Feature

Women are less likely to negotiate for what they want than men, and when they do, they often set their targets lower and settle for less, research shows. But by learning and practicing negotiating skills, women can get more of what they want and preserve relationships, Emory University psychology professor Nadine Kaslow, PhD, told participants at the Aug. 12 Women's Leadership Institute.

"Negotiation is a basic survival skill for work success, whether it has to do with program resources, raises or work load," she said.

She ought to know. Her negotiation skills have landed her a significant raise, the ability to keep her dream job at a hospital for underserved clients and a coveted position as psychologist for the Atlanta Ballet—one of only two such positions in the country.

Indeed, if women are to succeed in academia, learning how to negotiate is non-negotiable, Kaslow contended. She advised women to:

  • Use data. Negotiating without the research to back it up is like building a house without tools. Accurate data can help you negotiate any aspect of your career—whether it's lobbying for more lab space or less teaching time. But it is particularly essential in salary negotiations, she added. There, you may have to do some digging, particularly at private institutions, where such information tends to be a well-guarded secret. (Public institutions are required to post salaries annually.)

  • Maximize your style. Knowing your communication style is key to successful negotiation, Kaslow said. If you're good at standing firm, make the most of that tendency. If you're better at a more relationally oriented way of communicating, maximize that approach. That said, understand your limitations, and make sure to flexibly draw from other styles or use your style judiciously as needed, she advised.

  • Strike a wise bargain. "Principled negotiation"—strategies outlined by Harvard negotiation experts Roger Fisher and William L. Ury—constitutes a framework that often leads to win-wins, Kaslow said. (The approach is outlined in a book called "Getting to Yes," Penguin, 1991.)

These skills entail focusing on the problem, not the person; insisting on objective criteria—that is, finding negotiating criteria that both sides agree on; promoting fair standards and both sides' basic interests; and inventing options for mutual gain. As a whole, these approaches help to ensure not only a cease-fire, but progress and solutions, Kaslow said.

"If you win the battle and lose the war, you're going to be fighting over and over again," she said. "Instead, you want a gradual consensus that you reach efficiently—you want a wise agreement."

  • Brainstorm and barter. In layperson's terms, principled negotiation involves both brainstorming and bartering, Kaslow noted. Brainstorming can help when a negotiation has hit the wall, when neither side is willing to meet in the middle. At this point, it can be helpful for both sides to consider multiple, mutual solutions. The key is to let ideas flow without censorship. Kaslow recommends that all parties come up with a minimum of 10 options, because "the first few options are the obvious ones, and you wouldn't be brainstorming if obvious ones had worked," she said.

In bartering, you exchange one set of goods and services for another, in a way that feels good to everyone. When Kaslow negotiated for her position at the Atlanta Ballet, she considered a long-term picture of what she was willing to give in order to get some things she wanted. Knowing the company couldn't pay her what she was worth monetarily, she instead offered free counseling and coaching services in exchange for unlimited free ballet classes and a subscription to the ballet.

Not only did she and the company strike that deal, but she got something less tangible out of the process as well, Kaslow said: "I'm getting to do something that is fascinating and different and interesting and energizing," she said. "That was a negotiation worth doing—it allows me to come full circle in my life, to integrate two of my greatest loves, ballet and psychology."


Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.