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Developing negotiation skills for women in leadership

[FILES] The act of professional negotiation is critical for women as compared to men. Photo: PEXELS

As we start a new year, indeed a new decade, I find it important to speak about this particular skillset. Negotiation is an essential phenomenon for success in business and many affairs of life. It is a process by which people settle their differences while avoiding conflicts.

A good negotiation is focused on seeking mutual benefits and maintaining a healthy relationship between two parties. Individuals good at this skill can settle deals at best arrangements, leading to the advancement of an organization. Improved professional relationships, long term competitive advantage, and effectively managed conflicts are all advantages of successful negotiations. Negotiation is an essential facet of professional life.

There comes ample of stages when one has to negotiate with others for approval of any proposal or due to the difference of opinion in some matter. Individuals weak at negotiation undoubtedly remain at a disadvantage, as they cannot ask for what they want and cannot deny other’s opinions even if they don’t like it. Some people are blessed with the innate ability to perform well at negotiation. They prove to be successful at negotiating and get their capabilities credited no matter how challenging the situation becomes. However, this may not be the case for everyone and especially for women.

The act of professional negotiation is critical for women as compared to men. For women, it represents them as greedy or desperate. It is also considered complicated by many women, who are often hesitated for asking their worth in the workplace.

On the other hand, men are quite confident at negotiating agreements, partnerships, business deals, and more. They are encouraged for their negotiating skills inside and outside the workplace. Although workplace diversity is progressing all around the world, still women are considered to be less competitive than men in every aspect. When women step into the professional world, stereotype beliefs become a significant hurdle for them.

Majority of people assume that men are highly competitive, win-lose negotiators, manipulative, and good leaders. They are seen as essential assets to the organization who put successful results at priority. They prove not only beneficial for the organization but also remain successful in building a firm base for their interests. They not only ask privileges according to their achievements but also make superior realize their importance.

A widely held assumption about women is that they are more accommodating. They try to preserve existing relationships by compromising and seeking win-win outcomes while negotiating. This attitude does not only affect the company’s interest but also has a direct bearing on women’s pay scale and value at the workplace. Many accomplished women who are even more proficient than their male cohorts are found to be earning far less. The reason is that they are not asking for their worth. They prefer to remain at low levels than to confront their superiors and argue for their deserving place. They perform poorly at negotiation because they are more sensitive. They try their best to avoid arguments as it might displease their colleagues and they will think wrong of them. Women are already struggling at workplaces so they don’t commit such steps that can further aggravate any difficulty for them. This phenomenon is leaving women behind in the race.

Negotiation is a highly marketable skill, which is considered as a critical leadership strategy. It becomes more crucial when you are in the leader’s seat, as you have to deal with hundreds of employees, business partners, and competitors. Women can quickly develop an effective leadership style, but what they do struggle with is claiming the authority to lead. Women leaders have greater negotiating challenges than regular women. Many researchers and economic leaders all around the world believe that negotiation, in any context, is something women leaders don’t learn enough.

When it comes to negotiation skills, men are more rational and logical, while women are more emotional and intuitive. Men emphasize objectives by remaining dominant and authoritative. They utilize direct language and even use highly intensive language to persuade others. They tend to prolong the talk or confidently interrupt other parties if they feel it necessary. Women remain passive and submissive most of the time. They focus more on maintaining relationships than on acquiring objectives. They generally stay on the back foot in settling deals with other parties. They use tentative speech patterns and talk carefully during personal interactions, which are perceived as less forceful. There is a constant thought keep revolving in women’s mind that how others are judging them and what do they feel about them. It interrupts the negotiation process and that they get distracted from the real objectives.

A negotiation is an act in which they are supposed to interact confidently and counter all arguments to get their proposal accepted. But they get ‘undepressed’ due to such sort of thoughts. It is quite natural because of the male-dominant workplace environment. Women constantly undermine themselves with the feelings of others and how they are going to be perceived. Men work efficiently in performance-oriented situations. They remain confident even if they are not prepared and somehow improvise some solution in such scenarios. On the other hand, Women feel under-confident, even if they are thoroughly prepared. It’s not that women are less qualified, but the fault lies in the fact that they continue to express doubts about their capabilities. It dramatically affects their performance and has a direct bearing on their pay scale.

