Tag Archives: negotiation backlash

Women Balance on the Negotiation Tightrope to Avoid Backlash

Linda Babcock

Women negotiate initial salaries less frequently than men, leading to a long-term wage disparity, found Carnegie-Mellon University’s Linda Babcock.

Hannah Riley Bowles

And when women asked for higher salaries in a laboratory simulation, they were negatively evaluated by both men and women participants, reported Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and Lei Lai.
In addition, other volunteers reported less desire to work with women who asked for more money.

Lei Lai

Lei Lai

Both male and female evaluators responded negatively to perceived “demandingness” among women who negotiated, preferring the “nicer” non-negotiators.
However, reducing women’s degree of assertiveness did not improve evaluators’s perceptions of women negotiators.

These finding support Babcock’s original results:  When male and female volunteers asked for salary increases using identical scripts in laboratory situations, participants  liked the men’s style, but disliked the same words from women.
Women negotiators were considered “aggressive” unless they smiled, or displayed a warm, friendly manner.

The social reaction others had to women negotiators, but not the negotiation outcome was improved when female participants:

  • Justified the salary request based on a supporting “business case,”
  • Communicated concern for organizational relationships.

However, neither of these tactics used alone or together, improved women’s negotiation outcomes.

Another approach was 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 enact role-based expectations, leading to greater comfort with these women negotiators and more favorable assessments by male and female observers.


Kathleen McGinn

Kathleen McGinn

Bowles, with Harvard colleague Kathleen McGinn and with Babcock, suggested that “situational ambiguity” and “gender triggers” modify women’s willingness to negotiate.

However, when women have more information about the potential salary range and are told that the salary is negotiable, they are more likely to negotiate.
Therefore, women benefit from asking:

  • the salary range,
  • which elements of the compensation package are negotiable.
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Effective negotiation is a survival skill, according to Dan Pink:
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.

Effective persuaders and “sellers” collaborate in “inspecting” a negotiation and “responding” to the negotiation through “interpersonal attunement.”

Foundational skills for negotiation include Pink’s ABCs:

Attunement:  Harmonizing actions and attitudes with others,

Buoyancy:  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

Joan Williams

UC Hastings College of the Law’s Joan Williams offered strategies to address documented wage discrepancies.

As more women negotiate salaries, managers may view this as an expected practice.

  • 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?

Related Posts


©Kathryn Welds