Here you are now at the negotiation table, in front of your potential future boss who is offering you the position of your dreams; or in front of your current boss, feeling you deserve a long-awaited promotion; or about to close a deal with a major client that will take your company to the next level.
A different million thoughts come to mind, you start to panic –butterflies in your stomach or quick breathing. It is negotiation time. What to do?
As many of you, I can share a funny story that came out OK but could have gone very wrong. I was working in New York at a multicultural advertising agency in a no-way-out leave-your life-here type of job making little money and with a horrible commute. A dear friend offered me a contact opportunity to work for the State of New Jersey.
The job didn’t really interest me –at the time, it seemed a side path in my career– but tired of 12-hour long days, I decided to look into it. I was called to an interview with a very pleasant man –who would end up being my boss– and other management.
I showed up with a number in mind. If I was to sell my soul, it was going to be for a good price. The interview went extremely well and I was offered the position on the spot. I was even able to negotiate my title –State jobs have sometimes weird titles– to look closer to my professional objective. However, when the numbers came up, I was offered $5K less a year than I had in mind. I heard myself say YES.
Driving back home, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy that I had aced the interview and the job seemed particularly suitable for my skills with great benefits. On the other, I was extremely furious with myself for not having negotiated my salary. It was not a great difference but why haven’t I spoken up? I tried to appease myself thinking it was not such a big difference, that it still was good money and way more than I was making now, the commute was easier, and the job was fine. But the principle of not speaking up for myself made me mad!
When I got home and told my son the good and the bad news, in his naivety –he was a teenager at the time– he suggested I called them back and ask for more money. I did the next day, and the answer was YES! (Do not try this at home). As I said, it was a once in a lifetime miracle, and I could easily have lost the job.
“Women –and especially Latinas– are raised in this culture of being agreeable and making other people happy,” said Dr. Yasmin Davidds, Founder and CEO of the Women’s Institute of Negotiation. “We need to teach and train them in the art of negotiation, which is not a feminist position. Study after study coming out of Harvard and Stanford universities has proven that women and men brains really work differently, with very different approaches in ways of negotiating and communicating with and between each other,” she said.
An international best-selling author and negotiation expert, Dr. Davidds is one of the top leading female negotiation experts in the U.S. and Latin America. She has trained and consulted thousands of corporate leaders in over 200 blue chip companies throughout 22 countries in the art and skill of negotiation. A propos of her first-ever live-streamed virtual presentation “Negotiating for Women” sponsored by the USC Career Center, USC Alumni Association and the USC Society of Trojan Women, she spoke exclusively with LIBizus.
“The fact is, nobody likes aggressive women, especially men, because they feel it is a challenge to their manhood. Maybe they will negotiate with you once but hardly would they want you on their team,” she affirmed. “Many men and women believe aggressive women are difficult to work with.”
So the true concept of negotiation, according to Dr. Davidds, involves using the feminine power and grace. “Being compassionate, gracious, assertive and empathetic helps you understand where the other person is coming from. Egos might get in the middle; being aware and acknowledging the other person’s goals make them feel safe enough to open up,” she suggested.
This world-renowned leader has worked with global companies such as Proctor and Gamble, General Electric, Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, American Express, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft and Apple among many others. She has conducted hundreds of presentations in some of the most prestigious universities including Stanford and Harvard, and is a regular speaker at USC.
“I have trained women in both, the organizational or corporate and the entrepreneurial environments. There are differences in every aspect of the negotiation process. In a corporation, the organizational culture designates how a woman can use her power, what is acceptable and what is not, and how much –or little- the organization is open to be questioned, so I always recommend being very cautious. Less evolved organizations have less appreciation for women and for that, they present a higher risk.”
In that kind of corporate environment, Dr. Davidds recommends:
- Have your exit strategy in place. In order to play the game, you need to be very strategic, including having an alternative in case your move is not successful; you always want to have options.
- Find allies within the organization, powerful people who know you, your work, and your professionalism; they will speak up for you when and if the time comes.
- Understand the rules of the game so you have choices: you play by them, you challenge them or you look for an organization that is more aligned with your career goals.
- Find –if there exists– a women’s group, formal or informal– within the organization so you feel you are not doing it alone.
When the environment changes to the entrepreneur or the small business owner, the rules are different, according to Dr. Davidds. “Entrepreneurs and small business owners are, in a way, free to take more risks. If their main clients are large corporations, then it is mandatory that they understand their clients’ negotiation style, and the politics around their organizational culture. However, they can live by different rules,” she said.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners must:
- Take bigger risks. You need to jump in first, be proactive and then figure out how to accomplish the task at hand.
- You must have a personality. Show your clients who you are and how your company is their best option to service their needs. You are freer to be yourself, so prove it!
- Try everything to see what works. You have more opportunities to experiment with different options and look for the best solution possible. Clients appreciate innovators!
While Latina entrepreneurs have more freedom in taking these risks, corporate Latinas must be more cautious in saying YES right away when asked to take over a task or challenge. They need to push back a little and figure out a way to respond to the situation that would be beneficial to all the parties, including herself!
“Latinas are so happy to get promoted that we don’t realize we need resources and funding to learn how to be strategic, and even find someone who represents our interest and be able to push back without hurting the negotiation. Seeking to establish themselves in executive or leadership roles, Latinas must negotiate their way through a number of obstacles and challenges that their male colleagues often bypass,” she said.
“Today’s Latina leaders must be equipped with more than just a traditional leadership skill set; they must be able to negotiate in complex, multi-party situations where relationships are of the utmost importance and substance cannot be sacrificed. I believe the Women’s Institute of Negotiation has begun to make a difference,” she concluded.
Watch the complete session “Negotiating for Women” on our LatinainBusiness.us YouTube Channel here!