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We give you actionable advice so you can elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation—helping you overcome the hurdles you face in business and life to become even more successful.
Hey everyone! Thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx podcast. In this episode, we are continuing our conversation with Sara Laschever, a leading authority on the challenges women face in the workplace and co-author of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide.
If you haven’t already checked out Part A of this episode, please be sure to do that first. Now, without further ado, let’s continue the conversation with Sara.
Aram kicks off the episode by asking Sara if the post-pandemic economy has changed the way women negotiate. Sara confirms that it has and goes on to highlight the positives and negatives of the situation.
The positives are that in the post-pandemic economy, many organizations are having difficulty finding trained professionals to fill vacant positions. This naturally puts women in an advantageous situation as in general, they have more college degrees than men and hence are a very rich part of the talent pool.
However, there are negatives to the situation as well. In the post-pandemic economy, women are mostly negotiating from home. And those who have very young children could find it a little difficult to present a professional face when they’re on video. Furthermore, some organizations might even be less inclined to hire young mothers, mistakenly assuming that they are not able to bring their full engagement and attention to the role.
Next, Sara discusses a few challenges of negotiating online. One needs to build trust, connect personally and build rapport while negotiating, especially with people they don’t have a prior connection with. Now, that’s practically impossible while negotiating virtually unless, of course, they are negotiating on a video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
If you don’t know the counterpart or the relationship isn’t great, negotiating over email or text, or on the phone makes it a little hard to negotiate effectively. Not to mention, it is also incredibly difficult to convey passion and commitment when negotiating through texts.
Another issue that a lot of people have, especially women, is that they are often distracted by their own image, which only adds to the cognitive load when they are negotiating through virtual media. Thus, it could result in unfavorable outcomes.
So, even though virtual media has made a lot of things possible that would otherwise not be feasible under these circumstances, there are downsides as well.
Sara suggests the women negotiators not come on too strong. Instead, they should come off as likable. She highly recommends they walk and smile, make warm eye contact, shake hands, and use relaxed body language to help calm the counterparty.
While this might seem like a step backward, especially for feminists, it is necessary. According to Sara, when it’s a woman who is perceived to be too aggressive, it’s much harder for the other person, regardless of their gender, to hear what they’re saying objectively.
Long story short, Sara asks women to go a little easy on the interpersonal dynamics as that will enable them to aim higher, go a few more grounds and come out with a better agreement; it’ll also just make the interaction more pleasant.
Moving on, Sara highlights that women comprise above 50% of the educated workforce. So, if organizations underutilize their talents, they risk underutilizing at least half their workforce. This means they will not be making the most of their talents and potential, which is nothing short of bad management.
Employees holding managerial positions must realize women are also people and if they’re underutilizing them, then they are not going to be as productive. Furthermore, studies suggest that this phenomenon can cost millions of dollars cumulatively, which no organization would want.
It has also been found that organizations end up spending more than 150% of the annual salary of a woman when it’s time to replace her. Besides huge financial losses, organizations have to spend additional resources to find a suitable replacement when a female employee quits, affecting productivity.
To ensure women are more successful in negotiation outcomes, Sara suggests that organizations need to have a detailed-specific evaluation system that is transparent and applied equally to everybody. This can reduce subjective biases against women in a workplace, which are often unconscious, and the products of the noise of the culture we’ve grown up in.
She also recommends evaluating managers on how well the women they supervise move ahead. According to her, many organizations evaluate a manager based on how the women or minorities they supervise go ahead and publish the data quarterly to motivate them.
Sara, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.
Thank you for listening!
Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Sara Laschever, a leading authority on the challenges women face in the workplace and co-author of Women Don't Ask Negotiation and the Gender Divide. If you haven't already checked out part A of this episode, please be sure to do that first. Now let's continue the conversation with Sara.
Aram Donigian : Sara, as we sit here in 2022, thoughts about how, I guess, if at all, the post-pandemic economy is changing anything about how women should be approaching negotiating?
