Professional women negotiate every day and when negotiating for others – whether clients or team members – research shows that women do just as well as men. But when it comes to negotiating for ourselves, it’s a different story.
A study by Carnegie Mellon University showed that 57% of men negotiated to improve the terms of their first job offer but only 7% of women did so.
There is a good reason for this.
According to Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, women who negotiate assertively on their own behalf are judged as being pushy, in a way that men are not. She calls this the “social cost” of negotiation. Women may fear being judged in this way and decide to gratefully accept what they are offered rather than trying to improve it.
This can lead to putting your head down, getting on with the job and hoping someone will notice and reward you by putting a tiara on your head – a phenomenon she calls “Tiara Syndrome”.
If this is you, here are some tips on how to get as good a deal for yourself as you do for others:
- See yourself as your “client”: imagine you are representing someone else and give it the same priority as your other tasks – not bottom of your list.
- Get support: find someone you trust and get them to be your negotiation buddy. Work out your strategy together and rehearse out loud asking for what you want. Get them to hold you accountable for speaking up for yourself.
- Enlist your “virtual team”: when I have a challenging communication to make I call to mind my assertiveness role models (Emma Thompson, Michelle Obama or Judi Dench in James Bond) and imagine them joining me in the meeting. It makes a huge difference!
- Give a reason for your point of view: people react better to requests when offered a principled reason e.g: “Salary surveys show people at my level of experience are earning £x” rather than baldly stating: “I want x”.
- Show that you value the relationship: women are expected to care about relationships so explaining how your request will support a good working relationship makes a massive difference: “I want us to get off to a flying start when I join you and for both of us to feel good about the terms we’ve agreed”.
By making these changes you can get better results in your negotiations and still be popular with your colleagues.