Should You Negotiate Differently with Men and Women?

Some research suggests that men and women, when negotiating their own salary or job offer, take different approaches. But should your negotiation strategy change depending on the gender of the person you’re negotiating with?

Not exactly. Experts say that if you focus on gender, you may feed into cultural stereotypes that will backfire during the negotiation—and destroy your chances of a raise in the process.

Do your homework

When going into a negotiation, you should absolutely pay attention to who you are negotiating with, Marty Latz, negotiation expert and author of “Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want,” told Rewire. Learning about the person on the other side of the table is crucial to your negotiation strategy. Talk with people who have negotiated with this person before to get a feel for their approach to conflict, their style and their personality, Latz said.

Negotiate Differently pbs rewireIn addition to researching the person you’ll be negotiating with, you should also figure out your own goals, the leverage you have in the situation and how you plan to approach the conversation, he said.

Find some common ground

Building a relationship with your negotiation partner can pay off. One 2015 study in Conflict Resolution Quarterly found that skills associated with emotional intelligence—including ability to build rapport—helped negotiators work through conflicts, develop creative solutions to problems and build trust with their negotiation partner.

Getting a feel for the person you’ll be dealing with ahead of time will also arm you against making harmful assumptions about them.

“The problem of focusing in on the gender is you are potentially relying on certain stereotypes of how genders negotiate differently, and that has the potential to be highly counterproductive,” Latz said.

It’s important to develop rapport with your negotiation partner—but if you go into a negotiation relying on percieved gender similarities to build a rapport with a same-sex negotiation partner, for example, it may backfire. Your assumptions might be wrong, and your partner might feel you’re being inauthentic.

“In developing rapport, it’s crucial to be sincere,” Latz said.

For instance, if you’re both golfers, that could be a potential, more authentic point of connection.

Why women and men are seen differently

That’s not to say, though, that gender differences don’t exist. Many studies have shown that men and women do tend to approach negotiations differently.

Negotiate Differently pbs rewireSome research suggests that men are more likely to negotiate their salary when they’re offered a job. One 2014 study published in Management Science looked at over 2,500 job seekers and found that in situations where wages were not explicitly negotiable, men were more likely to negotiate for a higher salary than women were.

What’s the reason for these findings? It may have to do with cultural perceptions that women should be more other-serving than self-serving, Victoria Pynchon, a negotiation consultant and co-founder of She Negotiates, said.

One 2010 study in Psychology of Women Quarterly found that women had a harder time self-promoting, due to a fear of backlash, than self-promoting men or peer-promoting women—suggesting that women may have a harder time negotiating for themselves.

Rachel Krol, a clinical instructor on the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program, also points to studies led by researcher Hannah Riley Bowles, which show that women do better in negotiations when they embody the “woman as selfless caretaker” stereotype. When women show concern for the entire organization, and demonstrate how a particular outcome will benefit others, rather than just themselves, they tend to perform better in negotiations, Krol told Rewire.

Going into a negotiation…

So what should you do to be successful in a negotiation? Experts offered these tips:

– Do your strategic due diligence. Before the interview or meeting, research the job, the person you’re negotiating with and negotiation strategies, Latz said.

– Ask open-ended questions during the conversation. These can help you ascertain your negotiation partner’s interests, Pynchon said.

– Consider your negotiation partner—but focus on their goals, not their gender. “The general advice for negotiation success is still relevant and powerful,” Krol explained. Make sure you understand the interests and priorities of the person you’re negotiating with, and do some thinking about what will be most persuasive to them, Krol said.

Stephanie M. Bucklin

Stephanie Bucklin is a freelance writer whose work has been published by New York Magazine, TODAY.com, Vice and other outlets. She has also written a children’s book, “Jack Death,” published in 2016 under a pen name. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in the history of science.

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