“Everything is Negotiable”: Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again

Women In Techology ForumCisco Systems’ 2013 Global Women in Technology Forum, scheduled for 27 March 2013, focuses sessions around the theme “Think Big, Play Big.”
The planning team includes a number of recent graduate and new hires, and most of these ”Millennial Generation” employees thought that “Thinking Big” referred to knowing how Cisco’s vast portfolio of products “plays” together, rather than “Thinking Big” about one’s career plans, and to boldly ask for salary increases and promotions when merited.

These corporate newcomers were unaware of recent research documenting professional women’s continuing salary gap when compared with male peers, and gender differences in salary negotiation account for hundreds of thousands of lost wages for women.

Anna Beninger

Anna Beninger

Alixandra Pollack

Alixandra Pollack

Anna Beninger and Alixandra Pollack of Catalyst recently conducted longitudinal research that found early and persistent compensation gaps for women MBA graduates from 26 leading business schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, reported in The Promise of Future Leadership: Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline.

Catherine DesRoches

Catherine DesRoches

Similarly, Catherine DesRoches of Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital with her colleagues found that women still make about 80 percent of their males peers in a study of salaries in academic medicine.

Women worked more hours, spent more time in administrative tasks, were awarded fewer grants, held fewer top titles, had fewer publications, and were paid less than their male counterparts.

These findings reinforce findings by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock, who estimates that women MBAs earn USD $500,000 – USD $2 million less than their male classmates over the course of a career because women tend not to negotiate the starting salary or those offered on transfer or promotion.

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

In contrast, Babcock found that men are four to eight times more likely to negotiate for both salary and promotions, and they to obtain superior results in most negotiations.

women dont askBabcock collaborated with Sara Laschever in Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change to outline precursors of these negotiation differences based on differences in typical gender socialization.

They argue that many parents encourage boys to take risks, earn money in part-time jobs, and participate in competitive team sports, but are more likely to encourage girls to play collaboratively and value interpersonal affiliation.

Sara Laschever

Sara Laschever

These differences enable boys to practice negotiating and competing, and to tolerate disrupted interpersonal relationships, according to Babcock and Laschever.

John List

John List

University of Chicago’s John List, Andreas Leibbrandt, and Jeffrey Flory also concluded that the gender-based wage gap may be attributed to women’s tendency not to negotiate salaries and to avoid competitive work roles.

The researchers posted two identical job ads on internet job boards with different wage structures:  One offered hourly pay whereas the other had pay dependent on performance compared to their coworkers.
More women than men applied (1,566 women and 1,136 men) and more women applied to the hourly wage role.

Andreas Leibbrandt

Andreas Leibbrandt

List, Leibbrandt, and Flory reported that men were 94 percent more likely than women to seek and thrive in competitive work roles in a study of nearly 7,000 job seekers across 16 large American cities.
This gender gap “more than doubled” when the reward for performance rose.
Women were far more likely to walk away from a competitive workplace, though not if there were no other good options in their community.

Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

In contrast, women were more likely to apply if the performance relied on teamwork, not on the individual, or if the salary was a flat fee independent of their performance.

When there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, as is most frequently true in recruiting situations, men were more likely to negotiate than women.
However, when wages were “negotiable,” this difference disappeared, and even reversed when women had explicit “permission” to ask for higher salaries and job titles.

Babcock’s research also found that women and men evaluate negotiation and interpersonal behavior differently:  Negotiation practices and words that are generally judged “acceptable” for men are frequently assessed as “overly aggressive” when women use them.
As a result of this differential evaluation of negotiation practices, Babcock and Laschever urge women to:

  • Define goals, acknowledging that “everything is negotiable”
  • Research their “market worth” in comparative jobs. Salary.com and Glassdoor.com are two sources
  • Re-examine possible low sense of entitlement to higher salaries and job roles, and related negotiation anxiety
  • Plan negotiation rationale (citing specific accomplishments, results, value to the organization)
  • Practice a positive-stated, confident negotiation “pitch,” offer timing (setting an advantageous anchor point) and counterarguments to mitigate objections
  • Plan counter-offers, “self-talk” to resist conceding and to manage anxiety and  maintain interpersonal rapport

Their later skill-building guide, Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, advocates collaborative negotiation by cooperative bargaining in which both people derive value from the negotiation conversation. Ask for It
Babcock and Laschever outline a six week “Negotiation Gym” to build negotiation courage, comfort, skill, stamina, and strength while focusing

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

on the negotiation goal and delivering value for all parties.

