Negotiation Tips That Work for Women

Margaret-Neale-220x300Compared to men, women tend to be less successful at negotiating— especially compensation—not because we’re bad at it. But because “we simply don’t do it,” says Margaret Ann Neale, the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of Getting (More of) What You Want. “We’re socialized to want to be liked, and when we negotiate, we’re perceived as being demanding, greedy and not nice.”

Studies have shown that’s true even if women follow the exact same script that men use. “We’ve all drunk the same social Kool-Aid, so it’s women as well as men who penalize women for asking for more,” Neale notes.

But when you’re open to negotiating, you’ll see that more things in life that you consider unchangeable—at work and at home—can actually be transformed into opportunities to get more of what you want. Use your leverage and be more effective with these five tips from Neale:

#1 Reframe how you think about negotiation. “Move away from thinking of it as a battle,” Neale says, “to thinking of it as an opportunity for problem-solving.” When you expect a fight, you’ll behave in ways that ensure one. “Your body language and your responses will likely encourage a fight as you filter your counterpart’s words and interpret his or her actions through the lens of a battle,” Neale adds. But when you come to the table to help find a solution, the other person isn’t forced to take “the other side,” and together you can reach an agreement that makes you better off.

#2 Raise your expectations. After all, if you don’t think you can improve the status quo by much, you won’t be motivated to enter a discussion. “It’s always easier not to negotiate, so when it comes to pay in particular, it’s important not to underestimate your worth,” Neale adds. Also, keep in mind that salary is just one component of your compensation. More vacation days, the flexibility to work from home, specific resources—they’re all possibilities that up the ante.

#3 Prepare a package of proposals. Come with just a single issue, and there can be only one winner and one loser. “You need to take the time to put together a set of proposals of things that you really want and figure out what is reasonable, what is optimistic and what you will walk away from,” says Neale, who notes that preparation is so important that it takes up two chapters in her new book. “And then pair your asks with solutions to a concern of your counterpart.” For example, when Neale negotiated to join the Stanford faculty, she presented a list of resources—a lab, doctoral student support, administrative support, etc.—that would help her do her job well and help Stanford to stand out.

#4 Tap into your superpower. “When women are negotiating on behalf of others, they are lions,” Neale says. In fact, women do 14% to 22% better than men in mock negotiations when they are representing other people. So when you’re getting negative pushback, especially over salary, don’t think that it’s just your interests on the line. Instead, “think that you’re doing it for all the other women who will come after you—your daughters, your granddaughters, your female friends,” Neale recommends.

#5 Seize opportunities. The best time to make an ask of a superior? Possibly when your boss is having a bad hair day. Definitely hold off on asking for a promotion if he or she is just back from the hairdresser or is wearing a spiffy new suit. Neale’s research found that the more attractive a man or woman feels, the more likely they are to believe that the status quo—specifically, people’s positions—are as they should be. Spinach in your boss’s teeth? Tell her, then dust off that wishlist!


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