How do you approach the negotiating process? (Negotiating Series – Part #1)

Judith Cushman All Posts, Negotiating Skills 0 Comments

negotiating skills career transitions compensation advice judith cushman associates HR career consultantsAnswer:  Are you prepared attitudinally and armed with the information you need to make your case? How do cultural differences affect negotiating? Do you have a plan in mind after your first meeting to continue the dialog?  Here is part 1 of a series about effective negotiating that answers the questions raised in a recent workshop.  Please send questions to add to this dialog.

One of the most important statistics about compensation for professional employees is that those who negotiate and ask for additional compensation either in base salary or other benefits receive higher compensation. Women, who have traditionally been far more reticent than men to speak up, consistently receive lower compensation than their male colleagues. Add to that, the increased focus on accommodating cultural differences where speaking up is not an option, and the problem becomes exacerbated.

This is not simply a factual issue, but an emotional challenge to recognize that long held beliefs will undermine a career. To succeed in a business, non- profit or educational environment will require a behavioral change.

“Silence is Golden” — Not in Negotiating.

In the gap of words unsaid is the clash of assumptions between what the leader/supervisor interprets the silence to mean and what the subordinate expects her silence to signal. Organizations declare Diversity and Inclusion as lofty values they embrace at the highest levels. Yet, proactively implementing D&I policies at the ground level are difficult and often are not getting done.

In reporting about a seminar I led for a highly qualified mix of American and Asian  professional women, there was an observation that particularly for Asians, negotiating is unheard of. Asking for additional benefits or a promotion are in direct opposition to their upbringing.  It is considered rude. Instead, it is expected that she will be recognized for her work and promoted by her supervisor.  Meanwhile, her (US-trained) supervisor is thinking, “There is no problem with this employee. She is performing well and has no complaints. If she has something to discuss, she will ask.  Since she hasn’t, I’m not going to worry about it.” That supervisor is assuming his values are the same as hers.

Fixing this cultural disconnect that affects the workplace is what a company should be taking responsibility for under its D&I policies. Until these issues are addressed, employees will struggle with being caught between conflicting sets of values.

As I begin this series, here are the four pillars for successful negotiation:

  • Attitude: a professional expectation and confidence about your request, do not be on the defensive and never make the discussion about being fair; this is a business decision
  • Knowledge: You have researched industry and company practices and learned what you need to support your recommendation
  • Preparation you have reviewed and organized the information and talked with sources, counselors, and friends to help you clearly explain what you are asking for, and
  • Plan: with all of this effort, outline how you will proceed with the process, timetable, actions and outcome. Assume you will need more than one meeting to accomplish your objective.

Be fully prepared for a discussion and take the time needed to be ready. You must feel confident and professionally comfortable about the conversation(s) you will have. Negotiating is one of the most critical issues either as you start a new job with a new compensation package or at your current employer and are asking for increased compensation, a promotion or additional benefits. Do your homework so you feel you can make a persuasive case for your request. Outline a plan to take you past the initial discussion about compensation to a desired outcome (or acceptable compromise.) Avoid confrontation by providing sufficient information to make the discussion professional and being sure your “ask” is in line (competitive) with industry practices.

There is more homework to do if you are negotiating with your current employer. In addition to knowing every element of your current compensation program, it is essential to understand what policies govern pay raises, where you fit within the range, and how frequently the review process occurs. If you are seeking a promotion, do you have a job description for that position and can you make the case you are performing at that level?

If there is a reason you are not being promoted, find out what you need to do to become fully qualified. Look outside the company for similar titled roles and informally ask (research through LinkedIn) general questions about salary ranges for similar positions. Meanwhile, after each discussion with your supervisor or HR representative, summarize the key points with a follow-up thank you note where you set expectations about next steps and are explicit about what was discussed. This will give you the basis to continue discussions for future opportunities.

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