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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Sam Macbeth
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How Well Do You Speak the Language of Negotiation?

I can speak 3 languages. English, French and negotiation. English is my native tongue, but I had to learn and practice for many years to speak a decent level of French. At some point invariably, I stopped practicing and speaking it and I am now rusty to say the least. I am however fluent in the language of negotiation as for the last 10 years I’ve studied, practiced, executed and taught it daily. We are all capable of speaking this language. The question is how well?

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