Getting to “Hell Yes”: Negotiating While Female

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This post is brought to you as part of the coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.

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“You get what you incentivize”

The basis for a successful negotiation is all rooted in a methodical and well-planned approach. Leading off with a chestnut about Richard Nixon and his dog Checkers, as a cautionary note on how not to negotiate, Katherine Monson and Becca Dewey delivered an informative and entertaining session on effective ways for women to approach the bargaining table. The story of Nixon feeding his dog a biscuit as a way to stop him from chewing on the corner of the carpet, framed the discussion that negotiating is a process where success can be thwarted by rewarding unwanted behavior.  In Nixon’s case, as declared by his exasperated Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, all he did was teach his dog to chew carpet.

Calling on their experiences as negotiators for the aerospace, defense and entertainment industries, the speakers broke down the complex process in several understandable steps, relevant in salary negotiation or every day life.   Though the audience was mid-career women in technology they added that these concepts are applicable to anyone at any stage of their careers.

Avoiding the trap – Bargaining

When it comes to the concept of bargaining, two parties meet on some arbitrary level to achieve a stated position (Think buying a car). If this process gets prolonged it only incentivizes the most stubborn or deceitful.  For women engaged in positional bargaining, they can be perceived as selfish, pushy or greedy, which does not maximize value for anyone.

Negotiation is a framework with the goal towards solving problems, and women are just as successful as men when they choose to negotiate.  What does that look like beyond a back and forth bargaining session?  It starts with research and identifying what your interests are ahead of time. If you don’t know what your interests are then how will you know when you’ve been successful?

iceberg

“K&B Negotiation.  2016”

Interests – What do you care about?

Visualize negotiating as an iceberg and focus on the unseen part, below the water.  The stated positions (the part of the iceberg you can see) don’t explain why people are at the bargaining table and this lack of data can lead to unwanted results. By thinking about interests ahead of the process it provides a clearer picture of priorities (buying a house, saving for children’s education, vacations, etc)  and creates more options from which to build solutions.

With interests itemized you can then learn more about your counterparts by asking questions on their position. A helpful phrase to use in these discussions would be, “Can you help me understand…?”   or “What am I missing here?”. Depending on the situation, this could be an effective means of working with your counterpart to reach a solution, through talking about desired interests. Just make sure to clarify this is a separate stage of the negotiation and not the end point.

BATNA 

If the process reaches a point where both parties are not able to reach a suitable agreement there is a measure to help identify when it’s best to walk away. BATNA, or Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement is the point where one or both parties understand that not reaching an agreement is more desirable than reaching one. The indicator can be if a salary range or package offered will only generate bitterness or falls far short of accomplishing set goals. In those cases, maybe the status quo is the better deal.

For women, the speakers warned to watch out for the gender trap. “Women are socialized to work with people and be more empathetic. If you’ve invested a lot of time to talk and negotiate you may be tempted to fall into the trap of “take a deal, any deal!”  If that’s a situation you find yourself in, take a pause and assess if the conversation needs to continue.

zopa

“K&B Negotiation.  2016”

ZOPA

If both parties are able to articulate their goals and work towards a solution the next step is finding the ZOPAZone of Possible Agreement.   The ZOPA is a combination of variables that both parties are able to achieve to close the deal.  They may look something like taking a lower salary increase in lieu of receiving a deferred compensation plan, that provides revenue streams for retirement or children’s schooling, adding paid time off or subsidized transportation.  This is where due diligence and interest planning ahead of time come in handy, because it enlarges the pie to develop more opportunities.

Remember, negotiating is a process and takes time and energy to develop those skills. If you would like to learn more, take a look at the additional resources below.  If you would like to connect with Katherine and Becca, they can be reached at k.bnegotiation AT gmail.com.

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Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Career Development. When he’s not connecting with employers or blogging he’s trying to negotiate with his 6-month old daughter.

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