May 29, 2013

Negotiate Like a Girl: The Real Cost of Avoiding Negotiations.

You picture the slimy guys like in Glengary Glen Ross hustling customers for that month’s bonus of steak knives.

Luckily there is another way—a way of negotiation that enlarges the pie and leads to more ‘win-win’ solutions than traditional hardball (and stressful) negotiations.

The problem, as outlined in Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, is that women don’t ask and they are missing out in huge ways (salary, promotions, even your ability to take time off).

So why aren’t women asking and why does it matter?

Perhaps most obvious, negotiation can be seen as competitive and scary. Often people feel that negotiations are always a me vs. you situation, but they can actually be an opportunity for a much better collaborative resolution.

As we’ll discuss in the next installment of Negotiate Like a Girl, there are tools you can use to diffuse your anxiety on negotiating.

In general, women tend to undervalue their worth. In one study cited by Babcock and Laschever, men and women were both asked to perform a task and then asked to pay themselves.

On average women paid themselves 63% less than men. Once women had the information needed for framing their salary, the gap closed—meaning women didn’t want to pay themselves less, they just didn’t know their worth.

Choosing not to negotiate adds up. In the book the authors give a quick calculation of the average student’s starting salary when they negotiate compared to the salary of those who didn’t negotiate ($5,000 difference).

Calculating only 3% annual raise (no bonuses, etc.), this led to over a million-dollar discrepancy over the individual’s lifetime—for one missed negotiation!

Oyster v. Turnip view of the world.

Men see the world as their oyster—they’re surrounded by opportunities, and they just need to choose which ones they want. Women are more likely to think “you can’t get blood from a turnip”—what you see is what you get and you need to make the best of it. Additionally, women are far more likely to have a lower locus-of-control, believing that life happens to them and accomplishments are more likely to be because of the situation or other reasons, such as “I had a great mentor, the economy was right, etc.”

Men are leaders, women are bossy and the issues of subconscious bias.

Try as we might, the world is not an equal playing field for men or women. In another study referenced in Ask For It, when a screen was introduced in orchestra auditions (therefore concealing the gender of the musician auditioning), it increases the likelihood that a woman would win a seat by 250%. Subconscious gender bias is particularly true in industries where there are few women and they may be viewed as the token female or another stereotype.

Likability factor.

As I’ve mentioned in several previous elephant articles on building good relationships with your customers, people want to do business with individuals they like. This is an issue in negotiation because behaviors that come across as aggressive can decrease a woman’s likability and often backfire. This places an extra burden on women to control and monitor the impression that is made during a negotiation. So even if women pursue the typical aggressive negotiation strategy, their odds of success decrease.

By now you may be thoroughly depressed, but there is hope!

Although women face more obstacles than men in negotiating, once women receive training and practice their success improves dramatically.

Beyond money, think about the things in your life you have gone without because you didn’t want to ask.


In Part II of Negotiate Like a Girl, we will cover strategies for Taking the Fear Out of Negotiation.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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