Last week I urged you to use your voice, even if it shakes a little. This week our focus is on using your voice in a skillful and powerful way, through the tool of negotiation. Men naturally negotiate because they are encouraged from an early age to stand up for themselves and request what they want. But studies show that women systematically under estimate their worth. This evidence also demonstrates that compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally under estimate their abilities. The confidence gap can be a self-perpetuating problem. Most women grow up with the belief that if they are not following directions and putting others first, they are not being good. While men are hard at work, working the system and figuring out how to make the system work for them, women are unconsciously working hard at maintaining the status quo.
Women still make only 82% as much as men doing the exact same job. The reason, at least in part, is that only 7% of women ever negotiate a salary throughout their entire career. This subject has recently garnered a lot of attention in the media. Since the data hack at Sony Pictures, we now know that even the most celebrated and coveted women in Hollywood only make two-thirds as much as their male counterparts. Following the data leak, actress Jennifer Lawrence admitted that she did not negotiate for fear of being labeled as difficult or unlikeable. These are hardly the women who are impacted most by this discrepancy, but the Sony incident demonstrates that this issue is common and pervasive in the world at large.
Margaret Neale, Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Lean In education contributor suggests these considerations and tactics when entering into a negotiation.
First, recognize that negotiation is more than a salary discussion. Negotiation is also problem solving. Instead of approaching negotiations as a win/lose situation, see if you can come to an agreement that makes all parties better. Successful negotiations do not begin as a demand or ultimatum. They start with the question, “Is there an alternative solution that can benefit both you and me?”
To define a good deal, understand three things upfront:
- What are your alternatives? What do you have “in hand” in case a new agreement is not reached? The person with superior alternatives does better.
- What is your reservation? The bottom line — below this, you are better off walking away. Above this, you are better off.
- What is your aspiration for the deal? What is your realistic view of the best possible outcome? Aim high, but also support your goals with arguments about why your “Ask” is reasonable.
There are four steps to achieving a successful negotiation:
- Assess. Do the benefits of engaging in this negotiation outweigh the costs? Can you have influence in this situation? What is the price you are willing to pay to avoid negotiating?
- Prepare. What are your interests in this negotiation? What are the interests of your counterpart?
- Ask. Engage with your counterpart. You have unique information your counterpart needs. Your conversations with your counterparts give you the opportunity to share this information as well as listen to their perspective.
- Package. Make proposals that package together issues and solutions. Start with the results you can deliver to your counterparts, your team, or your organization. Do not negotiate issue-by-issue. Use “if/then” statements as a tool to present your “Ask.”
One other thing to keep in mind when going to the table, women tend to be more effective as advocates for others than for themselves. For example, if you feel you are deserving of a pay increase, it’s good to think of your family and the ways they will benefit in school and extra-curricular activities if you are successful. If you are going for a project or promotion, be sure to think of the benefits to your co-workers and the organization itself if you take on this role.
Negotiation is not going away and we shouldn’t try to avoid it. It’s a fundamental part of how people interact and business gets done. We may find it awkward or difficult, but we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and just ask for what we want. Because if you don’t ask, who is going to do it for you?