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

Anna Beninger

Anna Beninger


Alixandra Pollack

Alixandra Pollack

Women negotiated salaries less frequently than men, leading to a persistent compensation gaps for women MBA graduates from 26 leading business schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, in a study by Catalyst’s Anna Beninger and Alixandra Pollack.

Similarly, women in academic medicine earned about 80 percent of their male peers’ compensation in a salary study by Harvard’s Catherine DesRoches, Sowmya Rao, Lisa Iezzoni, and Eric Campbell with Darren Zinner of Brandeis.

Catherine DesRoches

Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock reported that women MBAs earn USD $500,000 – USD $2 million less over their careers than their male classmates.
She linked this difference to men’s greater willingness to negotiate salary and promotions.

Babcock, with Sara Laschever, outlined precursors of these negotiation differences based on gender socialization.

Linda Babcock

They observed that many parents encourage boys to take risks, earn money, and participate in competitive team sports.
These activities prepare boys to negotiate, compete, and tolerate disrupted interpersonal relationships, according to Babcock and Laschever.

In contrast, they noted that parents may instead encourage girls to play collaboratively and value interpersonal affiliation.

John List

John List

The gender-based wage gap’s association with women not negotiating salaries and preferring less competitive work roles, was also reported by University of Chicago’s John List, Andreas Leibbrandt, and Jeffrey Flory.

Their research studied respondents to two identical “job ads” on internet job boards with different wage structures.
One position offered hourly pay whereas the other role’s pay depended on performance compared with coworkers.
More women than men applied to the hourly wage role.

Andreas Leibbrandt

Andreas Leibbrandt

Men were 94 percent more likely than women to seek and perform well in competitive work roles in data from  nearly 7,000 job seekers across 16 large American cities.
This gender wage gap “more than doubled” as performance-linked compensation increased.
Women in these studies were significantly more likely to walk away from a competitive workplace when they had alternate employment options.

Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

Women were more likely to apply to jobs if the performance relied on teamwork rather than individual accomplishment, or if the salary was a flat fee independent of their performance.

Men were also more likely to negotiate when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable.
They did not wait for an invitation or permission to negotiate.
In these studies, women negotiated as frequently as men when they were invited to ask for higher salaries and job titles.

Negotiation practices considered “acceptable” for men are often viewed as “aggressive” when women use them, according to Babcock.
To counteract this reaction, she and Laschever advised women to:

  • Consider that “everything is negotiable,”
  • Research personal “market worth” using online resources like Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor.com,
  • Consider oneself a viable candidate for higher salaries and job roles,
  • Examine self-limiting beliefs about negotiation,
  • Plan negotiation talking points, including accomplishments, results, impact,
  • Practice negotiating the salary proposal, suggest timing, set an ambitious anchor point, prepare for objections,
  • Plan counter-offers and practice self-regulation (such as through intentional breathing) to maintain negotiation position and interpersonal rapport.

Collaborative negotiation enables both people to derive value from the negotiation conversation through preparation, proactivity, and persistence while reaffirming the negotiation goal’s value for all parties.

Negotiation principles were summarised in the classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating without Giving In by Harvard’s Roger Fisher and William Ury.
Research-based guidance on effective Negotiation by Ohio State’s Roy Lewicki, David Saunders of Queen’s University, and Vanderbilt’s Bruce Barry of Vanderbilt.

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

More than 90% of all negotiators neglect to ask “diagnostic questions” that reveal the negotiation partner’s most important needs, priorities, preferences, and even fears, found Leigh Thompson of Northwestern.
When negotiators elicited these “wants,” they achieved significantly improved negotiation outcomes.

Knowing Your ValueTelevision journalist Mika Brzezinski echoed Babcock and Laschever’s recommendations based on interviews with prominent women and men discussing the persistent gender wage gap.
She suggested a structure to guide negotiation:

  • Research,
  • Leverage,
  • Negotiate,
  • Re-negotiate.Hardball for Women
Pat Heim

Pat Heim

Women’s reluctance to negotiate may be related to gender differences in attributions of success and failure, suggested Pat Heim.
Women often attribute failures to themselves (“internalizing”) whereas men identify external factors (“rationalisations”) associated with their shortcomings.
Women are more likely to attribute success to external factors (“deflection of merit”), whereas men typically attribute their effective performance to to themselves (“self-bolstering”).

Men are often promoted because they are seen to have “potential,” but women are  more likely to be promoted based on their results and accomplishments, noted Heim.
Even factors like attire can influence perception of authority:  Men judged women as less authoritative when wearing “business casual” attire.

These studies encourage women to develop skills and behaviours required to close the wage gap between professional women and men.

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

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©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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