Negotiate collaboratively

Collaborative negotiation is a cooperative negotiating style, where what you are asking for is for the benefit of both parties. This style may feel better to women as it taps into the more ‘feminine’ strengths of empathy and communicating.  Collaborative negotiation places emphasis on relationship-building (important when you are working with people).

In practice, collaborative negotiation is coming up with solutions that can benefit both you and the other person.  It's probably easiest to think about it in relation to two other styles of negotiation.

  • Submissive – this style of negotiating creates a lose-win situation where you become the loser, prioritising the other person’s needs over your own.  It can be characterised by lower self-esteem, a tendency to perceive other people as more important than you and therefore conceding too much ground.
  • Competitive – this style of negotiating creates a win-lose situation where you prioritise your own needs over those of the other person.  It can be characterised by a desire to get what you want at any cost and negotiation is viewed as a demand or ultimatum.  Relationship-building is not seen as being important.

A key thing is to build a relationship with the person you’re negotiating with. Listening is the key to understanding where they are coming from – and then responding to their concerns in a genuine way. Respond positively and thoughtfully to their concerns. But don’t lose sight of your own interests. Treat this negotiation as problem-solving with the aim that everyone’s needs will be met.

What else can I do?

Show you care about relationships

A study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2012, by Hannah Riley Bowles and Linda Babcock, wanted to see if there were strategies that women could use for negotiating a higher salary that did not result in a “social backlash”.

The researchers found that when study participants watched videos in which a recently-promoted female employee negotiated her new salary, there was less social backlash when the employee was depicted communicating concern for organisational relationships (e.g. by including phrases such as "I hope it's OK to ask you about this?" and "My relationships with people here are very important to me").  Survey participants said they were more willing to work with the women who were shown using this “relational asking” and to grant their request for compensation.

You don’t need to say ‘yes’ straight away

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook since 2008, and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead describes how she almost accepted the first offer from Facebook:

"When Mark [Zuckerberg] offered me the job at Facebook, I had been interviewing with him for six weeks. I was dying to get this job. And when he made the first offer, I thought it was fair. And I was about to take it gratefully."

Her husband and brother-in-law pointed out that you “never accept the first offer” and that a man would always negotiate.  This motivated Sandberg to override her self-doubts (“if I negotiate, maybe he won't like me.  Maybe I won't get the job. It won't work out") and negotiate.  She not only got the job, she negotiated a much better financial package.