Negotiating your salary in your first job has a dramatic impact on your financial future. For example, the person who negotiates to make an additional $5,000 in starting salary will earn at least $600,000 more in lifetime earnings, assuming standard yearly raises, than the person who does not ask — even if that person never negotiates again.
Professor Leigh Thompson, who teaches in Executive Education programs such as Negotiating in a Virtual World online program, Leading High-Impact Teams, High Performance Negotiation Skills, Constructive Collaboration and Navigating Workplace Conflict, was intrigued by job and salary negotiations and how women fared versus men. She and colleagues Laura Kray, Adam Galinsky and Jason Pierce examined the approaches taken and the results achieved — and found startling differences.
First and foremost, women are less likely to initiate negotiations as compared to men. Second, when preparing to negotiate, women are less likely to set aggressive goals. And once negotiations actually commence, they aren’t as willing to make an assertive opening offer.
Why? Research indicates women have good reason to hold back because of the backlash effect — which is the negative repercussions suffered by women who behave assertively.
So now women face a catch-22: namely, women who don’t ask for more will certainly earn less; but if they do ask for more, their assertive behavior will backfire, also resulting in a poor outcome.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
“Actually, there is,” said Thompson. “There are some specific best practices that can give women at least a ten-percent improvement at the negotiation table — and, with practice, hopefully more.”
Thompson offers three tips for women to add to their negotiation repertoire to improve both their economic and social outcomes:
Successfully changing the negotiation dynamic for women is not easy, Thompson concedes. Women are often socialized to make wanting to be liked a priority and to think that if they perform well, that performance will be recognized and rewarded without them calling attention to it. Not so. In order to get what they want, women must assert themselves and put worries about the potential backlash aside. “I’d rather ruffle feathers and be walking to the bank than be known as the nice woman in the poorhouse,” she says. “I liken it to playing tennis. The first time, it feels awkward, and you don’t do so well. But it’s amazing how quickly you learn.”
|Leigh Thompson is the J. Jay Gerber Professor of Dispute Resolution & Organizations in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She is the director of the Kellogg Team and Group Research Center, the Kellogg Leading High-Impact Teams, High Performance Negotiation Skills Executive programs, and co-director of the Constructive Collaboration and the Navigating Workplace Conflict Executive programs. In addition, she is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Northwestern.|
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