Sara Laschever : Well, positives and negatives. The positives are the difficulties so many organizations are having in finding trained professionals to take the jobs that they are hosting puts women in a great position cuz women have been getting more college degrees, more advanced degrees almost at a rate of two to one compared to men for a couple of decades now.
So, women actually make up a very rich part of that talent pool, which has largely been underused or untapped. So coming in saying, I can do this, I have this experience and you need it, that's very powerful. Then of course employees in general, men and women are just in a stronger position now than they were before the pandemic for those reasons.
Now the difficulties are one, a lot of women are like a lot of men, a lot of people are negotiating from home and if women have children that becomes more difficult. It becomes a little more difficult to present a professional face that is uninterrupted. But also their organizations knowing they have children may assume that they're not bringing their full engagement, their full attention to the job, even though that's not true.
And that's actually something that even women who work in the office all the time, once women have children, there is this assumption that they are not as committed to the job as they were before even though there's no data to support that. And I actually have a friend who says, I will hire a mother in a minute cuz boy, they will focus when they're at the office when they are working. They are so efficient at multitasking and switching between one thing or another. Mothers are the most productive people I can find. So that is an advantage if people appreciate it.
Then there's the other challenges of negotiating virtually, an important piece of any negotiation is building trust, connecting personally, building rapport, and particularly with people you don't know at all or you don't have a great relationship with, connecting over virtual media is more difficult. It's best if you're doing it with some video conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft meetings, whatever. If you don't know the person or the relationship isn't great, doing it over email or text or on the phone makes all those problems a little harder.
And then there's just the basic issue that a lot of people have, but women more than men, which is being distracted by their own image. Oh my God, the bag's under my eyes….is that, you know whatever, did my neck?
AD : Are you talking about me, Sara?
SL : And that distraction, it's basically adding to your cognitive load when you're trying to negotiate. It's not able to be quite as centered in focus because of that. So, whatever these virtual media have made a lot of things possible that would not be possible in these circumstances, but there is a downside as well.
AD : Yeah, I really appreciate that. And Nolan, if it's okay, I'm just gonna build, build on what Sara is saying here and just that challenge around the different technologies. Always think of email as being such a great tool that then gets overused, it’s great in the sense that maybe I can go back and I can wordsmith and see what I'm saying and really think about how I frame things and provide enough information.
AD : But as you're saying, so difficult to convey, maybe passion and commitment. And so it just seems like there are challenges and it's about knowing when to use them and when to try to make that face-to-face happen even in 2022.
SL : Well, another challenge is, and I'm a writer so I'm totally prey to this, is you wipe this perfectly, it's so well-expressed, detailed, all-organized but you put out your whole proposal in this one email and they don't like one thing in that proposal and they reject the whole thing. They say, no, I'm not doing it, whereas if you do it in real time, either over the phone or ideally using some kind of video conferencing or in the same room, which is best of all, you can start with something you think will be easy for them to say yes to.
And once they've said yes to one thing, they're more likely to wanna reach a final agreement. They're gonna keep going. And also if you ask for something and they're like, Oh no, they push back a little, then you can say, okay, let's put a pin out in that or let's set that aside and go to something that's easier for them to say yes. So you can essentially phase the negotiation based on what's going on between you and the other negotiator.
And if you are doing it over email, on the one hand you can pause, you can reflect on the response, which is harder to do virtually in real time. But you also risk that they will misinterpret what you say cuz language, black letters on a white screen, whatever, the nuance can be lost. The emphasis of voice or intonation is lost.
AD : Thanks, that's wonderful insight.
NM : So, Sara wanted to kind of ask you a question here and hopefully I don't put you on the spot too bad, But what is the most controversial advice that you give to women or anything like that that you've done yourself?
SL : So, the thing that women often don't like, and I always preface this by saying I hear you, I agree it's stupid, but research is very clear that in order to be persuasive or influential, women need to come off as likable. So if you can use your social skills, if you can not seem to be coming on too strong, so knock on the door, is this a good time? Walk and smile, make warm eye contact, shake hands, use relaxed, open body language that will hopefully calm the other person and it will prevent them from responding.
