How to negotiate like a boss?

Would you rather negotiate a raise or get a painful root canal? Turns out more women would opt for the latter. Yet being able to advocate for yourself should be one of your first skills and learnt in your early twenties – by the time you have a chance to negotiate your first real job.

We often settle for much less than we are worth because we are guided by our emotions – and leave money on the table.

BBC was under a lot of criticism a couple of months ago over the pay gap scandal. Two of its most senior employees, with equivalent positions and responsibilities, are paid GBP 750,000 and GBP 500,000 a year. The only difference? One is a man and one is a woman. I was talking about this today at work with my friends and one of them had a brilliant observation. They didn’t pay her less because she is a woman. They paid her less because they could.

We don’t have it easy. Science proves that women face much more pushback while advocating for themselves. While men are expected to negotiate and to be very proactive in all areas of their lives, women are expected to be caring, accommodating, supportive, nurturing – more on the team-building side instead of pursuing their individual goals. This unconscious gender bias hasn’t changed in ages, and won’t change anytime soon. But there are ways to deal with it.

In general we worry too much: about our relationships that will be damaged if we speak up and ask for more, or that we won’t be liked – very powerful feelings that often make us stay quiet. At the same time some of the men I really admire have this amazing confidence and conviction that they absolutely deserve the best. Wouldn’t it be great to feel the same? Aren’t you much more convincing when you are certain you deserve more?

While we can’t change our emotions nor the perception of women in the workforce, we can use them to work for us. What weapons do we have to help us get what we want?

If you are currently thinking about negotiating, ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen? Not getting that raise or that promotion still leaves you in the same situation you are in now, while being proactive gives you a chance to get what you know you deserve. It’s a paradox but it also makes you look more valuable in the eyes of our employers.

80% of recruiters say that candidates who do negotiate make a much better impression than those who don’t

– as they show they value themselves more. This implies they are worth more, even if they are not.

There is no other way as people don’t read our minds and companies are not charities. You will get as much as you are willing to accept, not less and not more. Over the last couple of years I’ve researched how women can negotiate much more effectively to make sure we don’t leave money on the table – and tested the below tips.

Does it become easier with time? While you certainly feel better with more experience, the challenges also get bigger. I learned that in order to get what I want – in all kinds of relationships – I need to get comfortable with the discomfort I feel, and speak up. Here are some simple yet powerful tips you can use.

Your negotiating toolkit – the savoir-vivre of a skilled negotiatior

In my opinion every negotiation consists of two parts: the art and the emotion. You need to have good arguments (asking for something you don’t really deserve may be tricky), data and facts, but ultimately, decisions are made on an emotional level: people buy people. For now, let’s discuss the art of a good negotiation. We will later focus on using emotions and your feminine side to back your case.

# 1: Be prepared – the absolute must in a good negotiation. Research the job market and find out how much the job you are applying for, or the one you currently have, should pay. The more information you have the better. Have a specific number in mind and be ready to back it up with examples.

Women are considered emotional so saying that you’ve done a great job and deserve a raise rarely works. What matters are numbers and facts.

Talk to your friends and head hunters. If you are negotiating a raise with your current employer it’s also your time to show off – have a list of your projects and accomplishments ready to hand over, especially those that helped grow the team and the company. Your manager may not know exactly what your responsibilities are and how much you do especially if you work for a larger organization.

Also, it’s natural to get a first negative answer, or a number below your expectations. Be prepared, don’t get discouraged and have counter arguments – showing how your contribution helps the company grow. Why? Linking your raise with the company’s success will strengthen your negotiating power as you are using positive emotions.

# 2: Discuss your salary as late as possible – you shouldn’t be asked about your current salary, but you might be.

A lot of companies want to use it as a reference to how much they can pay you, assuming that the market priced you fairly.

But what if you never negotiated before and you know your salary doesn’t reflect your market value? Or you simply don’t want to reveal the number to increase your bargaining power?

Firstly, wait as long as possible before discussing it, never during the first interview. The idea is for both of you to see if the team and the job are a good fit. Once they are and you know your chances of being hired are high it will be easier to get the salary you want. A friend of mine made me laugh by revealing her negotiating strategy: I try to wait as long as I can, and once I know they want me badly, I negotiate!

When asked for the first time, redirect the question. You can say that you wouldn’t want to reveal the exact number but are happy to discuss what you had in mind to manage the expectations of both sides. Say that you are looking for (have a bracket ready, for example 75.000-100.000) a year.

If you are absolutely pressured to share your salary (sometimes happens at the end of the interviewing process) reveal the real number. Once employed, you may be asked to show your tax revenue documents and if the numbers don’t match, the contract is breached. I’ve seen this happen a couple of times – no excuses work as the trust is broken.

# 3: Do whatever it takes to feel confident. You can fake it until you make it (have you tried power posing?) and make sure that in addition to being prepared, you also feel and look your best.

There is a huge correlation between confidence and perceived competence.

You may be an expert in your field and the best person for the job, but others won’t know it if it’s now reflected in how you behave and present yourself. Different people have different triggers, and for some it may be buying a good pair of heels or a new suit, going to a hairdresser or meditating right before the meeting. Try to make your mindset work for you: it will be your biggest ally once you are confident you deserve what you’ve come for.

# 4: Be ready to explain why you want to change jobs: it could be the salary that you are unhappy with, a toxic working environment, being bored – you know best. Craft an answer that will show the positives of any situation.

In one of my jobs in the past I needed to leave because of an unhealthy working environment and a challenging boss. I still mentioned both factors, but based them on the conditions outside of my power and said that such an environment had a bad impact on my well-being, and I knew that staying there for longer would be counterproductive to the company goals and my own.

# 5: Ask questions – if you are only applying for a new job, prepare a list of questions that will show you have researched the company, their history, expansion plans. You can easily ask about the company culture and their values, their incentive programs, planned developments and how you can fit in with your role.

# 6: Choose face time – being able to see your negotiating partner (or at least to talk to him on the phone) is much more powerful than email. You can use the momentum of the conversation to steer it in your direction. We all know how much more difficult it is to say ‘no’ to someone’s face – much more than over email.

# 7: Be ready to leave – if absolutely nothing works and you know you are worth more, the best solution may be to look for an alternative – and to be ready to leave. This doesn’t need to happen immediately, and using an argument of looking for another job if you don’t get what you need can be very powerful but also may backfire.

No one likes being blackmailed. However, you can say something like: It’s important we discuss my future and my role within the company to find a solution that benefits us both as I wouldn’t want to consider alternative opportunities. If you are more direct by nature and can make it sound calm, say simply: If that’s what you think I’m worth, I ‘ll have to explore other options (say it nicely though). A friend of mine negotiates a good raise every time she does it, and she makes it look very natural.

There are always other options, and sometimes the best thing that can happen is to hear a negative answer that will motivate you to look for more. Research shows that people who are proactive and tend to change their jobs every couple of years end up making significantly more than those who stay with one firm.


Mika Brzezinski: Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth

Sheryl Sandberg: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead 

Hannah Riley Bowles: Why Women Don’t Negotiate Their Job Offers

1 Comment

  1. Lidia
    July 22, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    Świetny tekst. Brawo Klaudia!

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