How Women Can Unleash their Inner Negotiator

Negotiation is an essential skill no matter what industry you work in. But it can also be a huge source of anxiety for even the most seasoned professional. A lot of people view negotiation as a battle of wills, with clear winners and losers. Conflict-averse folks may avoid these conversations altogether, while others may be so focused on the adversarial aspect of negotiation that they miss out on mutually beneficial outcomes.

Stanford Professor Margaret Neale notes that women may feel additional pressure to make concessions when negotiating in a professional setting — and for good reason. Studies have shown that women who are more assertive in negotiations face more backlash than men. Her recent webinar discusses the best ways to approach negotiation and ensure you get all that you are owed, whether it’s a salary bump, better benefits, promotion or other request.

Watch the Full Webinar

View negotiation as collaborative problem-solving

Negotiation happens at every level of business on a daily basis. Working on cross-team projects, setting timelines and, yes, discussing salary increases all involve some degree of negotiation. If you’re collaborating with another business unit on a shared project, you wouldn’t approach the situation with an adversarial mindset. You would want to come to an agreement on different to-do items that was either beneficial for everyone involved or at least wasn’t completely one-sided.

Professor Neale explains that rethinking negotiation as collaborative problem-solving can help remove any pressure to “win” and produce better outcomes. This involves three steps:

  1. Come up with solutions that would put you in a better position than you are now.
  2. Ensure those solutions don’t put your counterpart in a worse position.
  3. Frame your proposal as a solution to a problem your counterpart needs to address.

Understand what makes a good deal

The definition of a good deal can be somewhat fluid, depending on your specific situation. In her webinar, Professor Neale reviews some of the core criteria you should consider before heading into a negotiation.

  • How does it compare with your alternatives? It’s important to look at alternatives as safety nets rather than your baseline. You shouldn’t settle on a deal just because it’s marginally better than your alternatives.
  • What is your reservation point? Your reservation point is the line in the sand where you’re OK walking away from a deal. Once the point has been set, do not deviate from it. If the proposal is above that threshold you might consider it, but you may be settling for a marginal return. 
  • What are your aspirations? Going into a negotiation with modest aspirations puts you at a disadvantage from the outset. Professor Neale noted that women, in particular, should raise their own expectations so they don’t settle on a worse deal. Don’t sell yourself short.

Reconsider how you ask for benefits

As noted earlier, women may face backlash when they are assertive and come to a negotiation from a position of power. It’s an unfortunate reality of the world today, and Professor Neale recommends approaching these situations by framing your request and position around communal concerns. She cited a study that women outperform men by a large margin when advocating for others rather than themselves.

That may sound tricky when trying to convince your supervisors you deserve a raise, but broadening the conversation to focus on your team or your organization can help improve your prospects. You need to be strategic and thoughtful with negotiations to avoid excessive pushback and get the best deal possible.

Watch the Full Webinar

Check out the full webinar to  learn more about this important professional skill and the steps you can take to hone your negotiating abilities. Professor Neale also developed an online course  that teaches you  how to become a better negotiator. Whether you want to maximize your earning potential or just navigate day-to-day requests and interactions in the workplace more effectively, this course will help improve your ability to negotiate effectively. Enroll today.