Want to Make More Money? Negotiate Like a Woman

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If your company could take one bold action to eliminate your gender gap and improve your bottom lines, I can think of nothing better than to teach everyone how to negotiate like a woman.

The research on gender differences in negotiation is well documented. Stereotypically, men are socialized to win, and women are socialized to find the win-win. That win-win, also known as interest-based, or integrative negotiation, is what the big guns negotiation experts, from Harvard’s Program on Negotiation to the authors of books like Negotiation Genius, Getting to Yes, and Getting Past No tell us creates the most profitable, durable and satisfying agreements.

In a recent workshop for Jefferies Women’s Initiative, my business partner Jamie Lee began the workshop by dividing participants into pairs. With $800 on the table, she directed the women to bargain hard, using any and all tactics to claim as much, if not all the money for themselves.

While most of the participants followed the directions, several pairs reported that they weren’t getting anywhere by using competitive tactics (shaming, promises, ingratiation, argumentation, threats, gamesmanship, etc.) and naturally navigated to more collaborative strategies (asking questions to reveal interests, goals, and needs; problem-solving and coming up with creative solutions, etc.).

In our experience doing hundreds of workshops, women naturally employ these interest-based strategies, even when they have not been introduced to the vocabulary, or trained formally.

We typically give women scenarios like the one above prior to teaching the framework or defining negotiation strategies and tactics. This process gives them an embodied context that soon reveals how much they already know and employ collaborative, problem-solving solutions.

This teaching strategy also demonstrates how women tend to arrive at our workshops to “fix what’s wrong” and “negotiate and behave more like men do” and walk away knowing that there is absolutely nothing to fix. Women are fine just the way they are, and it’s time for the workplace to conform to women and not the other way around.

Further proof that collaborative negotiation styles Trump (pun intended, see study here) competitive ones, may be offered in the surprising new research on gender differences in negotiation from The Wharton School conducted before, during and after the 2016 presidential election.

So what’s the disconnect?

In post-scenario conversations, women tell us story after story about how their workplace cultures dismiss these strategies as “soft” or ineffective, valuing competition over relationship, and winner-take-all over mutual benefit. Deeper down, they cite the age-old double bind that if women are to be effective leaders they have to be strong, but if they’re strong they risk not being liked. And when women negotiate, it drives all these gender expectations to the surface.

My assumption about why this thinking and behavior persists is that even though the benefits are well documented, diversity in all forms (thought, culture, race, gender) is not sufficiently modeled, embraced or trusted as being a key driver of productivity and profit, not to mention engagement and overall happiness.

What’s curious is that we humans would not have survived if we hadn’t learned to cooperate, and we wouldn’t have thrived without aligning with nature’s drive toward biodiversity. Why should our workplace ecosystems be any different?

So, rather than relegate interest-based, mutual benefit negotiation training to women’s initiatives as a one-sided fix to dealing with bias and lack of diversity, bring women in your organizations out of the closet and ask them to teach everyone what they already know to forward human and bottom-line benefits for all.

#BeBoldForChange and #IWD2017 #Diversity