Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Negotiating with Two X-Chromosomes: An Account from the Trenches

I won't speak for anyone but myself: I hate negotiating for salary. (Although thankfully this class has convinced me to always at least TRY to negotiate for a higher salary, just to avoid becoming another tragic female Asian-American stereotype)

I vastly dislike this about myself - and to me, it makes very little sense. Raised by the original Tiger Mom/Grandma/Sister/Uncle/Stuffed Animal, I learned early on that you only get out of the world what you beat and drag out of it. Whenever I wanted to go on a field trip at school, I had to write persuasive reports detailing the reasons for each expenditure and attach a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Every movie, every trip to the mall. These reports were almost always denied, so rejection and I are old friends.

 I bartered every day at lunch, and spent all my summers in Taiwan and Asia - where people haggle everywhere from night markets to sit-down restaurants to hair salons, and I held my own. I still have no fear (or shame) in haggling with merchants today, and you would think all this training should make me a ruthless negotiator, never backing down from what is rightfully mine. I subscribe religiously to the tenet that when negotiating, if you don't hear the word "no" at least once - you have failed. 

But gradually something changed - I want to say it was middle/high school, and sometime after I stopped regularly visiting Taiwan (where I was born). I really wonder if my American-ization and coming of age in New York/California has given rise to this inexplicable, uncomfortable anxiety.  

Allow me to illustrate with a case study from a reditt post: 

The original poster, “techmanager12345,” is a woman who worked for a large, multinational tech company. She negotiates with new hires to set salary, although she specifies that she does not set the wages and all her offers require HR approval. She revealed that she regularly hired women for 65-75% of what men received as salary.
“I am sick of it, here is why it happens, and how you can avoid it.”
The poster recounted interviewing her third new hire this month – 2 women and 1 man, the latter receiving a substantially higher salary as a result of negotiation. She expresses her exasperation at this recurring scenario: "often a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I'll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer." In contrast, almost 90% of the men she interviews immediately ask for more upon getting the offer. 
"It's insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse."
From our hirer's view, this is not patriarchy at work - there is nothing setting women back to the 79-cent-to-a-male-dollar ratio. No malicious corporate agenda, no higher-ups who want to enforce the glass ceiling, no old grouchy spectacle'd senior partner who wants the uppity young women in the office to go back to skirt-suits. In scenarios like this one, the only problem...is women.

Our original poster goes on to clarify that "our process, despite the pay gap, is identical for men and women." The company starts with phone interviews, then a personal and technical interview. Women and men make it through these rounds of interviews at roughly equal numbers - but once salary negotiations start, the women don't keep up. Simply, that they don't ask for more. 

The poster goes on to critique that another major mistake is how women ask for more. "In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k." The poster reports that her company's policy does not allow her to bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless the hiree specifically requests more. Therefore, when men frequently come back with a number  from 65k to 75k, she will negotiate down from there. But after this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, never knowing they could have gotten more if they had just asked.

At the end of the day, most of the women our poster hires makes between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Combined with the fact that women are less likely to ask for raises and do so far less often, the disparity only grows.

To offer the light at the end of the tunnel, our poster also brings the story of "the highly aggressive, very smart, very confident woman who got the most out of us." This woman nearly doubled the initial offer, which was already quite high due to how this woman had marketed herself. Food for thought?

In a 2012 survey by LinkedIn which queried 2,500 professionals in eight countries, 39% of American women reported feeling anxiety when it comes to negotiating - the highest reported anxiety rate for any nationality-gender combination. In short, American women  feel more anxiety when negotiating for job salaries than An article in Forbes  reports that American women feel more anxiety when negotiating for job salaries than any other subgroup in the LinkedIn study. According to the numbers, fewer than 26% of women feel comfortable negotiating compared to nearly 40% of men. “Women are certainly less confident than men when it comes to negotiations,” says author and Forbes Staff Writer Selena Rezvani. 

In closing, I leave you with some excerpted negotiating tips for women, from a variety of sources from Forbes to OpenForum to the Washington Post

  • Don't be afraid to ask for more, it's not insulting or in any way going to affect your ability to be hired (we can always say no)
  • When you ask for more, give a number! If you let me pick, I will continue to lowball it.
  • Ask for raises, confident people get them more often than high performers in a heavy bureaucracy.
  • DON'T say "I'm sorry": apologizing in the negotiating room lessens the weight of your argument. Just stop apologizing, period. Don't discount your worth.
  • When responding to rejection, or blowback: don't get mad. Be measured and direct the conversation to a resolution. Say, "I'm surprised that you would pay me anything less than market value."
  • Talk about facts, data, and information. Do your research on the salary of your peers. Once you talk about feelings, you lose credibility. Asking the other person how they feel can be off-putting. 
  • DON'T accept the first offer. 
  • If possible, always make the first proposal. Start high or low enough to permit them to make at least three concessions. 
  • Call on delays when needed: take time to think things through or involve third-party opinion. It's ok to say "I'll think about that and get back to you." Take a step back.
  • Use silence: staying quiet for a few seconds is most important at two critical junctures in a negotiation: right after making a request, and right after your counterpart answers. Don't add words during this silence to soften the blow. Stay strong!
  • Acknowledge the Relationship Elephant: keep a cooperative attitude and promote the sense that "it's you and me versus the problem" rather than "it's you versus me." 
  • Direct eye contact: maintaining consistent, direct eye contact says volumes about your level of engagement and your focus on the discussion at hand, especially if things get contentious. Maintaining eye contact also shows you're confident in your position and that you see your counterpart as a peer and equal.
  • Be polite, be courteous, and be professional, but don't back down.

Did you find any of these recommendations helpful? Enlightening? Obvious? Patronizing? Dumb? Let me know in the comments. 


VK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VK said...

I find this post really helpful. It answers a problem that I encounter. As I just graduated, I was looking for some internship. I remember that a male friend, who was also seeking an internship, but in a different field, told me that he already thought about the amount he wanted to receive, but also about a minimum amount for which he would not work. For me, being paid, at this time, was a plus. I chose to do two internships that summer, though one of them was unpaid.
The problem was such that one of my last employers told me: “You really have to stop working for free now”. It is a shame I did not see this for myself.

Even if I understand in this case the statement “In scenarios like this one, the only problem...is women. », the problem is for sure not so simple. Actually, this is from my point of view, the result of the place I feel that I have in the society. I accepted to work for free because I considered that they did me the favor accepting that I work for them, with “so few” competencies.

And even if the “process […] is identical for men and women,” the message sent by society is the one that makes me think that my work is not as good as a man’s work.