Linda Babcock Video

NegotiationGetting to YesBasic negotiation principles are shared in Roger Fisher and William Ury’s classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating without Giving In and more recently by Roy Lewicki of Ohio State University, David Saunders of Queen’s University, and Bruce Barry of Vanderbilt in their research-based guide to Negotiation.

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson of Northwestern University reported that 93% of all negotiators fail to ask “diagnostic questions” to uncover the negotiation partner’s most important needs, priorities, preferences, and even fears.
Her research demonstrated uncovering this information can dramatically improve negotiation outcomes.
The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator recommends other negotiation “best practices.” The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator

Knowing Your ValueTelevision journalist Mika Brzezinski echoes Babcock and Laschever recommendations in Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth.
She interviewed prominent women and men to learn their views on the persistent wage gap across genders and distilled latest research, disconcerting labor statistics, and more recommendations for action:

  • Research
  • Leverage
  • Negotiate
  • Re-negotiateHardball for Women
Pat Heim

Pat Heim

More than two decades ago, Pat Heim pointed to a research uncovering the source of women’s possible reluctance to negotiate:  Gender differences in attributions of success and failure in her Hardball for Women:

  • Women attribute failures to themselves (“internalizing”, “taking it personally) whereas men to external factors (“blaming”, “rationalizations”)
  • In contract, women attribute success to external factors (“deflection of merit”); men to themselves (“self-bolstering”)

Heim observed that men are typically promoted because they are seen to have “potential,” whereas women are typically promoted based on their results and accomplishments,

She shared research findings that demonstrate that men judge women as less authoritative when wearing “business casual” attire rather than when wearing a business suit.
However, men did not judge men as less authoritative when wearing less formal clothing.

These finding suggest that women can systematically develop the skills and enact the behaviors required to close the well-documented wage gap between professional women and men.

-How do you prepare for negotiations and overcome objections during negotiations?

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 
LinkedIn Open Group
Women in Technology Forum (sponsored by EMC)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds


10 thoughts on ““Everything is Negotiable”: Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again

  1. kathrynwelds Post author

    Reaction to “Everything is Negotiable”: Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again from early-in-career Engineer

    Hi Kathryn,
    That was an excellent post. It took me some time to read and digest all of what was said. Strangely, I could relate to many of the things mentioned there and it has promptly taken its own bullet point place in my cheat sheet.
    I wrote it to help me navigate these waters, so any humor is unintended.


    As a new-school grad who joined a large global technology company more than four years ago, the lessons that really stand out in my mind are aspects of human learning.
    They are my priceless, precious insights about the art of working, living and surviving in the corporate environment, which decades of academics could not give me.
    I actually had to unlearn many of the things I thought I knew, shed a lot of my shyness, scrape a lot of biases and change my opinion on many things.
    I expected to grow technically, so that was not a surprise, but these gems have been my surprise learning package.

    0. Impressions matter

    Never go to a tech-conference or training in a skirt.
    I did this in my first year, and on the last day someone came and shyly asked me if I was from the “HR”.
    No wonder I had been cold-shouldered throughout the training.
    Lessons learnt: Costumes are for Elizabeth Taylor.
    When you are playing a part, look like one.
    When you don’t have any identity yet, give them the right one to consider: Blend-in.
    Your true-self will emerge out of that indistinguishability.

