- Nancy Webb
How Good Are Your Negotiating Skills?
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
Business negotiation isn’t about your personal life or your social standing, it’s about business.
Whether you’re in the market for a new car, getting your house painted, leasing a vacation rental, purchasing antiques or you’re are asking for a salary increase - negotiations-in one form or another— are woven through the fabric of our everyday lives. Negotiation is a fact of life for everyone and every day at varying levels of complexity and importance.
For many people – in particular women - the whole process is intimidating, frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult, as a result, we will often go to great lengths to minimize time spent on it or will actively avoid it altogether. In addition to this, some women believe that negotiating will make them appear greedy or selfish. We’re so worried about not being likable that we just don’t ask.
An essay penned by actress Jennifer Lawrence on the subject of pay differences between men and women – generated numerous media discussions on women negotiating skills. Lawrence recalled being angry at herself for not negotiating higher pay from studio executives after discovering the salaries of her male costars – as a result of the Sony email leak in 2014. Lawrence stated, “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight.”
The gender gap in negotiation may in part explain why women in the United States earned only about 83% of men’s median annual earnings in 2021, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Also, “Compared to the median weekly earnings of White men working full-time, Hispanic women’s full-time earnings were just 58.4 percent, Black women’s 63.1 percent, and White women’s 79.6 percent.”
Business negotiation isn’t about your personal life or your social standing, it’s about business. Jennifer Lawrence was brave enough to admit that a failure to negotiate had cost her millions of dollars.
Here’s what you can do to be armed for negotiating your salary which can be translated to a wide variety of business as well as personal transactions.
Quantify your accomplishments. Put a number on your contribution to your workplace. Did you plan three successful events last quarter? Did you train 25 new employees? Did you develop a presentation that’s now being used by others? Do your best to quantify the results of your work however you can. If it’s possible to put a dollar figure to these accomplishments, do it. A negotiator should never wing it.
Bring documentation. Don’t ask the other side of the table to rely on memory or to simply trust that you’re being underpaid when you can bring documentation to show it. For example, if you believe you’re being paid below the market rate, you might print out salary information you found on job recruitment sites such as Indeed or Glassdoor. If you believe you deserve a raise based on merit, you might save an email thread about your last workplace achievement. This documentation is evidence of your value.
Challenge Yourself. According to quantified research, Women are just as responsible for penalizing assertive women as men are. If so, then we all have a responsibility to challenge this in both the men and women around us and perhaps in ourselves. If the implication of not negotiating, is you miss out on promotions, opportunities, and fair pay - then the implication of not being liked would have to be pretty severe for it to warrant staying silent.
Aim High. Most women do not aim as high as men when they negotiate. A way to prevent this is to make certain that every time you prepare for the upcoming negotiation, be sure that your ask is bold. If you are going to ask for a 10% raise, ask for 15%. If you are going to request to work from home 2 days a week – ask for 3 days. We often underestimate what the other side is willing to agree to.
Have an Alternative Plan. Even with the best preparation, you may not always be able to negotiate a successful outcome. Have an alternative plan if case the original plan fails. If you do this before you sit down at the negotiating table, you can avoid unnecessary stress caused by emotions that may get out of control and/or minimize the chances that you will accept an offer that is not in your best interests. Alternatives in salary negotiations could include obtaining additional vacation days, tuition reimbursement, car allowance, taking another position in the company that pays more, or one where bonuses are awarded for meeting sales goals.
Negotiation will always be a part of our personal and professional lives and we shouldn’t try to avoid it. It’s a fundamental part of how people interact and business gets done. You might find it awkward or difficult, but we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and just ask for what we want. Because if you don’t ask, who is going to do it for you?