4 Tips to negotiate better pay or what you want in the workplace (or life!)

In 2013 when Sheryl Sandberg wrote her book Lean In, she talked about how ‘sluggish’ the progress was in regards to women’s compensation in the workplace. She reminded us that “in 1970, American women were paid 59 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made.” By 2010, 40 long years later, that had grown to only 77 cents. 8 years later, in a most recent Lean In study in 2018, that’s rocketed up by 3 cents to where women in the US are now making 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes in a similar role. And while white women in America are making 20% less than men, Black women are making 39% less and Latinas 47% less. Some countries in the world are a little better than the US but overall worldwide, women are paid 23% less than men in similar roles.

It’s hard to believe that when this conversation started all those many years ago, more hasn’t been done to close this gap. But perhaps in the 3rd decade of 21st century with awareness at an all-time high (see Fortune’s article in October 2019 on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team), the time is finally ripe for some real changes.

You may not be able to change the fate of women the whole world over but you may be able to change your world, and that of the women around you, by first of all starting the conversation. Check to be sure that you and all around you are being paid fairly and getting the same benefits, perks or whatever, as your male counterparts. And start to ask more often for what you want. That could be better pay or vacation time, flex time, more maternity leave, location change or anything else that would make your job better. And you don’t have to wait until you are getting a new job or promotion, all women need to learn how to negotiate to get what they are worth and what they want.

Research shows that:
a) Women who negotiate their salaries make much more than women who don’t – not surprising!
b) Recruiters say that women who negotiate make a better impression on them & the hiring manager than those that don’t. That’s surprising.

Negotiating is skill that can be learned. In some roles like sales or purchasing you do it all the time, as well just in day to day life. However, when it comes to negotiating things for yourself, that feels a little more awkward and difficult. One of the reasons it feels that way is that gender biases play into it. People expect women to be ‘nice’ and concerned about others – negotiating for yourself (being ‘I’ focused), doesn’t fit with that ‘nice’ role and people react far more negatively than they would if it were a male negotiating for themselves. It is expected behavior for men and not really for women.

So as usual it is a little more complicated but not impossible. Here are 4 tips to help you negotiate better pay, benefits or whatever it is you want and need from your employer or for your life:

1. Prepare for the negotiation. How can you understand what others in a similar role (within and outside your company) are making so you know you have a legitimate case? Come prepared with your performance numbers and hard data. What have you done for the organization lately? How does your performance (and your team’s) exceed that of others? What does your organization value and how have you contributed to that? How can you justify your request?

2. Practice, practice, practice – get used to asking for what you want. Anticipate objections and practice some strong but well thought out responses. Specifically practice your verbiage to combat the gender bias we were talking about earlier. Take the other person’s/company’s perspective. Take ‘I’ out and change to ‘we’ – for example: “how can ‘we’ work together to find a solution”. Have a collaborative mindset. What does your manager (or all parties) need or want – consider what is the best for everyone and how your request fits in to that. As well, research shows that when women give a legitimate explanation for why they are negotiating for better pay etc., chances of success are better. “We had a great year” or “we know that women often get paid less than men so would like to negotiate rather than accept the original offer” or “history has shown that women typically have made less than men so would love to take a look and make sure that isn’t the case here”. Again, this doesn’t come natural to many, so the more you practice, the better you’ll come across.

3. Make the first offer – you are anchoring the other side. Research shows that typically once the first offer is out there, the negotiations center around that number. So, you want it to be your number. As well, the negotiation also typically goes lower from the anchor, not higher, so don’t be afraid to aim a little higher than what you really want. Be assertive and confident. But, remain flexible and perhaps have multiple options thought out that you can suggest as an alternative if your first offer doesn’t work.

4. Emotions or not? Instead of making demands, be cooperative – for example “let’s figure out the best possible solution together”. Show positive emotions, body language, tone & phrasing – be open & engaged, not stiff and defensive. (And it’s easy to get defensive so prepare for that too) Appreciate the person’s time and availability to work together to find a better approach, “would love to hear your ideas” etc. etc. Remember, you are supposed to be nice but can still make strong points. Research proves you’re more likely to strike a deal—and gain more—if you show warmth and empathy.

Interestingly enough, women hold the same stereotypes about other women, as do men. So you will want to negotiate with women the same way you would with a man, don’t think you can let your guard down because you are both women.

It’s all about using your strengths as a woman to your advantage, thinking communally, combining niceness with insistence and being “relentlessly pleasant”. When you use a collaborative mindset, you’ll consider what your manager wants, your company needs and use that information to strike a deal that works best for both of you. You won’t gain anything if you don’t try and you will get better with practice. Let’s get that $.80 up to $1.00!

If you need some help practicing your negotiating skills, reach out to kathy@kpcoaching.com

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