Negotiation: Who Plays the Game Better?

Are men better negotiators than women?

Posted Jun 29, 2014

Are men better negotiators than women? On one hand, some may argue that men have a more competitive nature, are more aggressive, understand how to use power to their advantage, and appear more business savvy than women. On the other hand, others may argue women bring the relational aspect into a negotiation and look to create a win-win for both parties. In her recent bestselling book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook  shares that she came home from her first negotiation with Mark Zukerberg and told her husband the salary offer. She was ready to sign and her husband stepped in and advised to never accept the opening offer. You negotiate for more!

But does a woman’s need to maintain the relationship impact her desire to fully negotiate? The desire to be nice to not hurt anyone’s feelings or look too selfish even when the things she’s asking for are rightfully hers may influence what a woman asks for or feels she deserves. Gender does impact the negotiation process. Assumptions about who’s the “better” negotiator and other such factors can affect the process and, ultimately, the outcome of a negotiation. Why Ask?

They’ll Only Say No!

Part of the issue with approaching a negotiation is that women have been socialized to not ask, to accept what they have and be thankful. “You’re lucky to even have a job. Don’t rock the boat.” “Don’t cause any trouble, be nice, follow the rules, and make sure everyone likes you.” Women may feel, “My boss is my friend. Surely if she could get more money for me, she’d do that. That’s part of her job. She’ll take care of me. I shouldn’t have to ask.”

Whether the boss is a man or a woman, women assume that the boss has their best interest in mind. This may be even more pronounced if your boss is a woman. You begin to think that you have some sort of female bond with her and that she automatically knows that you need a bigger raise, more vacation time, or an extra personal day, without your asking. Yet those things never happen. Because you never ask.

In fact, the thought to ask never occurs. Many women assume that if they work hard, they’ll be noticed and that the pay and recognition will automatically be there: “If I don’t get the extra bonus, I’ll be disappointed, but the boss knows how hard I work and will make the right decision.”

Wrong. If the boss is managing 20 people and 2 of them keep bugging her for more money, guess who will get more money at review time (assuming that everyone is doing their job)? When women do ask, they often low-ball themselves and don’t ask for the big bucks. Men ask for the big bucks; they don’t always get it, but they ask for top dollar.

Suggestion for women: Aim high ,very high when you ask; it’s easier to come down than go up.

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask

Sometimes women don’t know that they can ask for something. Not socialized in the male competitive ways, many women don’t realize that it’s okay to ask for more pay or an extra vacation day. And when they do, they often ask for less and accept less in their bargaining. Ouch! Add this to the stereotype that women are poor negotiators, and the other side goes into the negotiation expecting to offer the woman less.

Not only is it okay to ask for more, but you deserve more. Studies and reports such as the classic ABC Primetime 1993 segment “The Fairer Sex” showed that women generally are given higher starting prices for cars than men, and women’s final deal is often higher. This also happens to ethnic and racial minorities.

Salespeople sometimes discriminate consciously or unconsciously. The salespeople also know that women are less likely to realize that they can negotiate, are less likely to do research on prices, and might be terrible negotiators anyway, per the stereotype. Women, start asking more often for what you want.

You’ve heard the saying “Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.” At one college training program, we met a woman who mentors female students. The mentor said she often tells the ones who hesitate to confront their professors to “strap on their girl balls and go for it.” Not that women have to act like men, but it’s a reminder that women deserve more and that it’s okay to take the risk and ask.