How do you feel about negotiation?
A career negotiation requires a very factual and unemotional approach, good listening and questioning skills, and willingness to compromise when it makes sense.
So, why are women falling behind in the negotiation game?
Maybe it’s the intrinsic nature in women to be more trusting and optimistic. We often feel that if we’ve created goodwill and worked hard to deliver, we can trust our superiors and our companies to treat us fairly. Or maybe we’ve been taught that asking for a promotion or a raise seems self-serving and aggressive or have been penalized in some way for asking before.
The ability to negotiate successfully may be one of the most important skills anyone – but especially women – must develop as we advance in business. And developing a plan to negotiate for a raise or promotion needs to be in your arsenal of skills. Work hard, do a good job and someone will notice? It’s not good enough.
Here are 4 things women need to keep in mind as they head down the path to more effective negotiation:
- In their first post-MBA job, 57% of men negotiated their salaries, only 7% of the women did! A woman who routinely negotiates will earn a million dollars more by the time she retires. Accepting less and not negotiating means you are undervaluing your contribution to the company.
- You don’t ask, you don’t get. Women who take our course “Executive Leadership: Strategies to Enhance Success” at Michigan State University are often surprised to discover that men view negotiation as a sign of strength. Women discovered that the guy down the hall who got the last promotion actually asked for it, and that men will start asking when they feel they are 50% ready to take on a new roles, while women will wait until they feel 80-90% ready to progress to the next level in their careers.
- Employers won’t pay you more than they have to. So become good at the smaller, day-to-day, low-key negotiations before you get to the larger, high-stakes ones. That will help you grow your courage, confidence and skill.
- Don’t mistake negotiation for being “pushy.” Women tend to undervalue their worth in the workplace. A career negotiation requires good listening and questioning skills, in addition to a solid business case for your “ask.” Think about that ahead of time and do your homework, especially related to your worth.
Some of the common pitfalls to promoting yourself can be avoided with practice and by not assuming someone will take care of you – because they won’t.
At the Committee of 200, an invitation-only networking group of the world’s top entrepreneurs and C-Suite executives, our motto is “success shared,” and we continually remind each other to not downplay our strengths. When I was interviewing for a board position, I met 5 out of 6 requirements listed. But in my conversation with a fellow member I picked out the one I didn’t meet. She helped me remember to instead focus on my relevant general experience and to remember how I excelled in the other areas they needed. This conversation – and support – served as a good reminder to negotiate my strengths, not point out my weaknesses!
In order to prepare for your negotiation, write down your significant accomplishments and how you would frame them to solve a problem within your company or department. Jot down ideas for what you want to accomplish in your next review, and also reflect on your options if you don’t get what you want. Finally, be sure to think about what questions you need to get answered before that negotiation and who can help you get answers.
Some women need to overcome the fear of asking and understand that the cost outweighs the gain.
Negotiation is not conflict based. It’s a critical skill to learn if you truly want to be treated fairly, given opportunities and paid commensurately.