In my roles as a workplace consultant, a women’s leadership columnist, and a recovering “negotiation avoider” myself, I’ve witnessed countless women sidestep negotiating, choosing instead to live with an inconvenient or less than optimal situation. As a group, we as women negotiate four times less often than our male counterparts, resulting in getting less of what we want and need: financial security, career advancement―even control over our lifestyles.
This matters because research shows that women are happiest between the ages of 18-25 and after age 50, when, for many, converging life demands like kids and work are less pronounced. Being fulfilled and happy during the most productive time in our professional lives, often require us to invent new, better terms and to get “yes” decisions from others. In PUSHBACK, I argue that if women negotiate for better conditions, using tips like those below, they will see leaps in their confidence, happiness, and life circumstances:
Open Assertively: Realize that people suffer from low expectations more than anything else in negotiation, a factor which makes them aim low and get too little, overpay, or paralyzes them into not negotiating at all. Always start with an outcome that would delight and thrill you, not simply satisfy you.
Close the Gap: Sometimes a simple switch in the way we view our role can be action enough to drive a negotiation or debate into a favorable direction. Don’t overestimate the other party’s power. Instead, see the other person in a non-deferential and a more equal, peer-to-peer way; this can make all the difference in getting the outcomes we want.
Hear ‘No’ as ‘Not Yet’: One big mistake many people make is to assume that when someone says “no,” the matter is closed for discussion. Often the timing just wasn’t right the first time so a second ask (timed better or under different circumstances) will do the trick. It’s more than okay to be tenacious and ask again— in fact, if you never hear “no,” you’re probably not asking for enough.
Negotiate Even If There’s No Precedent: It’s okay to ask for an exception to the rule. For example, who cares, that no one else has ever asked for a phase-back return from maternity leave? Be the first one to ask for it, making the case as to how work will get done, how operations will continue to flow smoothly, and how you and your boss can build in checkpoints along the way to evaluate how it’s going.
Do Pre-Work: Negotiators gain an edge with busy people by presenting the other side with a draft work plan or agreement that approves your request. Your plan should illuminate the key details, save the other side time, and make it easy to say “yes.”
Never Capitulate Too Soon: While in a negotiation, get comfortable drawing out the conversation—or even postponing it—if need be rather than nodding your head in agreement or surrendering with “Okay.” You can experiment with being silent for a few seconds to level the power and you can ask questions that open up dialogue. These questions deepen conversation and often resemble, “Can you explain how you arrived at that solution?” and “How could I help you feel more comfortable with this request?”
Selena Rezvani is the co-owner of Women’s Roadmap, a consulting firm that elevates more women into leadership through assessment, design of gender-inclusive policies, and coaching. Rezvani is a commentator on NPR’s 51 Percent: The Women’s Perspective, writes columns for The Washington Post and Forbes, and is the author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders.
Her new book Pushback is available in stores everywhere today. To learn more about the book visit Selena’s website www.selenarezvani.com or tweet her @selenarezvani. Selena was recently featured in this Forbes article on “Why Women Lose at Negotiation,” which sites a LinkedIn survey that concluded LinkedIn users were more comfortable negotiating. What do you think?
And if you have more questions for Selena don’t forget to send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org before April 17, 2012 (Equal Pay Day). Selena will be answering your questions in another post on JosseyBassBusiness.com.