Engendering Negotiations

Published: Jul 31 , 2015
Author: Sam Macbeth

Although news of a pay differential between men and women doing the same or similar jobs is nothing new, recent studies suggest that even when women are on the employer’s side of a negotiation, men can feel more threatened by a female boss, and tend to negotiate using more extreme positions.

In one survey, male and female college students at a U.S. university were asked to negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager. Once they had, the participants were asked to guess words that appeared on a computer for a fraction of a second. Those who selected words such as "fear" or "risk" were judged to feel more threatened.

The men who were negotiating with a woman as their manager acted more threatened. As such, they asked for more money ($49,400 average) as opposed to less when asking from a male manager ($42,870 average).

Women negotiated for a lower salary overall ($41,346 average) - it didn’t matter whether they were asking a man or a woman.

Whist I’m sure that these results can be interpreted and discussed at length the interesting point for me is how much (or little) time people had to respond.

I suspect the answer was not much. In real life negotiations this can limit creativity and with immediate emotional responses - things we say and do in the heat of the moment, may limit future flexibility – possibly at a crucial point in the negotiation.

Next time you’re negotiating a potentially emotive issue (with a man, woman or group), if you are being asked for a response, it may be better to take a break and reflect first; can you sensibly support the position you’re about to take up? If you’re asking for the response, it may be better to give the other side some thinking time beforehand - you may get a more considered, realistic response from them.

Sam Macbeth


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