It is fairly common knowledge that women are more hesitant to negotiate salary than men. Recent trends have encouraged women to be more confident in negotiations, built on the knowledge that you won’t know what you can get unless you ask. Many women in the workplace have been pleasantly surprised by the outcome of such discussions, either at the time of hire or after some time on the job. New research by Bowles, Bobcock and Lai1 has shown, however, that the reasons women may be more reluctant to negotiate have less to do with their own personal confidence or belief in the appropriateness of the request and more to do with the perceptions that can be created once the ask has been made. Researchers have found that the answers have more to do with the way women are treated when they negotiate than skills or confidence in negotiations. That is, it was found that there is a “social cost” of negotiating in that evaluators were less inclined to work with employees after negotiations. And, not surprisingly, the social cost of negotiating for pay was found to be higher for woman.
There can be a “social cost” to negotiating for women. In other words, both men and women risk negatively changing a work dynamic by asking for increased pay; however, for women, the backlash can be stronger and more long-lasting. So should women revert to the days of not asking at all? Fortunately, no. Women should follow a simple strategy during negotiations: explain why the request makes sense and is valid. For instance, if you have been hired to work in employee relations or human resources, negotiating is part of the skill set you were hired for! Set the stage for why you are making the request. If you are working at a lower level and/or perhaps don’t have those types of negotiating responsibilities as part of your job, talk about how this skill might be valuable to the organization as you grow in your job.
To learn more about the costs and benefits of negotiating and how to create a ‘relational account’ to minimize the costs, click here.