Before you read this can you promise to not shoot the messenger? Ok great. Let’s dig in:
The social cost of negotiating for higher pay has been found to be greater for women than it is for men.
In numerous studies when women negotiate higher pay for themselves, people are less willing to work with them and they are viewed as being more difficult. Yikes.
So does that mean that we’re doomed? Our two choices are to either keep our mouth closed or ask for more and then be that difficult lady in the office?
Of course not. But it does mean that there has been further research done to figure out how women (and men for that matter too) can escape this horrible trap and negotiate without feeling like they’re going to be the social pariah of the office.
One strategy that has been championed by Sheryl Sandberg and tested by experimental researchers is the ‘relational account’ strategy. This strategy effectively reshapes your communication and takes it from being centered on the individual (you) to being centered on the good of the community (or most likely, your company). The psychology and gender stereotyping that is the rationale for this way of communicating is beyond infuriating, so I won’t get into the feminine/masculine conversation here, but if you’re interested in seeing the research that backs this up, refer to this study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Starting with a group centered approach to the conversation can include many different phrases. The most important thing to remember when taking this approach is that you want to demonstrate concern for the organization while you are asking for what you want:
“I hope that by negotiating now, you’ll see that this is an important skill I can bring to the job”
“I know that the company would not want my subordinate to be paid more than me. I’m sure you agree we should work to correct this.”
“We had a great year and we exceeded all goals that were set for our team.”
“I am really committed to the goals for this department/role, but in order to best do my job and achieve these goals I do need to discuss a few things.”
Bringing in a concern for the company or the community into your conversation will help to avoid pitfalls of negotiation and increases your odds of success.
It’s time for your strategy of ‘me’ to become a strategy of ‘we’.