The joys of Plan B
When it comes to negotiation, studies show that women often lose. It may be fear, it may be social expectations — but it may not have to be reality if more women considered this strategy.
In a recent five-year follow up study of UBC Engineering graduates, it was discovered that female graduates earned about one third less money than their male counterparts. This was a shocking discovery for faculty and led to further inquiry. It was found that, in almost all cases, there were two factors at play: The female graduates were initially not offered as much as the young men, and the majority of women had not negotiated their salaries (while the men had).
This supports what many studies have shown. Women are reluctant to begin a relationship with what they consider divisiveness or dissension, whereas men view negotiation as a kind of sport.
I encourage my clients to stand up for themselves, and to talk their way into better life circumstances, whether it’s with their families or in their workplace. But the first and biggest obstacle to overcome is our fear that, somehow, asking for what we want will lead to a catastrophic outcome.
So many women believe if they ask for more money they will not get the job, or if they tell their husbands they want more control over the money, it will lead to divorce. These outcomes are, of course, overwhelmingly awful.
Rarely does a woman fantasize about how good things will be when she makes more money or has a more equal relationship at home.
Most of my women tend to focus on the negative. I am not exactly sure where that comes from. The fear of disconnection? Not being approved of and being thought of as a b — — ? (I can’t even put the word down it is so offensive to me). I am just not sure.
Plan for fear
In her book, Mogul, Mom and Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman, Liz O’Donnell talks about her early days being coached to face challenges at work. She was told to point to a table and say, “This is a table,” a statement so neutral, so noncontroversial, it was easy to remain passive and unemotional. She was then instructed to make her case at work in the same detached manner that she used when describing the table.
It is finding ways to redirect our fears that will make the biggest difference. And this will happen long before you determine a negotiation strategy. For years, I have used a strategy where I make up a Plan B for if everything goes wrong and the worst possible outcome happens. I simply think about the worst-case scenario. Then I find a fabulous outcome from it.
When I was worried I wouldn’t get into a Master’s program, I held on to the letter for almost an hour before opening it. In that hour, I constructed a reality without grad school that was filled with joy and great adventures. That way, I could approach opening it with very little fear. I remember that day clearly and I was even a bit disappointed to learn I had been accepted. That’s how well my mental trick worked.
So that’s one handy strategy for overcoming emotional blocks preventing us from entering into a negotiation. We face the fear head on. After that, learning techniques is a breeze. We’ll just walk in there like:
So let’s talk Plan B: What would you do differently if you could enter into an important negotiation without fear?