Looking for a way to strengthen your presence during a negotiating session? Here’s a simple trick: Say “I” instead of “we.”
M.J. Tocci, director and co-founder of the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University, says the “we” problem is common among women, and it’s based in the messages and stereotypes they face growing up.
“The mistakes women make in negotiating salary and other things aren’t because they’re not smart enough or savvy enough,” says Tocci. “The problems women face are based on the messages and stereotypes that say we need to be a team player, be collaborative, get along with everyone and be nice. But we pay a really heavy price if we’re not that person.”
Women who excel at their jobs and negotiate more than most tend to alienate both male and female coworkers. It’s an increasingly common stereotype: What looks like leadership in men looks like the B-word in women.
Mistake 1: Underplaying Your Role
The problem: Women engineers and project managers may be more susceptible to “we” phrasing during reviews than female accountants or healthcare specialists because they work in teams or groups. “I have been on compensation committees where women will say things like ‘my wonderful team,’ and ‘we do this,’ and ‘we do that.’ I want to slap them,” Tocci says. “Women are afraid of being perceived as arrogant, but here’s the problem. Men come in and take credit for everything — gravity, world peace. Men are taught to do that and don’t get any backlash from that.”
The solution: Instead of saying that “we” created a significant algorithm that achieved our goal of predicting when the optimum time is for a dog’s next flea bath, use the “I” approach if it was actually your lines of code that provided the key outcome. A workaround that incorporates “I” would go something like this: “I am so proud of what I accomplished for our company this year. Let me tell you what I’ve done.”
Mistake 2: No Research
The problem: Knowing what the industry pays for a particular job is vital, especially before asking for a raise or gearing up for a job interview. Tocci says 80 percent of the work that needs to be done before an interview is research. Think of it this way: If your first job starts out on the low end, that level stays with you as you move on to your next position. “It lowers the bar,” Tocci says.
The solution: Know what you’re worth. IT salary information is available through a number of sources, like the the Dice Salary Survey. Research your pay area, then use it to state your case. Tocci recommends using that information, combined with your accomplishments and why you’re asking for a particular level of compensation as the basis for your arguments.
Mistake 3: Not Understanding What’s Negotiable
The problem: Compensation can range from the tangible salary to intangible benefits like working from home. However, sometimes it’s not clear what’s on the table when it’s time to negotiate. For example, the size of your staff may be open to negotiation, as well as work space.
The solution: Getting a sense of areas beyond salary that may be open for negotiation is often accomplished through friends, family members and acquaintances on social networks. Another way to scope it out is to click on the “jobs” or “career” link on the company’s website and take a look under the “benefits” section if one’s available.
Whether it’s right or wrong, the fact remains women have to make a stronger case during negotiations to get what they want. Be proud of what you’ve done, take credit for it, and be ready to back up your arguments with real facts. That way you’ll be ready for anything – and will have more confidence in your discussions.