Oh, she's coming on too strong. Oh I feel threatened. Oh whatever. She's violating our norms for women's behavior. Now women will say that's a big step backwards. That seems like a really not feminist approach to this. And I agree it is an extra burden on women to worry so much about the response of the other person, again, adding to their cognitive load while they're in the midst of this negotiation.
And it's dumb. Women ought to be able to make a strong argument and the other person ought to be able to hear it. But when it's a woman who is perceived to be a little bit too aggressive, it's much harder for the other person, male or female, to simply evaluate the justice of what they're asking for to hear what they're saying objectively. So kind of tying into what you're saying a little bit earlier, I will say if you can go a little easy on the interpersonal dynamics that will enable you to aim a little higher, go a few more grounds and come out with a better agreement, it'll also just make the interaction more pleasant.
Now, if a woman does feel like that's a big step backwards, she doesn't wanna do it. I respect that. Truly, I do. And I have had experiences where I put this advice out there in a talk or a workshop and I preface it by saying, I hear you if you don't wanna do it, but I'll still get a very negative reaction from certain people and I just put it out there for your consideration for any woman's consideration as a strategy or a tactic rather than a something.
NM : Absolutely! Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate it.
AD : You were talking about norms for women's behavior. I mean some of these are societal there, they've kind of built into corporate cultures, right? You're talking about earlier you male dominated industries and companies. I'd love it if you could talk a little bit about the costs to, obviously to individuals but to organizations and maybe, I don't know if it's turnover or talent retention or even attainment through recruitment as well as certainly personal advancement. But can you talk through the organizational level when organizations continue to stay in this rut and don't address these issues that we're talking about today, what do you see as being just the immediate and long term costs?
SL : Okay, great question. So women make up about 50% of the workforce now and a big percentage of the educated workforce. So, if organizations are underutilizing their talents because women feel it's risky to negotiate for themselves or they see men who are equally qualified, less qualified being offered opportunities, or those men feel like they can ask for those opportunities and the people managing them aren't paying attention to who is most qualified, they're not making sure that anybody who's interested knows that it's okay to put their hat in the ring, raise their hand, they will be underutilizing half their workforce. They will not be making the most of their talents and potential. And that is bad management. One of the biggest resources most organizations have is are there human resources? They're people and if they're underutilizing them, then they are not gonna be as productive. And there are good studies that can trace this from whatever underused women to the bottom line and it can cost millions of dollars. So, there’s that.
SL : And then there is attrition. And one study showed that to replace a woman who leaves costs about 150% of her annual salary. So it's not just the time a search takes, but the decline or the dip in productivity while that job is empty and the resources that are gonna be tied up in searching for the right person when you had a great promising talented person right there that you let go. So that's a big cost. And then studies show that more diverse leadership teams and there are more women on boards, when there are more women in those top roles, they actually make more decisions. That's also true of people from other identity groups. If there are more people of color in those top roles, more of people from different backgrounds, they make better decisions.
So, not allowing, helping women get up to into those senior roles is costly in that way as well.
AD : Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, what you were saying earlier about the strengths that women inherently bring to the table, the collaborative approach, the problem solving, the active listening, relationship development. I mean, you take that out of the room, you're not left with a lot of good stuff.
SL : Right, those are kind of important qualities.
AD : Yeah.
NM : So, Sara, thank you so much for that. So what can organizations do intentionally to make sure that women are able to be more successful in negotiation outcome?
SL : There's a lot that organizations can do, and I always like to say this isn't really a women's problem, this is a social problem, it's an organizational problem and it cannot be fixed just by women raising their hands a little bit more often.
I do think women need to be equipped with these skills and understand the dynamics in the workforce. But I can have one woman at a time kind of improve her situation, get ahead, but we're not gonna get wholesale change until organizations take the lead.
So, number one, detailed specific evaluation systems that are transparent and applied equally to everybody. So try to get subjective judgements out of the decision making about who gets promoted, who gets offered on particular opportunities. There's studies that show that even people who do not think, men and women who don't think they have any problems, any biases about women in the workplace when presented with identical work products, but one has a male name and the other has a female name, they will evaluate the one with the female name as whatever, inferior to that by somebody with a male name.
