"Give and Take" Says You're Perfect Just the Way You Are

Executive presence? Powerful body language? Self-promotion?

We women have been schooled in these techniques to achieve success ever since the publication of Games Mother Never Taught You in 1989 and When I Say No I Feel Guilty in 1975.

We here at She Negotiates walk the razor's edge with our clients and trainees. Claim your value, we tell them. But be aware of the gender blowback experienced by women when they cross gender boundaries by self-serving. We counsel women to start with small talk and interest-based questions, open the bargaining session with a proposal benefitting their bargaining partner, and continue to find and add hidden value throughout the negotiation session.

That advice takes us to Adam Grant's 2013 business best-seller,  Give and Take, Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Although this success guide is written by a man about men, I highly commend it to women's attention because it recommends pursuing success in the way women tend to behave in business - charitably, without demand or hope for reciprocity and with a lively interest in the well-being of others.  

Not only is this book filled with great advice for business success through networking, collaborating with team-mates, and negotiating with customers, clients and co-workers, it's supported by compelling (primarily male) success stories and dozens, if not hundreds, of social psychology experiments demonstrating that people who give without expectation of return rise to the top ranks in the political, business, athletic and military spheres.

Though acknowledging a wide spectrum of differences among and within us, Grant nevertheless divides people into three familiar categories, givers, "matchers" (those who give expecting a quid pro quo) and takers. In the book's introduction, we're told that "givers" lie both at the bottom and the top of the success ladder. The book's promise is to explain how to be a "champ" rather than a "chump."

I'll be writing about this fascinating and well-researched book by a former professor at the prestigious Wharton School of Business for the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I've written to Mr. Grant to ask whether he's considered (or studied) the effectiveness of the "giver strategy" for women who tend to claim too little of the benefits they create, over-deliver in a knee-jerk fashion, and internalize the cultural norm that women not only do, but should, earn less than men.

In a recent webinar, one of the participants asked whether women should learn men's negotiation styles. I responded in the negative, saying that "men should learn women's negotiation styles." It appears that Mr. Grant agrees. The only question for women is this: because society expects us to be self-sacrificing and the research shows we're paid less because we "don's ask," should we be pressing Grant's book into our male colleagues' hands while instead of forcing ourselves into an out-dated masculine frame.

I'm hoping to answer that question in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned. In the meantime, I highly recommend that you purchase Give and Take. At the very least you'll be convinced that you're already doing everything right and should stop trying to change who you are to fit an outmoded and ineffective male style of getting ahead.