TEFL teaching materials

teaching professional people english

Negotiating a raise … in a fun way

Those of us who work freelance encounter this topic for ourselves first hand.  Our students do too of course, and many have more room for manoeuver when it comes to revisiting their remuneration package.  I’ve found myself teaching a lot of courses over the years which were supposed to be geared towards negotiating.  I was definitely out of my depth, and frankly, many business english textbooks seem to feel that it is their function to tell students how to do their job.  There has to be a better way.  So try these resources.  They are fun if nothing else…

Lead-in : video & more video

These are little gems and even in a series of 3 they should give you plenty of mileage. I suggest showing video number one a first time, asking learners to predict the subject of the class, and then using it as an opportunity to name different strategies we use during negotiations and to rate their ethical correctness.  After that, the other two are good for general discussion but I think they can be enjoyed first, and language followed up afterwards.

Points to follow-up

In the first, probably not much.

In the second clip, the interviewer is about to offer the young man a job (‘…a great fit at this company’) and then moves on to questions of pay.  Six figures?  Seven?  Four hundred thousand dollars? …. I can feel some numbers revision coming on.  Incidentally, what type of work do they think the job would have been?

The third video is fairly self-explanatory.  Some of the things said by the mother may require explanation (‘speak up, spit it out, ….) and you may need to explain the concept of the pushy mother in some cultural contexts.  What is ‘dental’?  Pay and conditions are regulated differently Stateside to here in Europe.  The style of negotiation used is quite stereotypical, so if your students negotiate for a living then they may have things to say about how realistic, or how outdated they think it is.  (Obviously, taking your mother to a meeting with your boss is a surreal device … don’t write in)

Giving advice

I’m guessing ‘should’ is a word you’ll want to revise, along with qualifiers such as ‘never’ ‘always’ ‘probably’ & so on.  What advice is given in your students’ cultural context?  Is the type of advice we see suggested in the clips appropriate in your setting?  Are there different unspoken rules for men and women?


There are truck loads of articles about negotiating.  I am bookmarking two which I think are suitable for classroom use.  You probably know better ones.   If you have a group then I suggest giving half one article, and half the other.  Then they can read, digest and summarise.. and explain what they read to the others.  Both would be better presented if you clipped them into evernote …



Role play

If you’re lucky your students won’t need to practice on you (although you may thrive on this sort of thing).  I’m not including any original role play material here.  Your text-book probably has loads, and anyway English teachers’ ideas on subjects like this usually seem very lame to professionals who know about these things.  When in doubt I have the students design the role play.  My ‘expert’ input is in the area of preparation – What language will they be using?  What conjugation?  What vocabulary?  No-one really expects me to know better than they do, do they?

Whatever else you do, allow plenty of time for people to discuss anecdotes from their personal experience if they have any at all.  Time and again, students have shared truly valuable advice with their classmates during my lessons.  Often, this information will have been at least as valuable as gains made in language skills.

Of course I can’t guarantee results, but I do know that researching negotiation for my classes has helped me no end when it comes to setting pay rates with my own employers.  After twenty years I’m finally starting to do it right from time to time…

Bonus giggle…

I almost forgot:


About Catherine Kennedy

Second year undergrad (super-mature) at Sheffield Uni doing single honours Religion, Theology, and the Bible. (Formerly TEFL teacher in France)

6 comments on “Negotiating a raise … in a fun way

  1. Pingback: Helicopter parents (?) « carefulkaty

  2. Jeromy Netz

    I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up.

  3. Tiffiny Sewell

    Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was funny. Keep on posting!

  4. loxtonenglish

    Very nice blog. I disagree with you however about “many business english textbooks seem to feel that it is their function to tell students how to do their job rather than provide practice or any intercultural insight” in my opinion it is the opposite. Also why do you think that you “can’t make anyone a crack negotiator”? You’re an experienced trainer who’s obviously spent a lot of time teaching on this topic. I’d be willing to bet that you can offer a lot of interesting and useful tips and insights to students, especially as you say you’re now better at negotiating your own pay rises. Your point about allowing time for anecdotes during the session is spot on, and remember that by creating this environment it is YOU(albeit indirectly) who has allowed the students to gain knowledge from their colleagues, this is often what happens when business trainers/consultants run sessions (which often cost much more money). You are right that getting the students to design the role-play is a good idea, it’s more collaborative too. However, I also believe that if we listen and learn from what our students tell us about their jobs and industry (which you clearly do) we can also create materials that are relevant and authentic.

    • Catherine Kennedy

      Hi there,
      Complements are always welcome, so thank you for your kind comment. I have taken on board your criticism – my comment was not well expresed. You’re quite right. I agree with what you say about business trainers/consultants & a certain overlap with what we do. Students have often remarked that quite prosaic lessons (vocabulary to describe ones’ job..) have given them a whole new perspective. I like to think we give value for money ; )

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