Scripting Your Way Around Gender Bias

In the political arena, the power of characterizing your proposal is called "spin."  In negotiation circles it’s called “framing,” a subtle but powerful way of focusing your bargaining partner’s attention on the benefit to him, for instance, rather than the advantage for you.

Why? Because women too often experience gender blow-back when asking for something for ourselves. Our gender role is to be other-serving, not self-serving. And if we step outside that gender role, we are too often punished for doing so. The punishments are as subtle but powerful as the stereotype itself. Withdrawn offers of employment, ill-will in the workplace, bad performance reviews and, at its worst, gossip that characterizes the bold woman in sexist terms. I’ll leave those to your lived experience and lively imaginations.

Frame Your Way Around Gender Bias

Framing simply directs the attention of your viewer to the scene you want them to see and away from the larger context that might trigger their enmity.

As Tina Fey famously instructed in her hilarious memoir, Bossy Pants, women should model their workplace strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece, "Over! Under! Through.” It taught the “concepts of, “over,” and “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around an abandoned construction site.” She explained its applicability to work and life.

If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground-like the rifle range or a car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that. Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss.

Around” is what we recommend in framing your “ask.” You go around your gender role by beginning the negotiation with small talk focused on your bargaining partner’s interests - his or her needs, desires, attitudes, preferences, priorities, challenges (fears) and values. Then you marry your interests (promotion, raise, transfer to a different department, more human or material resources, working from home and the like) to the interests of your bargaining partner.

The Script

“I’m doing this for you and DeShawn too.”

Simply put, you open with the benefit of your proposal to the person and the company you’re negotiating with. A script for that might go like this:

You: I share your concern about our dismal revenue numbers for 2018.

Them: I wish I had a solution.

You: I’ve been thinking about the weaknesses in my own team and have a solution that I believe would not only improve their performance but also increase the revenue numbers we deliver.

Them: I’d love to hear that.

You: There are three people on my team, including myself, who are driving 70% of the revenues we deliver every year. I feel good about my contribution but I’m concerned that DeShawn and Maria are getting burned out. We don’t want to lose them. I’d like to move DeShawn into my role and move myself into the Senior VP role.

Them: Why would a Senior VP role help your own revenue numbers?

You: A couple of reasons. No one has been promoted in my group for the past five years and I think that’s causing quite a bit of disgruntlement and even caused us to lose a couple of our best people. DeShawn’s and my promotions would encourage the entire team to up their game. I’d also have more time to devote to client-facing work, which is the work I do best. I can delegate to DeShawn quite a bit of team management work at which he excels. I’m betting we could increase our revenue stream by as much as 25% in the coming year.

Them: You’ve given this a lot of thought.

You: What’s important to the company is important to me. I prepared a slide deck that supports both the cost-saving and revenue generating potential of my proposal.

Them: Can I take a look at that?

You: Of course! I just happen to have a printed copy here in my briefcase.

This is just one example and many people will say, well, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m not revenue-generating and don’t have a team and, and, and. . . .

The point is that you can brainstorm the ways in which your promotion and raise (which of course follows like dawn after night) can be characterized good for others (DeShawn, the entire team) and beneficial to your organization (increased revenues) that only you know how to “frame.”

If you need help with this, that’s what we do. Book a fifty buck half-hour consultation and I’ll send you away with actionable steps to begin your next career move. If you don’t believe you’ve gotten fifty bucks of value, I’ll happily refund your money, no questions asked.

No one has asked for a refund yet.