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Three negotiating skills women can't afford to ignore

Negotiating has become an increasingly important skill in a world in which we are changing jobs more frequently than ever before.

By Kathleen O'Connor 01 April 2016

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What would you do with an extra 100 minutes in your day? Watch a film, fly from London to Paris or take a long nap? More likely you’d use them to catch up on something less luxurious – a task that you never seem to get round to like making a dent in that magic porridge pot of an inbox.


100 minutes is the amount of time that the Chartered Management Institute estimates women are underpaid every day in comparison to their male colleagues.1 Over the course of a year it adds up to a staggering 57 days - nearly two calendar months. That equates to an average 22% of salary. Ann Francke, the Chartered Management Institute’s Chief Executive, has also suggested that men’s bonuses can be twice those of their female counterparts because their bosses – perhaps unconsciously - want to avoid a fight.2


Why are these longstanding inequalities taking so long to eradicate? One reason is some women’s antipathy to negotiate about their jobs and careers. Whereas men often relish the challenge, women frequently view it like a trip to the dentist.


Negotiating has become an increasingly important skill in a world in which we are changing jobs more frequently than ever before. When you’re moving to a new job or a current role is evolving there’s an opportunity to discuss not just salary and bonuses but promotion, flexible working conditions, increased responsibility and job title.


Much has been written about how to use negotiating skills effectively and successfully. It’s important to prepare thoroughly beforehand, listen carefully, be respectful of other points of view, think creatively about solutions - and remain calm!


But if you’re a woman who finds negotiating uncomfortable – and there are many of us who do – you can set yourself on the path to getting a better deal personally, professionally and financially by making three adjustments to your technique.


1. Nurture your networks then use them


We all have networks. Family and friends form the strong ones that we regularly call on for support and nurture. Weaker networks, made up of colleagues - past and present - and acquaintances usually stretch further but are easy to overlook and underutilize.


Spend some time thinking about how you can better use existing networks to get what you want. LinkedIn and Facebook provide easy ways to strengthen links and extend your reach. Do you know someone who can make the introduction you need?


If you feel uncomfortable asking someone for something then think what you can do that they need, get in touch and make an offer of help.


Don’t forget to do as you would be done by. Use your networks to be a mentor as well as find one. Nurture your own protégé(e). This kind of generosity has a habit of paying dividends for years to come.


2. Ask not what your company can do for you but what you can do for your company


Can what you want be framed as part of a wider, more generally beneficial project? Research indicates that - rightly or wrongly – women are more likely to be successful in negotiations when they show how their requests will profit the business as a whole rather themselves personally. Presenting a communal goal rather than a self-interested approach is often more effective.


But don’t be too self-effacing and end up eradicating yourself and your contributions from the picture. Never assume that all your skills and achievements have been noticed. Demonstrate what you’ve done that’s earned your company success. Speak up. Now is the time to blow your own trumpet.


3. Asking’s for free – but make it clear


It doesn’t cost anything to ask. If you’re told ‘no’ don’t assume that’s the final word on the subject and give up. Start to think how you might be able change that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ by putting forward your request in a different way.


Make sure that what you’re asking for is clear. It’s easy for women to fall into verbal tics that unintentionally undermine their point of view. Avoid apologizing (unless you’ve been rude of course) as it immediately weakens your position and can preempt a negative reception. Have the courage of your opinions and state them clearly without using hedging words that make you appear unsure. Replace “It seems to me…’” with “It is…” and “I think we should…” with “We should…” and you will come across – and feel – more confident.


And if you’re still baulking at the thought of launching yourself into negotiating a better deal at work just remember those 100 minutes.


Picture your male colleagues blithely tripping out of the office this evening a full hour and forty minutes before you do or returning to work in September having spent the entire summer lounging in the sun.


Ready now?


1 http://www.managers.org.uk/insights/news/2015/december/ann-francke-tells-select-committee-gender-pay-gap-has-widened-for-the-over-40s 

2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/the-motherhood-penalty-is-a-myth---no-woman-is-safe-from-workpla/

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