We negotiate every day, though we may not think of it as negotiating. We negotiate child care and home responsibilities with our spouses and partners. We bargain with co-workers and bosses about work projects. We negotiate with employees to address behavioral problems. In the workplace, the ability to negotiate effectively is directly related to professional success. Here are the five of the most common negotiation traps for women. Sometimes just awareness of them can help you avoid them…
TRAP 1: FAILING TO SEE THE OPPORTUNITY TO NEGOTIATE
Women tend not to recognize the opportunities that present themselves in many workplace, home and business situations. Instead, we see such negotiation opportunities as a decision to be made, an offer we must say “yes” or “no” to. As the title of the book goes, “Women don’t ask.” Start asking. Assume everything’s negotiable and choose which ones are worth it.
TRAP 2: SETTLING TOO SOON FOR LESS
Women tend to set lower goals for themselves than men do in comparable negotiations. In salary negotiations, for instance, women tend to set lower salary goals than men. On top of that, women tend to take “no” as the answer during negotiation, when it’s often a bargaining strategy on the other person’s part—but we back down accordingly. Educate yourself about negotiation and practice setting higher goals in lower-stakes situations.
TRAP 3: PRETENDING YOU’RE SOMEONE YOU’RE NOT
When you see the word “negotiator,” what comes to mind? A tough-talking wheeler-dealer, a trickster, an antagonistic competitor? There are as many negotiating styles as there are people and the key is to find your own authentic voice. When you try to act the way you think people are “supposed” to act in negotiations or other difficult conversations, you not only risk leaving your own best skills behind but also that the other person views you as fake or worse, as playing games with them. Find your own negotiating style and voice and hone it over time.
TRAP 4: ALLOWING YOUR STRENGTH TO BE YOUR WEAKNESS
Women tend to be good at developing and maintaining relationships. This is a terrific negotiation strength because good relationships help the negotiation conversation stay constructive. But it’s also our Achilles heel. Failing to negotiate effectively out of fear of damaging the relationship can cause women to back down or avoid confronting an important problem. Ironically, such choices can actually damage the relationship in the long run. Ask yourself if failing to confront a problem fully is really going to improve that relationship.
TRAP 5: GOING IN WITHOUT CLARITY
Good negotiation goes hand in hand with good preparation. Figure out your key interests, your “walk away alternative,” the range of options you’d consider, and your bottom line. Likewise, estimate the other person’s key interests and ways your own and theirs might be met in the negotiation. Do your homework and walk in with an informed and flexible plan.