The three week sampling trip to Venezuela was scheduled next week at the beginning of December and we would finish just before Christmas. All my various shots were done, the tetanus shot leaving my left arm sore. Getting the gear together and shipped for the international project had been a real bear. The staff of the consulting firm for which I worked as a sub-consultant had been generally incompetent. The pain I was experiencing on this project was just not worth the $20/hour I made on domestic work. Just after Christmas I would be moving 500 miles north with my wife and four children to fill a government biologist position. The “prestige” of this Project was definitely wearing off.
Given the issues I was facing, I felt I deserved a higher fee and wanted to negotiate with the company president Sam. As he had bipolar personality this could be tricky. He had been hiding in his office for several days protected from his employees by his secretary. Surfacing the next day from his funk, he was in an effusive mood; beaming and chattering away at the receptionist’s desk in the company’s front foyer. A crowd of employees had gathered to ask Sam the questions that had been erupting as he hid in his office.
This was his version of holding court surrounding himself with courtiers. This made him feel important. I asked if I could have a few minutes alone with him in his office. “No we are fine right here,” was his reply.
“Are you sure, we can’t discuss this in your office?” I replied to the astonishment of the surrounding sycophants. They were shifting from one foot to another looking to each other for safety in the gathered crowd.
“What is it you would like to discuss,” Sam smiled so sweetly my teeth hurt.
“My fees for the Venezuela sampling trip. Unless I get $25/hour I am not going to do the trip. It’s Christmas and I am moving. I really don’t need the headache,” I countered forcefully. The crowd is slowly dissipating except for those that are enjoying the confrontation.
“You know you would be missing out on an amazing opportunity – once in a lifetime. Your current fees are fair,” Sam rebutted.
“Not for international work, they’re not. Find someone else,” as I walked away, the employees gasped. Their king humbled.
A few minutes after I reached my office, Sam entered. He agreed to the higher fees out of earshot of his employees. His negotiation in front of the crowd was his attempt to intimidate me. I let him save face. I accepted the work and kept mum on my increased fees.
While the sampling trip was indeed amazing and did provide a once in a lifetime opportunity, many issues arose that were quite complicated in their execution. The military were in control and corruption was everywhere. Sampling supplies were difficult to obtain and acquiring them proved to be logistical nightmares. The employees I had to work with were not familiar with working on water and numerous safety issues arose. We barely made it home before Christmas and the military coup that toppled the government a day after we left.
I should have negotiated for more.