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How to Do Better in Salary Negotiation

It’s been well documented that, on average, women make less money than men for comparable positions and experience. Numerous studies have shown that many factors contribute to this.

Sadly, discrimination certainly still plays a factor. Many other factors have also been cited that might or might not play a role in women making less. Regardless of the causal factors, the earnings gap is real and eliminating it is in all of our best interests.

One factor that’s emerged in the research as a leverage point is how well (or not) both women and men handle salary negotiations. It turns out that both genders do better when they appeal to a nobler motive.

Why It’s Challenging

It can be challenging to assert for ourselves when we enter a negotiation. It’s hard not to be thinking about company budgets, other candidates, and whether or not we’re worth what we’re asking.

While there are many individual exceptions, women tend to struggle more with asserting themselves in salary negotiations. This article by Adam Grant at the Wharton School highlights research done at Harvard showing that in a similar group of women and men, women tended to land salaries at a level 3% less than their male counterparts.

Until they changed one factor.

Change Your Mindset

When women were asked to take the role as the mentor of the person in the salary negotiation, they did better. Much better.

14% better than men.

The difference? When women acted as an agent for someone else, they performed vastly better than both other women and men. It speaks directly to this human relations principle from Dale Carnegie:

Appeal to the nobler motives.

Get Clear on Your Motives

Some people struggle with feeling like they aren’t worth it. Others tend to put themselves center stage. Depending on our personality, past successes or failures, and our experience, either extreme can be a major obstacle.

The nobler motive is to enter into a negotiation with the mindset that we’re not only in it for ourselves. We’re almost always representing the interests of other people too. Those parties may include spouses, children, peers, parents, and even the employer. Women tend to do this especially well in many other areas of life, yet struggle at the negotiation table.

The same professor who conducted the research at Harvard states that women (and men) do better when they also consider what’s best for the employer and use inclusive language in their negotiations. Here are the details in a salary negotiation guide published last year in the New York Times.

The Bottom Line for You

First, get clear on your nobler motive. Perhaps what you negotiate will be the difference maker of a child going to the college of their choice. Maybe your new salary will free up a spouse to work fewer hours.

Your nobler motive might even be the strong belief that you are the key person for your organization in this role and that the right salary means a long and sustained partnership for both of you. If genuine, this is a noble motive indeed, since it’s not just about you.

Once identified, center the mindset you bring into negotiations on your nobler motive. If you’ll do this, the advice you seek, the strategies you use, and the language you select in your dialogue will better support good results.

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