    1. Buddy up with your boss

    For a long time, I thought I did all the right things, did my work on-time, met deadlines, completed surveys.
    However, projects were scrapped and I realized that the guys who went out for coffee or lunch with my boss actually had better insights about the project schedule, my manager’s feelings about a certain ASIC and the next hot assignment.
    They also landed those plum assignments, while I was assigned what I had demonstrated that I was good with: Meeting aggressive deadlines.

    We are taught how to behave in a strictly professional manner, speak about only appropriate subjects, never to “cross the line,” not to drop hints or smile too much at work.
    All of this is recommended with the hope that people don’t really see you as a giggling young girl in a man-filled tech-world.
    But sometimes, we take it too far and we can look so grave that it feels like a funeral.
    Don’t be loose, but surely loosen up.
    Be friendly, warm and outgoing.
    Treat your colleagues and your boss like respected buddies.
    Get to know your boss’s mind.
    The results are spectacular!

    2. Your boss has a boss

    One of my earliest blunders was that I kept asking my boss to assign me some interesting work, but he was too busy doing the “more important things.”
    Bored and tired, I simply walked into my boss’s boss office and complained about my boss.
    My manager never failed to give me work after that.

    Though we never see it that way, every boss in this world has his or her own boss
    We, as individual contributors, hardly ever interact with the management team.
    But their decisions affect our boss and ultimately us.
    They shorten schedules, take calls on the economy, plan our budget and demand progress.
    Your boss is the small fish, you are the plankton.
    Make an effort to accidentally bump into your boss’s boss once in two months.
    Get to know his or her office schedule, walk with him or her up the stairs or start a conversation in the lift or break room.
    Never complain about your boss to the big boss.
    Never outshine your boss in an obvious way: Do all the work and deflect the glory to him or her.

    3. There is no such thing as too much syncing

    I used to think of myself as a code-Ninja: I thought I could run with a problem and come back with a miraculous solution.
    My boss would give me a good assignment and then he would never hear from me, or from my collaborators, his more-senior, more-experienced, protocol-inventor colleagues.
    I thought: “I will do it myself, I will figure it out myself,” but by the time I came back with anything that looked like a solution, my boss would’ve retired, the work would’ve been phased-out, and sometimes whole systems would’ve been changed.
    It took me some time to realize that you get no points from coming up with your own guesses.
    There is only one metric that matters to success in a corporate world: Collaboration.

    Today I make it a point to keep my boss updated with what is happening at least once a day. Sometimes it doesn’t even last three minutes, but short, succinct and to-the-point updates are welcome to everyone.
    Most managers do feel out of touch with the ground-level reality and find it laborious to schedule meetings with every individual to know what’s happening.

    4. Professionalism vs Enthusiasm

    “Between a person who just does his work, and a person who is enthusiastic about working, I would always pick the latter,” according to my tech-mentor, a distinguished and senior technical professional.

    Show some spirit, if you are just out of school: Your window to do so is only the first three or four years, before the grind of a full-time job makes you eternally look like a polite person with digestion troubles.

    5. Learn judgment, soon

    Learn to get a pulse of the people surrounding you.
    It’s very difficult to get this point when you are out of school, but as you start practicing you will improve.
    These days, I can even tell when my manager is assigning me onto something just to see if I can do it and when she is actually desperate for the work to be done.
    It is pretty easy to spot through their eyes, hands, body-language, everywhere.
    Judge your boss, gauge your tech leads, gauge your co-workers.
    Embrace your judgments.

    Keep thinking about how you can collaborate with each person and use your judgments to guide you.
    Always judge their working styles, never judge them.

    6. Don’t worry about politics

    I wonder why I feared office politics so much.
    At the very early levels of your corporate career, mostly you don’t need to fear this at all.
    It probably happens at higher levels because of corporate competition and insecurity.
    But if you are a new school grad, they don’t have much to be jealous or envious about.
    You are standing alone and a non-entity at this point.
    Why does politics matter? Because of elections?
    But elections don’t matter at work. The corporate world is not a democracy.
    It is a kingdom.

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