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Negotiating tactics for women

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jul 30, 2010

Negotiating tactics for women

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jul 30, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Many of us are so grateful to have a job in this economy that we wouldn’t dare think to ask for a raise. But if and when the time does come one thing is for sure — women will have a tougher time of it than men. ‘Cause multitudes of studies show we are terrible negotiators. Last year we aired a story explaining why that is. And we recently asked reporter Ashley Milne-Tyte to followup with some advice for how to improve your chances of success.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: Kate Scarcella and her husband used to earn the same salary. They’re both engineers. They work at the same company in Connecticut, and started at the same time. Four years later, her husband brings home $14 thousand more than she does. Scarcella says it all comes down to self-promotion. He’s great at it. Every time he has a review, he names his price.

Kate Scarcella: And for me, I’m like, wow, I’ve done a fantastic job here, thank you very much for noticing. And then kind of leaving it at that.

So why doesn’t she push her boss on the money issue?

Scarcella: I think it’s because I don’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation to, you know, go to bat for me. I wanna – you want to make people happy.

It may sound crazy that Scarcella would pass up the chance of a raise because she wants to please her boss. But Julia Dawson can relate. She works in the fashion industry in New York. I first talked to her last year.

Julia Dawson: I’m just really shy standing up for myself at the end of the day. I think it’s something that you’re just not taught to do as a little girl. And, I think, y’know, for me it just causes me a lot of anxiety because it basically allows, it basically says ‘hi, I think I’m worth this and I deserve this.

Dawson says discussing her negotiating angst on the radio made her think even harder about how to do better. This spring a former colleague tipped her off to an opportunity at another company. She researched fashion director salaries. In her interview she asked for a 35 percent raise. They said yes.

Dawson: And this is also a company that, you know, they only give two weeks holiday, and they make you earn it the entire year. And I was like no, you’re giving me three weeks. And I got three weeks and they don’t give it to anybody else.

The experience has done wonders for her confidence. But if you can’t imagine being that self-assured under pressure, Sara Laschever says you just need to master a few skills. She is co-author of the book ‘Ask For It’.

Sara Laschever: Practice negotiating where the stakes aren’t as high. Negotiate for lots of little things.

Like getting your spouse to do more housework or getting a reduced price at the store. Then build up to a salary negotiation. Rope in a friend or colleague who will play a tough boss.

Laschever: You ask for something and the other person acts like it’s ridiculous, ‘You’re crazy, you’re nuts! You know, I can’t imagine that you think that’s fair.’ Rather than say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m embarrassed, I don’t know what I was thinking,’ you say, ‘OK, I’ve surprised you,’ or, ‘We’re clearly far apart – what do you think would be more reasonable?’

But what if all this sounds like too much work? Sheila Wellington is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. These days she teaches negotiating techniques. But she was no expert back in the early ’70s, when she asked her first boss for a raise.

Sheila Wellington: He looked me in the eye and he said, ‘I could get people like you for $10,000 a year and a hot lunch at noon.”

She fled the room, and didn’t ask him again. After all, her husband had a good job. But a few years later some of her staff approached her to complain.

Wellington: ‘Sheila, we’re getting paid less than others who are doing the same work, and that’s because you’re being paid less. You’ve got to get paid what you’re worth. You owe it to your team, you owe it to your peers, you owe it to your kids.’

OK, so if all this has convinced you to go back to the table, there’s one unpalatable truth you have to swallow. Sara Laschever again…

Laschever: When women are perceived to be boasting their likeability plummets.

She says bosses of both sexes are less likely to reward women who negotiate aggressively. Fashion director Julia Dawson knows from her own experience that it’s a fine line. But she says keep smiling while sticking firmly to your guns. And know when to stop talking.

Dawson: Let there be pregnant pauses. Don’t, flutter, like, you know, your boss is looking at you – they know these games. They’re the ones that play them.

She says women just need to work on their game to become better players themselves.

I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace Money.

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