Negotiating has never been one of my strong points. But I've gotten better at it over the years. I recently felt my negotiation skills kick when I needed my teenage son to help me with a work video, pointing out what was in it for him (master new technology and use his sister's new computer). Of course, in business negotiations are more difficult, especially if you don't have the upper hand. If you made a resolution to improve your work life balance in the new year or if you want to get ahead in business, good negotiation skills are going to get you what you want. Apparently fewer women have this skill.
To take part in a successful negotiation, a woman needs to tie in what she needs—whether it be salary, maternity leave, flex time, or recognition—to how it can benefit the organization, says Ruth Schecter of Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.
“In fact, women who link their needs to the good of the organization tend to receive better performance reviews, are more likely to be offered leadership opportunities, and are less likely to leave the organization,” said Deborah Kolb, PhD, the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership at the Simmons School of Management and a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow, who discussed the topic at a presentation called “Too Bad for the Women or Does it Have to Be? Gender and Negotiation Research over the Past 25 Years."
Step 1: You need to positioned yourself right to negotiate: "Often a negotiation is not solely about money but about the opportunity to take on a role or to be acknowledged for ‘invisible work.’ Many organizations sustain exclusive networks at the higher levels, so women need to negotiate just to get to that place,” said Kolb. “If a woman does not have access to insider information that is embedded in the organization, she loses a position of power in the negotiation process.”
What's stopping women from getting to the position of power?
Schecter says women maneuvering through an organization can be hampered by factors ranging from expectations of lower goals to cultural and institutional mechanisms that create a gendered context—dynamics that women must learn to navigate.
Step 2: Women need to feel like we deserve to ask for whatever it is we want. We also need to learn how to deal with resistance —to expect to be put into a defensive position.
“It’s important that women understand their value to the organization, are prepared to deal with pushback, and can be creative about addressing new opportunities,” said Kolb. “When more attention is paid to the nuanced ways that gender can play out in negotiations, women can find subtle ways to deal with these dynamics.”
I've seen firsthand that negotiating successfully at work and home means showing the person you are negotiating with what's in it for them. But I think Schecter is right that women often underestimate their value when negotiating.
Do you see yourself negotiating differently in the new year?