An FBI Hostage Negotiator Gives Advice for Getting the NP Salary You Want

I love action movies. Anything with war, drug trafficking, a hero and heroine uniting in dramatic fashion despite a spray of machine gun fire – yes, that’s the flick for me. So, when a family member suggested I read former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss’ book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, I was game. I figured that if I was going to read a book on professional development, it might as well be one authored by someone with some interesting stories and utmost credibility. With experience in high-stakes negotiation with bank robbers, terrorists, and international kidnappers, Voss fit the bill. 

Negotiation does not come naturally to most of us. We are primed to shy from the word ‘no’. We aim for compromise in our deals, rather exploring win-win scenarios. We are too quick to say ‘yes’. We become defensive and act on emotion rather than reason. Yep, we’re pretty terrible at negotiation. The same applies to us a nurse practitioners when it comes to negotiating our salaries. 

Fortunately, although most of us innately lack the skills to negotiate for the most favorable end, negotiation can be learned. Top FBI negotiator Chris Voss even shares that he had to learn to negotiate, and is constantly refining his strategy. While as nurse practitioners, we certainly won’t be trying to talk terrorists out of freeing hostages in faraway lands, we will need to negotiate along the way throughout our careers. One such important negotiation is that of salary. 

In his book, Voss discusses salary negotiation directly, and gives a few practical tips for getting the compensation you want. Here’s how it’s done. 

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1. Give a range. 

Most of the time, Voss advises, it’s best to let the employer go first when putting a number to a salary proposal. But, if you’re forced to give the first figure, name a salary range rather than a number. Not only that, anchor your reasoning by sharing a reference point (like the six-figure salaries in these states). You might say, for example, “Top nurse practitioners at Healthy Clinic earn between $130,000 and $150,000 a year”. Making a factual statement gets your point across without you prospective employer getting defensive.

Aim high when you give your range. According to Voss, “research shows that people who hear extreme anchors unconsciously adjust their expectations in the direction of the opening number”. In other words, hearing you name a salary that is higher than the employer anticipated paying, reframes the employer’s thinking about compensation. Typically, the number on the low end of the range should be the salary you actually want. 

2. Be pleasantly persistent on non-salary terms.

According to Voss, “pleasant persistence creates empathy with the boss and builds the right psychological environment for constructive discussion”. Talking about non-salary terms such as paid time off, allows you to hear an employer’s full range of compensation options. If the employer can’t meet your non-salary related requests, they may even counter by offering you more money. 

3. Follow through. 

There are two sides to every deal. Once you’ve negotiated your salary, you’ll need to deliver. Discuss how success in your new nurse practitioner role will be measured. What things can you do to make yourself the most valuable provider on the team, according to your employer? You will also want to discuss the metrics used to determine how and when you will be eligible to receive a raise

What strategy did you use to negotiate your nurse practitioner salary?


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