BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Effective Negotiating

Posted by egehl on April 19, 2010

I have never been good at negotiating.  I don’t like confrontation, feel awkward and nervous about asking, never know when it’s the right moment to speak up, devalue my worth (and don’t know how to translate it into dollars) and have missed opportunities when my poor negotiating skills resulted in a lesser outcome.   And I am not alone in this confession.

In today’s business world, being a good negotiator can make a big difference in your career.  It can help you earn more money by negotiating a raise, secure a higher title through a promotion, or obtain budget money to manage a project.

Typically women struggle with negotiation and many of them lament that they don’t know how to do it effectively, or avoid it at all costs.   Women generally have a well-founded hesitation when it comes to negotiation and it can have dire financial consequences.

The wage gap between men and women’s earnings can be solved through policy, but it’s also important that women are their best advocates to earn the salary and benefits they deserve.  

Closing the wage gap will entail a three pronged approach:  addressing policies that hamper women’s ability to get retribution, employers being more mindful about their pay scales, and women increasing their skills and confidence about how to negotiate. 

Now that women make up half of the workforce, and many are their family’s central bread winners, negotiation is critical.  However when it’s time to bargain it feels daunting and nerve wracking.  What is an appropriate ask?  When should you speak up?  How do you approach it?  How can you use your skills to leverage the most out of a situation?

Women have reservations and personal baggage when they negotiate.  As a result, this can interfere with the outcome and the costs can be high.  Women have traditionally paid attention to relationships and that attention can be used against them.  In my experience I can attest to this.  Often, I allow wanting to sustain a relationship positively get in the way of advocating for myself to secure the outcome I need and deserve. 

In addition, women worry about what’s appropriate behavior.  Often women can worry about confrontation as a result of the tactics that may need to be used to achieve a goal, and their collaborative nature may give the wrong sign that they are conceding.  Negotiation is hard because you have to strike a balance between being confident and forthright, yet polite and nimble.  It’s very difficult to have a sense of whether you have lowered your expectation too much or pressed too hard, and both can hamper effectiveness. 

It’s important that women find a comfortable and effective negotiating style that fits them.  To help figure that out, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Reassess and understand your value:  Be clear about the value you bring.  This will empower you in a negotiation and give you the confidence you need to be your best advocate.  Have a sense of what makes your professional background and experience unique and important to that employer.  Make your value visible and be clear about the benefits of a positive negotiation.

Do your homework:  Think through your options before you hold the discussion.  Try to understand where the other person is coming from and their needs and concerns.

Clearly define your goals: Make sure you are clear on not only what you want, but the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept.

Determine the best time for the discussion: You will want enough time for the discussion and to hold it when each person is relaxed and not emotional.

Remain calm: The more emotional you become the more clouded your thinking will be and your point can get diluted in a mistaken way.

Ask for what you want: Don’t be afraid to explain your needs and what you’d like to see occur as an outcome, but do so calmly.

Avoid finger-pointing: Focus on the issues, not on personalities.  This can be hard if you have a strained relationship with a manager or colleague however it’s best to leave behind those issues during a negotiation. 

Find a creative solution:  Remember that negotiation doesn’t have to be a win or loss scenario.  For example, if you are asking for a raise and told no, then perhaps there are other ways the company can award you?  This is also an opportune time to work with someone to collaborate in a creative way. 

Remember there will be future opportunities: If the discussion heads in a wrong direction or doesn’t accomplish your end goal, don’t completely forego it.  It’s fine to pick up the discussion at a future date which can also be beneficial as it gives everyone time to  step back, relax, and reflect.

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One Response to “Effective Negotiating”

  1. amy cross said

    I read this with great interest since I just edited a story on the need for better legislations. I thought negotiation would help fix things, but according to some research employers look more unfavorably at women who negotiate for salary than men!

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