What it takes for women to be successful negotiators. by @sheclimbsladder

by Linda Huth | Featured Contributor 

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy

You shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate. In fact, you need to negotiate to keep climbing that corporate ladder. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Women are different than men.

This is pretty obvious, but before we can dive into how to negotiate, you need to understand that there is a difference in the way that men and women talk. First of all, women tend to downplay their authority.

Have you ever caught yourself starting a sentence with either of these phrases? I know I have.

  • “Could you do me a favor…”
  • “I might be wrong but…”

Using wording like this is our natural way to come across as less direct and mean. When women are authoritative or direct they come off as bossy. I have even been told that I sound like I am scolding when I talk in a direct manner to a coworker.

The other major difference in the way women speak is that we tend to phrase things as questions. For example, imagine you are in a meeting and you know that it is starting to run off on a tangent. You only have thirty minutes left and want to be sure the necessary material is covered so you need to speak up. You redirect the meeting by saying, “I’m not sure I am following. Can someone explain to me how this relates to the current project?” In this scenario, you redirected the meeting in an indirect manner by using a question so that you wouldn’t come off as too aggressive.

Women can be successful negotiators.

When women use the same tactics as men to negotiate they are not as successful (in part due to the reasons above). To effectively negotiate for a raise, women need to be less aggressive. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “women need to negotiate communally”. To have a successful negotiation you need to emphasize shared values between you and your employer. This means framing the conversation in a way that your employer will see what you are asking for as a collective benefit to the organization. Unfortunately, this advice reinforces the stereotype that women should be communal minded, but we have to start somewhere. If it gets women negotiating and into higher positions it is better than not negotiating at all.

It’s also worth noting that women are not only negotiating for tangible benefits (like a salary or promotion) but they are also negotiating their reputation. It can hurt a woman’s image if they come off as too direct or bossy. This is why it is so important to adequately prepare for your negotiation so you can set the tone and direction of the meeting.

How do I know what to ask for?

This is the million dollar question. In order to negotiate you need to know what to ask for. The first thing you need to do is research. You need to find out the salary expectations for your position and what people of similar abilities and experience are making. I recommend doing this online (via sites like GlassDoor or Payscale) or through your personal network. Once you know what the position is worth you need to do some math. You can usually ask for about 10-20% more than what you are making now. This means that if you are currently making $50,000 then you can safely ask for $57,500 – $60,000. Keep in mind that money is not the only thing that matters. You need to focus on the whole package. You can use this calculator to determine what you should use as a starting salary.

During the negotiation, remember to tell your story. As women, we can’t just bluntly ask for what we want. We need to negotiate communally. This means that you need to ask for what you want but justify it. If you are asking for a promotion explain how it will be good for your career as well as how it will help propel your current projects. It helps to understand the interests, concerns, and constraints of the person you will be talking with. This will help you tailor your justification to meet those needs. For example, if your boss is unable to increase your salary due to salary caps you may need to negotiate for a more flexible schedule. You can explain that this will help the company as you will be more focused during your time at work since you can work times that will be free from distractions.

Final Thoughts

You can be a successful negotiator. Remember that women talk differently than men and use that to your advantage in your discussions. Finally, make sure you do your research so you are prepared to negotiate. This salary negotiation calculator can help.

Now get out there and negotiate!


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