After a yearlong search and weeks of interviews at a rapidly growing consumer goods company, Emma was thrilled to learn that she was being offered a job. It was her dream role, leading a R & D team, in an organization whose culture and values reflected her own. Yet when the salary offer came in, her dream collapsed with a thud. Emma had done her research up front and knew that the company was offering 15% below market standard for her skill set. Convinced this was a non-starter, she declined the offer. HR came back with a simple question, ‘Can you be flexible?’ Emma’s response was just as simple: a firm and resolute ‘No’. End of story.
The good news for Emma and all women, is that discussions about the gender pay gap have moved from the shadows to center-stage, creating a sense of urgency about addressing the issue. However, at the current pace of progress it’s going to take 40-60 years to close it. Emma’s refusal to accept anything less than an equal salary for a man with the same skill set is valid and understandable. In holding her ground for herself, she is holding the ground for all women, sending a clear message of resistance to unfair treatment and a call for change.
But hold on a moment. Could there also be hazards to salary being the primary deal breaker for a job? There is no question that it is important for women to be paid fairly. But money is not the only factor that determines professional success. Instead of asking 'Is that all?' could we also ask 'What else is possible?'
Should you find yourself in Emma’s situation, you might want to consider turning around and coming back to the table. Opening the door to negotiation can be a creative and collaborative undertaking while profiling you as a force to be contended with. Even if the job doesn’t materialize, you will have gained in other ways. Getting adept and comfortable with negotiating is an important leadership skill, vital for managing relationships and achieving goals, including financial goals, in the long term. So here are 3 reasons why it’s worthwhile to hang in there and negotiate:
Get comfortable with negotiating
The reason so many women find negotiating stressful is because of perceiving it as a zero-sum game where there are winners and losers. A more wholesome approach is to view negotiation as a problem-solving exercise among equals. Instead of ’I need to get what I deserve.’, shift your mindset to ‘How can we make this work for all of us?’ Then get ready to unleash your negotiating skills. The principles are the same whether you are negotiating a job offer or a promotion. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Maintain the ‘We are negotiating as equals.’ mindset
Introduce your topics one at a time and give yourself space to gauge the reaction of your negotiation partners. Are they getting energized, displaying a willingness to collaborate, thinking out loud to build on your suggestions? Or do they remain closed to any ideas and seem to just be running out the clock to end the meeting? No matter what, hang in there. This may not be the company you want to work with after all, but at least you are getting great practice at negotiation.
Getting a sweet deal
Do you sense a customized rewards package coming together? Keep going!
Because you have reflected ahead of time on what is important to you, where you can be flexible and what is the minimum bundle of rewards you will accept to get you over the line, you can take it easy and be superbly confident that whatever outcome you get will be the right one. The freedom from attachment to the outcome is a boost to your negotiating power.
A word of caution: never reveal your previous salary. Many companies use this information to try to convince you that you are getting better deal by offering an increase of 5%. Don’t take the bait!
Not being shy about negotiating and demonstrating a grasp of the process conveys self-belief and confidence in your value. Whether or not the negotiation process results in a deal, trust that you will leave a vivid impression in your wake. Don’t underestimate that something positive may come from this encounter sometime in the future.
This article on ‘Negotiation skills’ is the first in a series highlighting one of the 8 areas of focus on the Female Leadership Wheel™ a unique coaching tool developed by Lisa Ross-Marcus to help women create their own plan for leadership development.
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Author: Lisa Ross-Marcus is a leadership coach and intercultural consultant. Her primary focus is empowering women to lead in organizations or as founders of their own enterprises.