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Why Louie B. caved in

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in Salary Negotiating,Workplace Communication

Louis B. Mayer made MGM Studios an industry leader by producing films that projected the traditional American values of God, patriotism, hard work and motherhood. He also protected MGM’s success with shrewd negotiating skills, often outflanking movie stars who wanted—and probably deserved—much bigger paychecks.

But even the tough old Mayer knew when to give in.

When actor Robert Taylor wanted more money, he appeared in Mayer’s office and simply asked for a raise. Mayer said that if the young man worked hard and respected his elders, he would one day get everything he deserved. Mayer then put his arm around Taylor and led him out the door. When someone asked Taylor if he had gotten his raise, he replied “No, but I found a father.”

Ann Rutherford, a young actress in the popular Andy Hardy movies, also asked for a raise. Mayer began to give her the same treatment he’d given Taylor. But then, Rutherford took out her bankbook, showed him her tiny balance and said she’d promised to buy her mother a house, but couldn’t. She started to cry, and Mayer gave her a raise. The word “mother” had outflanked him.

The key:  Mayer couldn’t resist the“mother” pitch because motherhood formed a core part of his stated valued.

The lesson: When it comes to giving someone a raise or compromising your core values, give the raise.

— Adapted from The Time 100: Time Magazine’s Most Important People of the 20th Century, www.time.com/time/time100.

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