A Wharton lecturer shares 6 steps women can take to negotiate successfully

Bobbi Thomason spoke about negotiating in the workplace at a Lean In NYC chapter event. Lean In NYC

Women are facing a crisis when it comes to negotiating.

According to a 2015 Levo reader survey, 60% of millennial women are not negotiating at work, and 63% of all women feel uncomfortable negotiating.

Even Jennifer Lawrence, the world’s highest-paid actress, admits she struggles to negotiate her salary because she’s afraid of seeming “difficult” or “spoiled.”

This is bad news for women, considering not negotiating your salary could cost you $US1 million over the course of your career, according to Salary.com.

At a recent Lean In event in New York, Bobbi Thomason, a senior fellow in the management department at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, offered six steps to successfully negotiate your way to your dream job, salary, or project.

1. Identify your desired career-related negotiation.

When most people hear the word “negotiation” in relation to work, they immediately think about negotiating a higher salary, Thomason says — but negotiating extends far beyond salary requests.

“Negotiation is the tool for which you’re going to gain multiple professional resources,” she says.

Thomason cited research she is conducting with Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and Stony Brook’s Julia Bear, which explores how workers use negotiation for both seizing opportunities and resolving problems.

For example, a Simmons CGO Survey shows that the opportunity negotiated for the most by the 364 female executives who participated in the survey was a new position, followed by leadership opportunities, a change in work goals, a promotion, and a higher salary.

2. Consider everyone who has a stake in your negotiation.

Once you know what you want to negotiate for and why you want to negotiate for it, you need to decide who is in the position to either grant you your wish or fix your problem, Thomason says.

While you might not know who to set up a meeting with, ask around at work so you can find the right person or multiple people to help you achieve your goal.

You should also think about who might block your request, and what you could do to meet their interests and needs, while also meeting your own. Thomason added that negotiations at work often include multiple people and occur over days, weeks, or even months.

3. Reduce ambiguity.

Now that you have the logistics down, you need to compile as much data as you can in order to reduce ambiguity. Otherwise people will resort to “the short click our brain makes to say, ‘When I see someone like this, this is what I can expect,'” Thomason says.

If people don’t have a lot of information, Thomason explains, they fall back on stereotypes like associating men with leadership positions and assertive behaviour and associating women with nurturing and warmth.

Vancouver Film School
Do your research before you begin negotiations. Vancouver Film School/Flickr

If you want to reduce this ambiguity when asking for a raise, find out if you are due for a raise and what a fair wage for someone in your position is. If your boss turns your request down in the meeting, pull out your research.

“Use numbers, industry standards, and company precedent as a shield to refute an offer that you do not believe to be fair or advantageous and as a sword to go for what you want,” Thomason says.

You may be thinking you can skip this step, but Bowles, in collaboration with Linda Babcock at Carnegie Mellon and Kathleen McGinn at Harvard Business School, conducted a study on women negotiating in the workplace and found that, “In negotiations where more information is available on the criteria on which decisions are made, the difference between men’s and women’s negotiation outcomes disappears.”

4. Enhance your negotiation through relationships.

Men tend to befriend other men who can help them advance their career, otherwise known as “strategic friendships,” while women tend to separate their work and personal life, Thomason says.

Thomason believes women need to pro-actively reach outside of their most convenient networks to talk to men and women in different teams, companies, and industries in order to build connections and get more information.

One way Thomason suggests to do this is simply to ask for advice.

Thomason recalls a woman who was working at a firm in the Midwest when she found out the office she was working at was shutting down. While she had the option to relocate to the East Coast, she was hesitant because the company was paying for her to get her MBA at a school in the Midwest, and she was so close to finishing the degree.

She went to someone senior for advice, and, as it turned out, he went to someone senior to him, who ended up offering the company jet to the woman so that she could relocate to the East Coast and fly back and forth to complete her degree.

“Sometimes reaching up and out can be hard, but asking for advice makes people feel important and makes them feel like they want to help you,” Thomason says.

5. Strategize.

Strategising should take place at the table and away from the table, both before and after the meeting, Thomason says.

Expand your network to include people in different teams, companies, and industries. Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr

Before the meeting, you should be building your arguments, planning the timing of your meeting, and seeking out connections who can advocate for you or your cause. You should be continuing to improve your alternatives — what you will do if you do not come to a deal — because your alternatives are important sources of power and leverage in a negotiation, Thomason says.

Also, if you can “walk away” to a better option than the one available to you at your current negotiation, you should do so. It is important to be able to resist the inertia at the negotiating table if the deal on the table is not as good as you could get elsewhere.

6. Role play.

The final step to negotiating successfully is simple: practice, practice, practice.

Find a fellow colleague or friend to role play the negotiation with you, Thomason says. He or she should be an active listener and should challenge you with questions or objections that your boss might challenge you with in real life.

Don’t try to wing your negotiation speech. You need to find the right words and the right arguments to present your case beforehand so that you don’t blow your chance at a new position or to resolve an important issue like not fitting in at work.

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