Ask and you may well receive

Last week I attended an excellent workshop on negotiating entitled Don’t Ask, Don’t Get led by two seasoned executives, Jeanne Haws and Maria Pignatero Nielsen, with extensive experience on both sides of the deal-making table. It was billed as a Lean In event for women with graduate degrees or careers in international affairs, but most of the strategies they discussed are relevant to anyone who is looking to sharpen their workplace negotiating skills.

Here are a few of the tips they shared:130409130440-women-equal-pay-614xa


  • Ask what the salary range is early on in the recruiting process. If there’s a significant mismatch, better to know about it up front and politely decline rather than waste everyone’s time interviewing, including yours. If, on the other hand, the range is in the right ballpark, don’t settle for the floor. Gun for the high end and explain why you’re worth it.
  • Do your homework. Whether you’re asking for a higher salary, a raise, a promotion or a flexible work arrangement, make sure you have the data you need to support your position and present it in a way that acknowledges your employer’s goals. If you want to telecommute one day a week, build a case that highlights how you expect the arrangement to benefit your performance, your boss and the organization as a whole. If you want a promotion, come armed with evidence of the next-level work you’re already doing. For salary intel, use websites like google and to suss out what your prospective employer, and the competition, pay others in similar functions.
  • Come to the table with a solutions-oriented approach vs. a fixed position. Rather than taking an adversarial stance in anticipation of a zero-sum game, think of the negotiation as a path to arriving at a shared solution that’s a good deal for both sides. Role play in advance, and bring an “arsenal of non-threatening behaviors” to help you get there. Don’t be afraid to get creative. For example, if you can’t get to the salary you want and are already covered by your partner’s health insurance, ask for a buyback.


  • Accept the first salary you’re offered. (Which, by the way, women are four times more likely to do than men.) Here’s a scary statistic about the compounded impact of leaving money on the table that will hopefully prompt you to negotiate more aggressively the next time around: individuals who do not negotiate first salaries lose more than $500,000 in earnings by age 60.
  • Let the “likeability” factor get in the way of your ability to own and fight for your value. Not asking for more, or capitulating too quickly, may negatively impact your candidacy in addition to your bank account. As one of the presenters noted, “During the interview process, HR is evaluating how effectively a candidate can negotiate on her own behalf, and extrapolating from that behavior how she’s likely to represent the company in similarly high-stakes situations.”

Here are a some useful resources to check out if you’re looking for additional information:

Margaret Neale: Getting What You Want (Stanford Business School lecture)

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men In Conversation



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