Is it really true, as some authors suggest, that men approach negotiation so differently to women? That men proceed with full confidence while women are often uncomfortable to the extent of avoiding the interaction/discussion?

 

The source of our data

I recently conducted a webinar on “Overcoming Gender Bias in Salary Negotiation” with 650 participants, mainly alumni from leading Business Schools – largest groups were INSEAD alumni (22%) and London Business School alumni (15%). Although we had participants from all continents, we had a strong predominance of Europeans (64%).

 

As pre-work, I requested input based on the personal experience of my webinar participants. I received 192 responses and expected a statistically significant difference between male and female participants’ attitude and views on negotiation. Indeed, data confirmed some of the finding identified by other authors on gender difference, while also identifying a number of similarities.

 

Similarities and differences

Among the similarities I identified is the fact that both men and women express similar emotions (fear) and recall the same words (win-win) when they think of “negotiation”. When talking about career negotiations, traditionally an area where we see strong gender differences, both men and women respondents cited reasons of fear of retaliation/consequence and being judged negatively for not requesting a pay increase in recent periods. The percentage of respondents that never asked for a raise throughout their career was between 40 and 50% for both genders, in spite of the fact that only 40% of respondents believe that they are being fairly compensated currently.

Alternatively, the data also highlighted some differences between the genders. For instance, “fairness” was mentioned much more frequently by women than men and “listening” was often indicated by women as one of their strengths. This confirms findings from other studies: according to Wharton (2013), women’s innately better-listening skills make them uniquely able to negotiate in a way which fosters long-term relationships.

 

While negotiating with a “my way or the highway” attitude may be beneficial in the immediate term, you never know who could return to your business life with the dynamics flipped. This suggests a tip that men could take from women in negotiating—which is to build a rapport with the other side through listening, and look for agreements that meet the both parties’ needs. This will ensure increased sustainability to their business relationships over time.

 

While negotiation may strike fear into a substantial number of both men and women, we have also seen a much larger number of men associating negotiation with “excitement” and “desire”, while women more often described feeling “stress” and “anxiety”. These differing attitudes toward negotiation may explain some of the differences in outcomes for men and for women in career negotiations.

 

When looking at participants’ negotiation strengths, men more often mentioned “bringing the facts forward” and “logical thinking”, while women found strength in “fighting for others” or “mediating among groups or persons”. This seems to confirm the finding that women are often more others-focused than men (i.e. less self-centric). In this way, they become better negotiators when negotiating on another’s behalf rather than for themselves, as they feel more empowered to achieve a positive outcome. No such difference is noted with men when negotiating for themselves or for others.

 

The survey also showed that more women than men mentioned the word “awkward” to describe negotiating. This could be because they feel less comfortable initiating a negotiation, in addition to fear of going through the negotiation itself.

 

As I wrote recently, “asking for more” can strengthen your personal brand, improve your cumulative compensation over time (not just once), and make your superiors perceive you as a better and happier worker. In addition, you may even leave the negotiation being better liked by your counterpart, because you approached it with value-creation in mind, rather than short-term self-interest.

 

Conclusion

So after all, men and women do negotiate differently. But, both sides exhibit valuable behaviors that the other gender could benefit from borrowing.

 

Men tend to see negotiation as a means for self-interested gain and a way to argue the facts. Women should consider this view, and not be afraid to initiate talks. Perhaps, if it will ease anxiety and awkwardness, women should disassociate themselves from the situation, as if negotiating on behalf of a colleague or friend, an area where women show great aptitude.

 

For the good of the whole (value creation instead of transfer), men should adopt a more egalitarian approach, similar to women, in negotiation, to achieve a win-win solution. Do more listening and less talking, and build a relationship with the other side, which is a more longer-term outlook and something typically associated with women negotiators.

 

Interested in Negotiation?

You may want to join one of Giuseppe’s forthcoming workshops:

 

For other information on Conti Advanced Business Learning intensive workshops, visit http://bit.ly/CABLevents

 

Through my online webinars and professional negotiation training at leading firms and business schools, I am able to collect data like this. For more information about my company, Conti Advanced Business Learning (CABL), please click here.

 

What kind of gender differences in negotiation do you see in your workplace? Please leave a comment below.

 

Giuseppe Conti, “The Creator of Master Negotiators”, is a recognized expert in the field of Negotiation and a regular lecturer at top-ranked European Business Schools, including BMI, ESADE, HEC Lausanne, HEC Paris, IMD, INSEAD, Oxford, RSM, SDA Bocconi, and the University of Geneva. Managers from over 90 different countries have attended his highly interactive and hands-on workshops. He is a seasoned negotiator combining academic content with a rich practitioner experience from his senior procurement and commercial leadership roles with blue chip multinationals (Procter & Gamble, Novartis, Firmenich, Merck). He runs custom negotiation workshops for leading corporations in Europe and Asia as well as open enrollment programs in English, French and Italian in Geneva (Switzerland), Zurich (Switzerland), and Milan (Italy). Please visit his website at www.cabl.ch for more information.