Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard Business School, and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Linda Babcock and Lei Lai reported a problem even more troubling than their well-known finding that women don’t negotiate initial salaries as frequently as men, leading to a long-term wage disparity.
Several studies revealed that when women volunteers asked for higher “salaries” in a laboratory simulation, they were most often negatively regarded by both men and women participants, who also reported less desire to work with them.
The team conducted four experiments and concluded male and female evaluators responded adversely to perceived “demandingness” among women who negotiated, preferring the “nicer” non-negotiators.
They found that reducing degree of assertiveness did not improve evaluators’s perceptions of women negotiators.
Babcock’s research also noted that when male and female volunteers asked for “raises” using identical scripts, participants generally liked the men’s style, but disliked the same words from women.
Women negotiators were considered “aggressive” — unless the requestors smiled, or cultivated a warm, friendly manner.
In 2012, Bowles and Babcock investigated behaviors that may improve the social reaction others have to women negotiators, but not the negotiation outcome – gaining agreement on a salary proposal:
- Justifying the salary request based on a supporting “business case”
- Communicating concern for organizational relationships
Neither of these tactics – used alone or together – improved both women’s social and negotiation outcomes.
Another approach was proved more effective in improving both social and negation outcomes:
- Justifying the salary request based on the relationship.
Women who smile and focus on the interpersonal relationship may be viewed as adhering to typical traditional role-based expectations, and this behavioral accommodation may enable both male and female observers to respond more favorable to women negotiators.
Negotiation training programs advise girls and women to apply “3Ts” rather than adopting more traditional gender role behavior:
– Establish a positive yet persuasive tone
– Employ delay tactics to avoid being the first to name a salary figure
– Incorporate tips to sell yourself while anticipating objections and being personable but not personal
Harvard’s Bowles and Kathleen McGinn collaborated with Babcock in hypothesizing that “situational ambiguity” and “gender triggers” modify women’s willingness to negotiate.
In contrast, if women have more information about the potential salary range and are told that the salary is negotiable, they are more likely to negotiate.
This research suggests that women benefit from asking:
- the salary range and
- which elements of the compensation package are negotiable.
Journalist Dan Pink destigmatizes “selling” a negotiation proposal when he redefined selling as:
“the ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives”
in his recent book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
He notes that effective persuaders and “sellers” balance skill in “inspecting” a negotiation with “responding” through “attunement.”
Pink’s analysis of successful sales negotiators is applicable to women negotiating salaries and promotions:
– Attunement, harmonizing actions and attitudes with others
– Buoyancy, composed of asking questions, “positivity,” and an optimistic “explanatory style”
– Clarity, helping others freshly re-assess situations to identify unrecognized needs that can be addressed by the negation proposal.
Joan Williams of UC Hastings College of the Law summarized much of this work at her website, The New Girls’s Network, a blog of resources, findings and strategies to address wage discrepancies.
As a Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law, she offers such workplace policy recommendations to mitigate gender-based wage differences.
Attorney Cait Clarke offers another legal perspective in Dare to Ask:The Woman’s Guidebook to Successful Negotiating.
She offers tactical recommendations based on this research, and hosts continuing discussion at her blog, Women Negotiating.
Join the conversation here and there!
- What is the best negotiation pitch you’ve heard for a job-related salary increase or role promotion?
- How did the person overcome objections?
- How did the person manage the relationship with the negotiating partner?
Until more women start negotiating salaries, relational and business case justifications may not improve their social and negotiation outcomes.
The majority of managers may view women negotiating for salary and advancement as an expected practice for all employees when it is a more frequently-observed workplace behavior.
- Negotiation Style Differences: Women Don’t Ask for Raises or Promotions as Often as Men
- “Everything is Negotiable”: Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again
- Power Tactics for Better Negotiation