assumed the answer was 'no' and decided to move on. Clearly she wasn't head-and-shoulders above the #2 choice or they may have tried harder to bring her on board. $65k for an associate professor at a small liberal arts college seems way high. I wonder what her initial offer was.

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    1. assistant professor, I meant...

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  13. 1. Asking for 65k (<20% extra). Reasonable. She should know the typical 10% negotiation rule though.
    2. Semester of maternity leave. Semi-reasonable. She should know that they can't just change their school policies at the drop of a hat though.
    3. Pre-tenure sabbatical. Reasonable, but again, there's probably already a school policy on that that they can't change.
    4. No more than 3+ class preps. Unreasonable. She should be ready to teach anything in her field that they need.
    5. Start date in 2015. Semi-reasonable. They tend to hire each academic year for what they need, not 2 years in advance, so she should be ready to have this one rejected.

    Individually, nothing too unreasonable or flat out offensive to ask for. Taken together though, kind of a big request.

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    1. 4. No more than 3+ NEW class preps per year.

      You left out the word "new." A someone who has negotiated multiple PUI offers asking to limit the number of new preps seems pretty reasonable to me. New preps are pretty challenging and it is often in everyone's best interest to limit the number of new preps each year to ensure students get the best education and new faculty are provided the best opportunity to succeed.

      I agree with you that the sum of these may be more than the whole, and this appears to not have been done particularly tactfully. However it seems like simply saying no to every request and giving the candidate one last chance to accept or decline the offer as is would be the best course of action. I've never heard of anyone losing an offer for negotiating like this before. The hiring committee should understand that this is likely the candidate's first and only time negotiating, so they should cut her some slack for asking for too much. I would rather have candidates ask for too much than too little.

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  14. Hey, where's the super-judgmental Notre Dame PI who came around to shame us for saying that you should follow a better offer even if you already received one? What, nothing more to add? Oh, i guess this is irrelevant.

    http://chemjobber.blogspot.com/2014/01/when-is-job-offer-irrevocable-series-of.html

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    1. BW you are correct your comment here is irrelevant to that earlier thread (note I am not the ND PI)

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  15. " I've negotiated a little, but not enough to say that I'm really a champion at it, and I've not had a job offer retracted."

    Probably the easiest thing to negotiate as a PhD is vacation. Given that you are entering the job market a lot later than usual, most companies are willing to make some concessions here so that you get similar vacation time to other workers your age. If your company has a kind of standard 2 weeks through years 0-5, 3 weeks for the next 5-10 years, maybe more thereafter, it is usually quite achievable to at least get an extra week those first five years if you ask. It doesn't cost your boss anything on his budget line, and honestly will have hardly any impact on your productivity. Heck, it will probably save him or her money on consumables and make you more productive.

    If you are voluntarily switching jobs, transferring vacation-related seniority or bonus vacation should be almost mandatory parts of the discussion.

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  16. These types of requests are much more effective if there is a competing offer that you're asking the university to match. If you've just got one offer, you're not in a very strong negotiating position.

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  17. Concrete DovetailMarch 24, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    I've never negotiated, but I did have to call a company back and ask to be re-offered an offer I previously turned down to work somewhere else. I felt fortunate when they did give me the job with the same salary they initially offered. I certainly didn't ask them via email. I called the human resources department. I didn't dare try to negotiate for a higher salary after they called me back and offered the job, although my advisor at Berkeley thought that I should have spent a considerable time on the phone negotiating.

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