There was an amazing, interesting and almost global response to my last post “Let’s go girls…. negotiate”. All sorts of questions and issues were raised around gender differences related to salary negotiation. Many complex topics were covered connecting cultural and historical barriers that prevent women stepping up to self advocate. But I’m not even going to attempt to address those wider topics here and just want to concentrate on the immediate and practical. I’m also just going to focus on negotiating for a new job and will deal with existing situations later, although the principles are still broadly the same .
So let’s deal with what can anyone of us do.. NOW.
Women are relationship builders
One of the first points raised was that women are relationships builders and as a consequence we are not good at “winning ” individual encounters and are therefore disadvantaged from the get go. So OK… let’s look at this in real terms.
Yes, we are excellent relationship builders – but all good functional relationships I believe are not about winning. In fact if anyone feels like a “loser” in a deal ( male or female) , my feeling is that connection is predicated to be dysfunctional long-term. Negotiation is ultimately about building a relationship. It is constructive communication between two parties to find a mutually satisfactory outcome. Women excel at win/win solutions. Do male managers really see all negotiations as adversarial? Wise and effective ones surely don’t. I have actually tried to find some management theorists who might support this line of thinking- but couldn’t locate any, except perhaps when discussing situations impacting international security- which we’re clearly not. And even in those cases, as we have historically seen, punitive negotiations don’t always work then either.
Many women also wrote to me and to paraphrase said ” … You don’t understand ….negotiating a salary is different to other types of negotiations.”
NO it isn’t.
This is about confidence. Without confidence we will always find a way to lose, so it is important is to normalise and neutralise the negotiation process in our own minds and to understand that as women, we all do it, all the time without a second thought. We just don’t even notice. Once we realise what an integral part negotiation actually plays in our daily lives, half the problem has been overcome.
1. The TV repairman says “ Can’t come for 3 weeks”
2. You have a 4 figure quote from a supplier for a job you feel pretty sure should cost 3 figures
3. Your 15-year-old wants a party
So what do you do? Do you roll over and wait for 3 weeks to get your TV fixed and say to your contractor “ sure no problem I’ll pay over the odds for that job?” or leave town and turn your house over to your teen for an all night rave? No. Of course not.
You research the market, evaluate what you need doing, decide what you can comfortably afford to accept. If it doesn’t work you let it go or change.
So salary negotiation isn’t different.
By becoming a candidate you have already made that psychological commitment to change and have taken that leap into the unknown. You have imperceptibly started the negotiation process. You have researched the company, identified your skills, know your value in the sector and must have marketed them well , because here they are now wanting to make you an offer. You are in a good place! If the hiring company lose you, they may have to start the process from scratch or fall back on candidate number two. That is an additional cost, not just in terms of search fees, but also in terms of elapsed time before a new hire is effective , which equals lost revenue. They will have done their homework and will know what the salary range for your skill set is on the market. Generally everyone should be looking for successful outcome. Most companies settle at least 10-15% above the initial offer.
When I started selling, my boss at the time, a guy called Mike Lowe, the best sales person I have ever met and a formative personality in my career and personal development, gave me a simple nerve conquering mantra before I embarked on any project. The pre-question.”What is the worst thing that can happen?”
Mike also tried desperately hard to teach me to ski where injury, pain and death featured in my option choices ( not necessarily in that order.) But these downsides, generally speaking, don’t tend to happen around a negotiating table discussing anything legal.
In any ordinary negotiation process, the worst case scenario is usually and I always unhapppily thought, pre “Mike” , was a firm ” no” . But Mike also taught me that “no” is my friend and how to use it .
Make “no” your friend
So even within this negative messagethere is a hidden bonus which can open up a dialogue and lead you to make informed decisions. So instead of fearing “no” – it’s now a word you feel extremely comfortable with. Take a lesson from your own kids. If you say no to a pre-schooler – what do they say ? Exactly. ” Why? ”
“Why” is now your other new door-opening buddy.
It hangs around with “no”. It allows you to take each objection and calmly overcome them with your elevator sound bites, which incorporate all your CARS, USPs and overall added value. So you love “NO.” It can work for you! The evolved adult you have become, may not stamp her foot like a five-year old and petulantly pout “why”, but you will counter with something more grown-up, neutral and reasonable like “What makes you say that?”
Mike taught me to de-emotionalise “no” and view it as a vital part of the process. It’s wasn’t about me. “No” doesn’t mean that my value or self-worth are on the line and reduced in any way, or I’m some sort of mini failure. It’s only about the transaction.
Research & preparation
But first you have to deal with negative thinking and examine the facts and take steps to avoid being over come by fear ( False Expectations Appearing Real.) So research and preparation are key. Understand the economic viability of the company and know your own market value.
Mike also taught me about the use of silence. It’s the last member of the “no / why” trinity. We women are not great at silence. But there are times when the prudent use of silence can be as effective as delivering a great elevator speech. Used wisely it is a great negotiating technique. Deliver your pitch …. and wait….and wait…. and wait….
Fall back position
It maybe that you will not reach your first goal – but you should always have a secondary goal in mind before entering any negotiation. In the words of Karl Albecht “Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.” If anyone in a negotiation situation that feels their back is against a wall, trouble and resentment are going to figure largely in their futures.
But if a compromise still isn’t possible then that leaves one option – seriously consider voting with your feet.
Is it this final step, which we as women fear most? That primal, risk taking side to our personalities that keeps us in the metaphoric “cave” and prevents us taking that leap into the unknown which separates us from the guys?
The irony is of course , that it is the ability and willingness to walk away which can be the single most powerful negotiating tool in any deal.
What do you think?