SL : When men and women apply for jobs, men's CVs are taken more seriously, rated more highly than women's. When people recommend women for other positions within the organization, they use more muted, modified descriptors in supporting them, recommending them. They use more superlatives when they talk about men.
So, the evaluation systems really important to try to get those subjective biases, which are often unconscious. It's not that people are trying to discriminate against women. We all are the products of the noise of the culture that we have grown up in. So there's that. Then there is also, I know you said you wanna direct this to some degree at middle managers. A lot of women seem to get stuff at that middle management level. So even if the top boss is saying, We want women to get ahead, we want more opportunities for women, somehow the guys in the middle don't get that message or haven't been mentored or trained to be more open to that.
SL : So they're the mentors, the training's important. The other thing that works really well is to attach managers evaluations, their performance evaluations to how well the women they supervise move ahead. How well do, and certain organizations have done this where they not only say your performance evaluations are gonna be tied to how the women or minorities you supervise get ahead, but we are gonna publish it quarterly.
So, all your competitors in this organization, the people at your level or the people who are potentially maybe going to give you some opportunities, throw some good stuff your way, they're gonna know you're not doing as well. And people are really competitive. So if just that the guy in the next office down or around the other wing is doing this better than you are, you're gonna get busy. A lot of people get really busy.
AD : I love that feedback in that it's really process-focused. And so these are things organizations really can take to heart and effect. I had to share. So as you talked about your first one, we are neighbors. When I lived in Colorado before I retired from the Army, our neighbors both husband and wife, were both professionals. When they had children, they had two daughters.
They intentionally gave them names that were gender neutral. And the intention there was that at it, looking at a resume, you would not be able to determine whether that was a male or female and therefore they thought that would serve their daughters better professionally. It was just interesting. Is there a way to do blind evaluations? I know in the Army at one point too, we saw photos of people were affecting, they could tie. So being able to see someone was affecting promotion rates, so they started to take that away. Is there a role for somehow making this more blind? So some of those implicit biases don't come into effect?
SL : Definitely. So there's a very famous study, it was done I think in the late sixties or the early seventies when somebody noticed that most orchestras, most symphony orchestras had almost all men. And they thought, Well that must be cuz the men are more talented. We are very good. Our ears, were urs at this music, we can tell the difference and we just we're discriminating and whatever the minute got it.
AD : Let's not put that to the test, by the way, with us. Because we're gonna fail miserably.
SL : So then the experiment was they put down carpets, so you couldn't tell if the person was wearing heels and they had people audition behind a screen. So you couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman playing the violin or playing the piano, whatever the instrument was. And the number of women that got into symphony orchestras increased by 50% immediately when all they were doing was listening to the music and not thinking about who it was. Suddenly their incredibly perceptive, discriminating looked like it wasn't quite all, they thought it was.
AD : Amazing!
NM : Hey Sara. So now we kind of wanna talk about a recent negotiation and maybe you could talk about a successful one that we could help inspire the leaders that listen to this podcast.
SL : Absolutely. I have a great one I'm so excited and pleased about. I want everybody to know. So I went on vacation to South Africa in June and flights that far, super expensive, and I had a lot of frequent flier miles. And so I got my tickets with frequent choir miles and I had enough miles to get the longest leg, which was Amsterdam to Cape Town in business class, which for a really long flight makes a difference.
But for the flight back, I didn't have enough miles. And there were all these stories, all these stories about what's going on in airports and flights delay and all that. And she was like, I really want this to be a better experience. And so I called up Delta and I think I got somebody with little authority or maybe she just was great at her job. And I said, Is there any way you can get me into business class? I've had your Platinum American Express card, I have this medallion status. I have never used my companion tickets. I laid it all out there. Could you get me into business class, South Africa, Amsterdam.
And she looked and she looked and she said, Well, would you be willing to go through Atlanta instead? So you could do Johannesburg? I was actually flying from Johannesburg on the way from Johannesburg, Atlanta and then Atlanta JFK. I said, If you can put me in business class Johannesburg, Atlanta, sign me.
