Salary Negotiation, Then and Now
Within large companies, it’s easy to see how salary negotiation was once reduced to a pretty limp process. Many potential achievers didn’t have very much negotiating power because they weren’t given the chance to prove what they could do.
Most were one-function workers who were easily replaced. So they shut their mouths and accepted whatever was doled out. The thinking was, “If I get too pushy, I’ll be replaced.”
Many organizations used to be like giant ocean liners: Only first-class passengers got to schmooze with the captain. Everyone else paid homage to their immediate supervisor, a lowly cog in a towering machine.
All that changed in the early- to mid-1980s, when intense pressure from foreign competition, particularly the Japanese, forced U.S. corporations to slim down to fighting weight because U.S. industry had lost its edge. It was industrial warfare, as international powers fought for world markets. The rule was “fight back or perish.” The result was radical change, with companies eliminating unnecessary layers at a frightening clip. Thousands of companies went bankrupt; others systematically laid off workers, like sinking ships lightening their loads in order to stay afloat. It hasn’t stopped yet.
What’s different today is that, unlike the recessions of 1973 to 1975 and the early
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