by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
I don’t know if it’s the way we are socialised as females, but we really don’t ask for the things that we want and the few that do, get criticised for it.
We accept things as they are when deep down we know what we want, and we just keep quiet, whether it’s in the bedroom or the boardroom. We have 20/20 vision after an event has occurred, but when we are presented with an opportunity to negotiate on our behalf, we never do, and I often wonder why. There are numerous studies which show that men are much better at negotiating their salaries as well as other benefits than women. Again, this begs the question, why? Is it a question of self-esteem or confidence? Are we ashamed of asking for what we truly deserve? Is it a case of institutionalised Sexism? Or is it a case where we simply do not ask for more?
I remember taking a job, and with all my experience and qualification, I just accepted what they offered. On doing the research, I found out that based on the position and my qualification, the salary and benefits were below what people in a similar position in the same industry were getting. I eventually left that job because I felt that the company was the only one benefitting.
Why don’t we negotiate, even when it’s justified? The studies that were done show, that the ‘social cost’ of negotiating is very high for women and almost non-existent for men. Women are much more likely to be castigated by their bosses and peers for driving a hard bargain. The ability to negotiate and drive a hard bargain is touted as strength and confidence in men and aggressive or even ‘bitchy’ in women. Negotiating for higher pay for themselves presents social pressure on the job for women. Are we better at negotiating on behalf of others? You bet! It appears that we gain more respect when we negotiate on behalf of others and we do a stellar job at it. The issue only arises when we try to negotiate for ourselves, especially for higher pay. As negotiators, we must think local but act global. We should use the community approach when negotiating; using an all-inclusive ‘I/we’ approach, show the others at the table that you are looking out for everyone’s interest, including your own. Show how what you bring to the table benefits everyone.
Learning to negotiate is particularly important, especially if the job you are interviewing for would require that you negotiate on behalf of the company. You want to show them why it’s legitimate for you to negotiate. If you cannot negotiate your own salary and benefits, how are you going to be able to successfully negotiate on their behalf. Maybe we fail to negotiate because we have a lower expectation of what the outcome will be. It’s just like your mindset, if you think you can’t then you are certainly correct. If your expectations are low, then you can be guaranteed that the results will match your expectations. I read a poem somewhere, where the poet spoke about bargaining with life for a dollar and that’s all they got, but then they realised that life would have paid them whatever wage asked. So, my advice to you, go ahead and ask.
In an article written for the Daily Muse, Vicki Slavina suggests these 4 steps to think about when going into a negotiation:
- Assess the situation, look carefully to see if you can influence the outcome of the negotiation.
- Plan carefully, if you can influence the situation, then how? What do you hope to achieve? What is important to your negotiating counterparts? What is the reason for them making this decision, what problems do they need to be fixed?
- Ask, let them know that this is what you need to solve the problem. Show why your negotiation is legitimate.
- Package the proposal, take the information you have and show them why you should get what you are asking for. Use the ‘I/we’ approach.
I must admit that as I was doing the research for this article, I was very dismayed at the fact that men are able to negotiate and not be affected negatively by it. They do not have to show how, what they are asking for will benefit anyone other than themselves. Why is there little to no social cost for them? But we are still at the point where we are, and while I am hopeful that someday we will receive equal pay for equal work, qualification, and experience, in the meantime we must continue to do what benefits us in the end.
While we wait on that gender pay equality, it’s also important for us to recognise that women are relational, and we prefer the communal approach to solving most problems. As it relates specifically to salary and benefits negotiations, the communal approach works best for us as it releases us from the social cost backlash that is connected with self-advocacy.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net