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5 tips for negotiating — for yourself

two women negotiating

Many women still don’t negotiate. Or make counter offers. Many don’t like to say, “No.” We are often reluctant to ruffle feathers. The problem: Being uncomfortable or unwilling to negotiate is one factor contributing to the gender pay gap.

In the beginning of my career, I accepted an offer as is. But then I learned that as a hiring manager, you always make an offer with room in there for a counter offer from the candidate. I now tell all of my friends to negotiate when accepting a job offer — don’t leave money on the table! But how do you negotiate effectively?

Dr. Victoria Husted Medvec, executive director of the Center for Executive Women at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (and featured speaker at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum last year), lays out the reasons women don’t negotiate:

Women do not feel things are negotiable. Women see “No” as a wall, as a final answer. Men hear “No” and think, “Not now.” Men see “No” as the beginning of the process. They see it as a window to open and climb through. They see “No” as flexible, not final.

Women think they will be given things when they deserve them. Women wait to be knighted and recognized. Women don’t often claim themselves to be experts. “Run,” “lead” and “expert” are power words. We need to be using these words when describing what we do. 

Women don’t want to damage the relationship. We think if we negotiate for more money, resources and benefits, the hiring manager or our boss won’t like us. We think this will present an image of being difficult.  

Dr. Medvec also offers five tips for becoming a power negotiator:

1. Be well prepared. If you are approached in the hallway about taking on a new role or a huge initiative, ask to meet the next day to discuss. You’ll have time to identify your goals and accomplishments and identify all the issues. Then, go in and negotiate. 

We often set the goal on precedent, what has been done before. Instead, focus on a weakness. You differentiate yourself by focusing on a pressing business need and how you can help.    

Just because you ask for a raise doesn’t mean you have to leave if you don’t get it. “No” is the start of the negotiation — it may take time to get the raise, but you have started the conversation.

2. Negotiate at the package level. Never have a “salary negotiation.” Have a discussion about your role, your accomplishments, your goals, your company’s goals, your compensation, resources and benefits. Tell a story around it. Give them package options. When you negotiate item by item, you lose leverage. 

3. Make the first offer and build a rationale. “Those who speak first, win.” Put your offer on the table first and make them react. Women often leave companies without negotiating. Men have a conversation before leaving. Employers want the opportunity to negotiate. Your offer needs to have a rationale that is based on the other side, not you. It needs to be focused on their goals, objectives, initiatives and timeline. Do not discuss how it is unfair that Joe gets paid more or that you need more money for your mortgage payment.

4. Leave yourself room to concede. Put some padding in your offer. Add something that you would be okay if they said “No.” Make concessions that don’t cost you anything. People do not like to make more concessions than the other side. People like to see you concede because it makes them feeling like they are winning. But really you are!

5. Make multiple equivalent offers at the same time. This helps you collect feedback and insight on what is important to them. It makes you look flexible and cooperative.

Now let’s go negotiate!

Julie Janckila is director of corporate partnerships for the Network of Executive Women, the largest women’s leadership organization serving the retail and consumer goods industry.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.