How to … negotiate at work

by 01 May 2007

Academics agree that women are consistently falling short of men in achieving equality in negotiation. Salaries are markedly divergent and the lack of female presence in executive positions continues to widen the gap between genders.

Quantitative evidence suggests a number of reasons that could be linked to the disparity, with most concluding that it’s not what women are doing, but what women are expecting.

Whilst negotiators with high outcome goals are generally more persistent and successful than negotiators with low outcome goals, women are more inclined to set lower expectations than men and hold back on what they want to achieve.

They habitually settle for less and can often fear initiating negotiation because of the stigma attached to women asserting their needs.

Men, on the other hand, are perceived as strong, self-assured and able to stand firmly against compromise. They generally initiate negotiations two to three times more frequently than women, and as a result are able to establish salary increases at a greater rate.

Here are some tips to help sharpen your bargaining skills:

Know your worth

When negotiating a higher salary, learn your market value. Research your industry, find out what you’re worth and keep a list of the achievements you’ve made.

Learn as much as you can about what is possible or appropriate when heading into a salary negotiation or contract discussion and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to remain motivated.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Adopt a negotiation technique that suits your personality. If bullying and aggressiveness aren’t your style, don’t act this way – draw on your positive qualities and what you bring to the company to help build your argument.

If you have a tendency to get too emotional in negotiations, focus on your objectives, rather than putting your boss on the defensive. It’s important to communicate your needs in a clear and succinct manner.

Articulate expectations

Have a solution ready. Share with your boss what would satisfy you and outline the goals and expectations you have of your position.

You may like more vacation time, flexi-time or a bonus – whatever will make you feel appreciated without breaking the company bank.

Remember that negotiation is a skill that can be taught. If you struggle to achieve desirable outcomes for yourself at work, join coaching groups or peer associations. Practice your technique, seek advice and remember to always stay true to your goals and values.

By Di Pierce, senior training consultant, Australian Women & Leadership Forum.