SL : And I didn't have to throw in any more miles. She just worked it out because I asked.
NM : Well, nice. That is a great win. That's probably one of the better ones that we've heard recently. So thank you.
AD : That is great. Now I get to ask the flip side, which is, as you look back on your professional career in your personal life, is there a negotiation failure, maybe just one you wish you could do over if you had the chance that you can share that our listeners might learn from? We softened you up with the success first and then we came with the harder one.
SL : Yes, yes, yes, yes. So here's one that was very, very early in my career when I was fairly inexperienced. I hadn't really paid much attention to the negotiation issue. And I worked for an organization where I had really turned around a division that was not doing so great and increased their sales. It's like whatever the performance targets were. And then it came to be raised time and they gave me the same merit increase that they gave everybody else. I mean, not merit, increase time, then it was time for raises.
And they gave me the same cost of living raise that they gave everybody else. And it was a long time ago and it was not a big raise and they didn't even round it up to the next big-ish number. And I felt really insulted and I felt unappreciated and I was really irritated and frustrated and I went, I said, You could at least have rounded it up.
SL : So they rounded it up. So it was like 200 bucks. So a couple of lessons there. One is don't go in mad. If you feel frustrated and angry, try to calm down. If you go in angry, you're not gonna do as good a job. And the other thing is think hard about what it is you're gonna ask for something measly that's easy for them to give. And in general, if it's easy for them to give whatever you're asking for, you probably weren’t asking for enough, but be a little bit more intentional about it, do your research and don't go in angry.
NM : Angry. Oh, that's some great insights there. And so as we get ready to start trying to wrap up this podcast, is there anything that we didn't ask you, Sara, that you would love to share for our listeners?
SL : We really wanna emphasize the importance of research and roleplay. Those would be the two things I think make the biggest difference, go in really well prepared. And one other thing you can do is after you've done all your research, bring it with you. If you assume that everybody has seen this writeup about you in the paper and how great your division is doing, or you've gotten a paper published in an important journal or your evaluations were fantastic, don't assume the other person knows it. Bring it with you, Bring the journal, bring the newspaper, bring the printout, whatever. You may not need to use it, but if you do, you'll have it. But even if you don't use it, you'll have this pile. Boy, I have accomplished a lot. Look at me. And that'll be good here.
NM : Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. Before I kick it over to Aram, I just wanna say thank you so much for joining us on today's podcast. We really appreciate all your insights and hopefully it is equally powerful for all of our listeners. So thank you Sara for that.
SL : It's been my pleasure.
NM : All right, Aram, love to kick it over to you and get your takeaways from today's episode.
AD : Yeah, Sara really hit the key one or I think around research and role playing. I thought in that section too, what you talked about the behavioral piece and what I need to do to kind of manage myself was very helpful as well as not being surprised by the emotion. If we role play well, then we've already dealt with it. I think that's really helpful. I also want to just reemphasize the challenge to those that are listening. If you're part of an organization, let's take this problem on. Let's not pretend like it doesn't exist.
So how we think about evaluation systems, how we link the evaluations of our mid-level managers to promotion and success rates of different identity groups, specifically women in this case, but others as well. Let's really make that not only a part of training, but also part of how we evaluate others. We get more of what we talk about. And so if we talk about the direction we want to go, we're gonna see more of that. We should always inspect, the army language was we should inspect what we expect and so let's make this part of our evaluation. So our thank you so much. Great insights, great advice today, and just lovely getting to spend some time with you. Thanks.
SL : Thank you. Thanks for shutting some light on this particular aspect of the negotiation challenge.
NM : All right, so wrapping this thing up, make sure everyone please go get your copy of Women Don't Ask Negotiation and the Gender Divide. This is my next book that I've gotta read. It's on the agenda.
AD : And ask for it.
NM : And ask for it. So, thank you so much for joining us on the NegotiateX podcast. We greatly appreciate it. Please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast and we'll catch you in the next episode.
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