One primary reason for low pay scales and negotiation challenges faced by women leaders is agreeableness. Psychology says that if you’re struggling to say “no” at work and have a constant need to please others, you might be putting your success at stake. Agreeableness also plays a significant role in weakening the negotiating skills of women. It can be observed that women are more agreeable than most of the men. Such women are usually more warm, selfless, friendly, and generous. They ‘don’t realize the cleverness of others and always have a positive approach. They believe that people are generally honest, decent, and trustworthy.

Moreover, agreeable women remain over conscious of what other people think and always try to please them. It covers their self-esteem and neglects their own needs for meeting other ‘people’s needs. Agreeableness cause silent harms to women. They seem warm, welcoming, and great for office morale on the surface. But in reality, they lead the office towards inefficiency and decrease their credibility. They also avoid conflict and settle at compromises. ‘It’s a problem many women are facing today. They are not complaining about rude behavior, low salaries, and over workload at offices. Many CEOs or managers are unable to run offices according to them. They ‘don’t want to displease their employees and judged as bossy or rude for implementing new policies. They often leave the decision making to colleagues as they ‘can’t reject them in any way; these all result in poor leadership and inefficiency. On average, such women have lower income and professional status than “disagreeable” people.

Being too agreeable can create great trouble for women leaders due to their key role in an organization. Being a leader, one has to make hard decisions and implement strict discipline for better running of the system. Agreeableness can get in their way and can lead them to fail at leadership. In reality, individuals high in agreeableness are often likely to be taken advantage of. They need to realize their weakness and work on them smartly. In situations where it seems problematic, the following steps can help agreeable women to protect themselves:
• Be aware of this trait and learn to turn down someone’s request when it’s necessary.

• Don’t indulge in conflicts but also don’t let others take advantage of this fact. Use your authority to control suitably.

Set your priorities and boundaries for assisting others.
Moreover, experts have advised several approaches to help women overcome agreeableness and learn excellent negotiation skills. Because the gender pay and value gap are real. Instead of waiting for the world to bring revolution, each woman must turn the tables for herself and bring equality in the workplace.

Following are a few techniques that can be adapted to be good at negotiation and confident workingwomen:
a. Preparation before a Meeting
Proper preparation before entering bargaining is an aid to a good negotiator. It may include focused objectives, targeted goals, areas for trade, and alternatives to the stated targets. Also, a study of the brief history of negotiations between two parties should always be done. It can help determine previous agreements and common goals. Past outcomes can set the tone for current negotiations.

b. Always know your unique value proposition (UVP)
Sometimes, only working hard and achieving business targets are not enough. You have to make people around you realize your capabilities and effort you have put in the workplace. Your UVP defines your value to the organization with and without you. Remind them that you are not just an ordinary employee but also a valuable asset and a potential leader to the organization. Highlight your accomplishments, replacement value, experience, and qualifications.

c. Remain receptive to feedback
Getting feedbacks can help women leaders improve their negotiation skills and solve company-related problems. Criticism has several valuable benefits. It can help leaders asses the opinion and needs of their under commands. After critical analysis of the received feedback, leaders can improve their skills, work products, relationships, and meet expected results. It is also encouraged to ask questions to get to the root cause of the problem raised and find out possible solutions to fix them.

d. Present multiple equivalents offer simultaneously (MESOs)
Don’t just restrict to only one offer but present multiple offers keeping your main objective intact in them. If the other party rejects the entire offer, ask them their opinion and requirements. Analyze smartly and come up with some deal, which matches your shared goals and pleases the opposite group. This strategy reduces the chances of failure and promotes creative solutions.

e. Negotiate the process
Don’t present yourself on the low ground when it comes to negotiating. Carefully set essential details, including the place/time of the meet, what your agenda will be, and who will present it. Don’t just agree with others without discussing your plans. Offering your demands clearly helps promote focused talk.

f. Keep Emotions Controlled
A good negotiator does not let his/her emotions come in between the negotiation process. It is important to note that your feelings should be in your control throughout the process. Negotiations can be frustrating and let emotions control your thinking, which can lead to unfavorable results. One should accept the fact that negotiations do not always give the desired outcome. But it doesn’t mean that one should lose his emotions over it and take steps, which can put him in a worse position. Compromising and sacrificing their interest can also prove to be beneficial in some situations.

g. Active Listening
Actively listening to the opposite party during the negotiation process is very important. A good negotiator deeply observes body language and verbal communications to assess other’s intentions. It helps find areas for compromise during the meeting. It saves your own time and effort. Negotiator straight away presents such offers that are consisted of mutual interests and minimum differences.

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