Step One: Negotiation Skills for Women
Updated: Mar 24
This article is the second in a multi-part series that focuses on the skills women need to successfully negotiate almost anything. You can read the first article in the series here.
For almost all of us, there will come a time when we need to advocate for something. In a perfect world, we would just march into our boss' office, ask for what we want (and deserve) and it would be granted with little to no push back or excuse.
Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and there is a real art to successfully negotiating for what you want. Enter the five steps you need to know before entering any serious negotiation as a woman. Step One: Get Clear on What You Want. (Really Clear).
So what is it that you want to negotiate for in your workplace? What is it EXACTLY?
The "exactly" part is where most of us get tripped up. When I am hosting a negotiation workshop and I ask participants what they want (and they have not yet read this blog), they often say things like:
"I want a raise." or "I want to make more money."
"I deserve a promotion." or "I have been here for 3 years in the same role and I deserve a promotion."
"I am thinking about asking for more flexibly at work."
"I want more responsibility and I want to be paid for it."
These are all great starting points. But, they are just that: starting points. If you want to increase your odds that your negotiation is successful, you need to be very clear about what you want.
Here is an all too common scenario: Kate's role has recently and unexpectedly expanded. She is working long hours with no additional pay. She is frustrated. So, at her next one-on-one, she says "I took on Janet's team and it is more work. I want a raise."
What she is thinking is "I want a 12% raise effective 6 weeks ago, when I took on the management of Janet's team and helped the department transition during a difficult time."
Meanwhile, Kate's boss is thinking: "Kate is working hard and did take on Janet's team when Janet quit. Maybe I can consider a 4% raise next cycle." The boss says: "Thank you Kate. You are working hard. Let me think about it."
One of the biggest challenges in a negotiation is the fact that both parties think a specific conversation has taken place, but they can both walk away with very different understandings of the desired outcome. In the case of our scenario, Kate feels like she was clear about needing to be compensated for her expanded role, but she never articulates the exact amount or timing. And, you can see that her boss is thinking of a very different value and timeframe.
When you get clear - and then make a clear, supported ask in a communal way (steps 2 - 4), you greatly increase your chances that you will get most or all of what you want.
How do you Get Clear? Start by asking yourself the following questions or considering the following prompts:
ENVISION YOUR FUTURE: Describe where you want to be – personally and professionally – in one year. In terms of work, think about all aspects of your desired state: compensation, title, scope, support, location, hours, intensity, types of work, peers and more.
DEFINE CHANGES: Think about what needs to change in your professional environment for you to be happier, more satisfied or more fulfilled in your current role. List needs to change (raise, promotion, title change, work location change, work less/more, hours worked, bonus plan, etc.)?
DOES IT MEET THIS CRITERIA: Look at your list. Which of the items do you really want, can make a case for deserving, and need your boss' approval/endorsement to receive. Write those items down again or circle them. These are things you need to consider negotiating.
GET REALLY SPECIFIC: Now, sit with each circled item and drive toward specificity. Ask yourself, how can I get even more specific with what I want? For example, if you want a raise, think about the amount you feel is deserved (we can deal with that is realistic later) and when you want it to be implemented (future date, today or in the past). If you want more flexibility, define what that means to you. Is it working from home every Tuesday or changing your hours to take off every other Friday?
KNOW YOUR FLOOR: As you consider each item you have listed in step 4, consider what is the minimally accepted value of each and what trade-offs you would consider. Would you take a raise but not a promotion? You want a raise of 10%, but will you take 8% and be (mostly) OK with it? Will you consider a promotion but not a raise (really not recommended if you ask me)? What about taking a new sales territory (less travel) with a lower commission structure than you are targeting?
CONSIDER COMMITMENT: For each of the items you want, consider your level of commitment. Just how committed are you to this ask? Is this a "must have or you walk" scenario or will you just experience momentary disappointment if the answer is a hard "No." Consider how hard are you willing to lobby for each request. This will come into play later.
While you may want to dash into your boss' office and start negating your new salary and title, don't rush this process. Take your time when considering each of these questions.
When you think you have a good grasp of the items below, you are ready for Step 2: Know Your Worth!
Nicole Provonchee is an executive coach and strategist that works with women leaders and teams across the nation. After 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she started Bright Blue Consulting, where she can combine her skills as a coach with her practical experiences as a leader and executive.