Business of Men

Why we avoid negotiating and what it costs us


Can you think of the last time when you initiated a negotiation, whether it was for a salary increase or to request better contract terms with your stakeholders? If you happen to remember it, how did you feel about it? Confident and certain or apprehensive and fearful? If the latter is the case, you are not alone. That doesn’t mean though that it has to stay that way.

While researching on the topic of negotiation I came across an awakening survey, which states that women initiate negotiations four times less than men, which triggered me to look deeper into the reason behind it. 

The same survey also states that “When asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.” As the pay gap between men and women is a much discussed topic, could fear of negotiation be one of its causes? Could this be another example of an issue caused by both external (the culture) and internal (fear of negotiation) challenges?

Due to our cultural upbringing, most people in the Western world do not ‘look forward’ to negotiations, to put it mildly, simply because they have been raised with the belief that asking for things may come across as greedy. As much as society rules have started to shift, until recent times girls were raised to stand back even more than boys and await for things to be ‘given’ to them, instead of asking for what is rightfully theirs.

So what is this perpetual attitude costing us women?

In their book ‘Women Don’t Ask’, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever say that a woman sacrifices more than a half a million dollars over the course of her career by not negotiating her salary. A hard pill to swallow, right? And I may add that, in addition to money, raises and promotions, women’s fear of negotiation is costing us something even more valuable.

It’s costing us confidence and it’s costing us having a culture where it is acceptable that women earn less than men.  In recently years Australian Government has legislated equal pay for both genders. Would you say that this law solved the problem? It’s hard to quantify, especially in small to medium size businesses.

The solution is beyond declaring the pay gap unlawful. The solution is a shift in people’s minds, especially in women’s minds. We need to shift from looking at the problem, such as the pay gap, gender inequality or the feeling of being a victim of a cultural issue, to the solution, which in this case is ‘Women DO Ask’ for what is rightfully theirs and more importantly, women DO negotiate whenever the situation arises.

About Corina Lorenzi

Corina Lorenzi is a Business & Executive Coach and Founder of Elite Success Strategies and she is passionate about helping leaders create organisations for which employees love working and contributing. Her areas of specialisation are Leadership and Negotiation, as well as creating High Performance Teams.Corina is also an internationally published author with her contribution, alongside other thought-leaders, to the book Your Success.

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