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You only get what you ask for

Marketplace Staff Jun 6, 2008

You only get what you ask for

Marketplace Staff Jun 6, 2008


Tess Vigeland: I’m thinking the 99-cent chef should negotiate a deal with 30-Minute Rachel Ray. Speaking of negotiation, anybody out there as bad at it as I am?

If so — especially for my sistahs out there — you might want to read a new book from Carnegie Mellon econ professor Linda Babcock.

It’s called “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.”


Linda Babcock: It’s nice to be here.

Vigeland: You say right off the bat in your book that everything is negotiable. Is that really true if you’re fighting to get a job?

Babcock: Absolutely. You know, the recruiter or the person hiring you expects you to negotiate and so they’re not going to offer you the absolute most they’re willing to pay; they’re going to leave a little wiggle room in there because they do expect people to negotiate.

Vigeland: How do you know what’s fair in terms of what you are asking of them?

Babcock: You can get online, consult different salary surveys and find out what your market value is. It’s really important to go into a negotiation knowing what that is and if you don’t, you really won’t know what it’s right to be asking for and so doing that homework really gives you that confidence that what you’re asking for is what you’re worth.

Vigeland: But there are all kinds of other options within a negotiation, aren’t there? I mean, there’s vacation, other family leave, that sort of thing. Are those all part of the negotiation package?

Babcock: Yeah, that’s absolutely right and it’s not just first-time job negotiation, but it’s all the little negotiations that you do while you’re working some place.

Vigeland: But what about when we’re talking about money? I mean, that’s really what we’re talking about here and anytime at least I’ve talked about money, it is absolutely terrifying and I’m sure that comes through and makes me a bad negotiator.

Babcock: Well, I’m sure it does come through and you know what really might help you is to think about roleplaying the negotiation ahead of time. So if you’re going to go in to your boss and ask for more money, sit down with a friend who knows your boss and have that friend play the other side and do the negotiation several times so that you get really comfortable, so that you can really feel calm and confident going into that negotiation knowing that whatever happens, you’re going to be ready for it.

Vigeland: Are these skills that, in general, men seem to have more than we women do?

Babcock: Well, that’s definitely right, because little boys in our society are really taught to be agressive and to go after what they want and little girls in our society, even today, are still really taught to be grateful for what they have and so don’t have as much experience as men going into the workplace and then negotiating for what they want.

Vigeland: How much can it cost us — or does it cost us — over the long haul if we are bad negotiators to begin with?

Babcock: Our estimates show that if you don’t negotiate your first job out of school, you lose anywhere between three-quarters of a million and $1.5 million over the course of your career…

Vigeland: Yikes!

Babcock: …just for not negotiating that one time. That’s a lot of money.

Vigeland: What advice do you have for women whose prior negotiations have utterly failed?

Babcock: Well, but sometimes that’s good. Think about if you always went into a negotiation and the other person always said yes right away. What would that be telling you?

Vigeland: That you’re not asking for enough.

Babcock: Exactly, so every once and a while, you really should fail at a negotiation just because that is an indication to you that you’re pushing the boundaries a little bit, that you’re not selling yourself short. So occasionally, you should see negotiations fail.

Vigeland: Linda Babcock is author of “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.” Thanks so much for coming in.

Babcock: Thank you.

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