Caveats for Women in Negotiations

Megan is trying to involve her husband more in childcare and household tasks.
Michelle is negotiating a new contract with a prospective client.
Maria needs more time for herself to recharge.
Melissa would benefit from delegating a large project.
Moana is ready to ask for a pay rise.

So much in life requires the skills of influence, persuasion and negotiation. You can find vast amounts of really good information – Dale Carnegie, Robert Cialdini, Daniel Pink and so on. But please don’t forget…. one size does not fit all. Women and minorities beware – some of the strategies may backfire. For example, because of the divergence from gender-based stereotypes:

  • Women can do relationship damage just by initiating negotiations.
  • When we ask for something, we can lose likability, we seem less of a team player.
  • If we advocate for others in a negotiation, woman can incur backlash if they are not assertive enough because of the expectation that we be have to be fierce in advocating for others.

So it is important to be aware of and account for gendered expectations and how they show up in your workplace relationships and negotiations. I want to point you to some important work in this area and I’m keen to hear what resources and writers/researchers others have come across too.

Professor Mara Olekalns is a Professor of Management (Negotiations) at Melbourne Business School and has done research on women and negotiating. She has found that there are three bundles of negotiating skills relevant to women specifically because of how gender-expectations can influence the situation.

Agency vs Communality
This is a trade-off that is more consequential for women because of the expectation that we be communal.

Felt and Expressed Emotions
Women can have high levels of anxiety going into negotiations that sometimes persists throughout. There can also be feelings of frustration and anger that need to managed, however there are gendered expectations about emotional expression.

In-the-moment Resistance
Negotiations are not smooth. Sticking points occur that we need to push through. People can strategically block progress with resistance. Women can have a stronger inclination to exit in order to protect relationships but this can result in sub-optimal outcomes.

Professor Olekalns highlights skills and skillsets to manage these adversities in a more constructive way.

Agency vs Communality
– You can develop agentic skills but be alert to the fact that the social costs of being assertive are different for women and men
– You can also develop mitigation techniques such as sometimes harnessing gender stereotypes. 

Felt and Expressed Emotions
– Develop insight into your own emotional triggers.
– Set the right tone by expressing positive emotions which can buffer later challenges. This way you also start from a place that doesn’t violate gender expectations.
– Learn disengage and gain perspective on the other person’s emotions. Delve into marriage counselling literature to help with this.

In-the-moment Resistance
– Develop the ability to recognise and manage damaging inflection points. Anticipate the ways in which the person might stop your goals. Anticipate the worst so you are not caught off guard, and so anxiety is not heightened as much when it occurs.
– Use ‘shadow negotiations’ to strengthen relationships before formal negotiations. This can help buffer against any adversities that come up in negotiation.
– Gain perspective on adversity by focusing on the benefits not harms. ‘Benefit finding’ is linked with positive relationships and subsequent negotiations with another.

Emilie Aries founded Bossed Up www.bossedup.com a career services company that equips women and marginalised people with the told and community to create progress on their own terms and has great content on negotiating jobs and salaries. Check out their great resource The Definitive Guide to Negotiating as a Woman

Read the book Ask For It: How Women can Use the Power of Negotiation and Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschener. This book gives advice and practical tools and tips on how to successfully negotiate to get the jobs and salaries they want and deserve.

More to come next time but until then, I invite you to share any other gems that you have so please either share in the comments below or get in touch directly.

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