During my coaching sessions, the topic that generates the most questions and the liveliest discussion is salary negotiation. While most job-seekers are intensely interested in how to negotiate the best package, few realize the importance of creating their own style and developing a set of best practices for their negotiations.
The mechanics of the negotiation are the same for men and women, but the strategies often vary between the two sexes. Personality, style, and gender are all contributing factors that influence the outcome of the conversation. Here are four differences I have observed between male and female negotiation styles (and what you can do to level the playing field):
1.) Relationships vs. OutcomesWomen tend to value relationships over outcomes and are willing to compromise in an effort to keep the relationship intact. They can be people pleasers who generally do not like conflict and confrontation, and many women associate salary negotiation with conflict. In a 2002 study by Babcock, Gelfund, Small, and Stayn, "Propensity to Initiate Negotiations," men and women participated in an internet survey to identify if they believed it was appropriate to negotiate in various work-related fictitious situations. As a group, women were less likely than men to choose negotiation as an option, even though they recognized that negotiation was appropriate.
Men tend to leverage relationships to achieve their goals. They ask for a particular salary with less compromise and are concerned with outcomes. They worry less about how their negotiations affect the relationship. Their straight-forward approach can work well, especially for short-term financial gain.
Recommendation: Both men and women can be successful negotiators by positioning their needs as part of a collaborative process. By listening to a potential employer’s needs and recommending outcomes that
benefit both parties, women and men can get what they want for themselves and preserve the relationship at the same time.
2.) Needs vs. Wants
Many women make decisions about salary based on what they feel they need rather than what the market will bear. They use past salary as their benchmark and may rationalize that a similar or slightly higher salary is what they should ask for. Since employers tend to reward people no more than they require, women are at risk for receiving less competitive packages than their male counterparts.
Men are more likely to ask for what they want. Cultural norms may be at play here, since historically it has been acceptable for men to be assertive in the business world, while women who are tend to be viewed as aggressive or difficult to work with. In a 2003 study by Small, Babcock, and Gelfund, "Why Don’t Women Ask," participants were asked to play a game and offered $3 as compensation. If participants asked for more, they would receive $10. Almost nine times as many males asked for more money, suggesting that men ask for what they want more frequently than women.