Published May 01, 2012
Closing a business deal is like a game of poker. You’re forced to make moves based on incomplete information on what cards the other players are holding-and this fear of the unknown creates anxiety, particularly for women.
According to a recent LinkedIn survey, which polled more than 2,000 professionals in eight countries, 35% of people report feeling anxious or frightened about negotiating. What’s more, only 26% of women say they feel confident about negotiating compared to 37% of men.
In the U.S., 39% of respondents say they feel anxious when it comes to negotiating, the highest percentage of all the surveyed countries. In Brazil, only 21% of respondents report they are frightened by negotiating.
Experts claim negotiation know-how is a business survival skill and warn that anxiety or fear over the process can create wrinkles in your career—not only in salary attainment, but also in getting plum assignments or working with high-profile, high-revenue producing clients that have a long-term impact on career development and growth.
Put simply, you don’t get what you don’t ask for and, women are less likely to initiate a negotiation than men, says Margaret Neale, chaired professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. From the start, they are likely to accept a job offer and salary without even considering altering the parameters, which puts them at a disadvantage in their career path.
Rid Yourself of Negotiating Myths
To change this dynamic, experts advise sorting out the myths that are commonly associated with negotiating.
“If our expectation is that negotiation is an adversarial process, we will behave in ways to ensure it is adversarial,” says Neale. “If we regard it as synergistic, we will behave differently and prepare strategies that lead to different outcomes.”
Women, in particular, associate negotiation as a form of power, says Selena Rezvani, leadership consultant and author of the recently released, PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask – and Stand Up – For What they Want.
“Women have an ambivalent relationship with power,” says Rezvani, “Asking for more power is construed as being more opportunistic.” She adds that women are uncomfortable with self promotion, and that “they would rather keep their heads down, do good work and be noticed for their contribution.”
Women are also programmed to believe relationships trump agenda, says Rezvani. What they overlook is that relationships are “pretty hardy and do survive.”
Women can use their relationship-building and problem-solving skills to better negotiate on behalf of their team, group, department or company. In representational negotiation, women outperform men 14% to 22% of the time, Neale says.
Experts offer the following tips for women headed to the negotiating table for a higher salary:
LinkedIn spokesperson Erin O’Harra says respondents who rely on networks say they feel more confident about negotiating.
Have a dress rehearsal. Rezvani recommends role playing with a mentor or adviser (particularly one familiar with your negotiating counterpart) before the live salary talk. Act out the negotiation several times and have your partner pushback and poke holes in your position. “That small investment of time can help you stay unflappable when being grilled,” says Rezvani.
Rely on facts. A case based on facts is difficult to refute. Your facts should be verifiable, but you can also include an anecdote or praise from clients, peers or superiors to help ground your position, Rezvani says.
Be stalwart. Use silence in a strategic way during the process and always ask questions to gain intelligence, negotiate longer, or even take a delay. Asking: “May we reconvene on Wednesday,” gives you the time to use any additional gleaned information to help support your case, says Rezvani. “If you find yourself in a situation in which you don’t like the terms now, you will surely hate them later.”
Know your bottom line. Come armed with alternatives: perhaps the 10% raise shifts to Option B: 8% and a $1,000 training course or a 3.5% raise and more vacation time, advises Rezvani. “Salary is important, but other components in your career development can facilitate higher compensation in subsequent positions,” Neale says.
Provide a written follow up. Provide your negotiation counterpart with a more detailed print out of the points you discussed. Make it bulleted and concise to provide substance and recall. Include a signature line so your boss can approve the request or have it approved easily by superiors. You’ll look professional and organized. The strategy also is a safeguard should your boss leave the company tomorrow, Rezvani says.