Negotiate Your Way to a Better Job
(and a better life)
(page 3 of 4)
Kent puts it another way: Resist the temptation to negotiate against yourself.
“Often we think that they won’t agree to it, so we don’t even bring it up,” says Kent. “You’ve lost before you even start.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Kalei Cadinha-Puaa, president of the investment counseling firm Cadinha & Co., and a mother of three. When she worked out a manageable schedule allowing time to give her best to both business and family, it was all about candor and communication.
“Before you even enter the conversation,” says Cadinha-Puaa, “you have to know what you’re worth to the organization. I knew what I brought to the table, and what the firm would have to do to replace me.”
In preparing a range of possible options, Cadinha-Puaa weighted them in her favor.
“I didn’t give them an option to say ‘no.’ I gave them options that would all work for me and they could choose from that array. That was my tactic. But it was knowing the firm well enough to know what they could and couldn’t live with. And I always asked, ‘What would be best for you?’ ”
In negotiations, Cadinha-Puaa works backward, as Milks suggests. “Know what result you want, and come up with a plot to get there,” she advises. “It’s not about demanding, ‘This is what I want, give it to me.’ It’s about saying, ‘Hey, did you ever consider this strategy? Would you be willing to meet me halfway and try it?’ ”
Veteran negotiators suggest that women’s natural strengths of communication, empathy, and the ability to understand and listen to others, offer advantages. Adler, in fact, has seen women advance in leadership positions based not just on their abilities, but also on their negotiation skills.
“Some of the best women leaders are skilled negotiators,” he says. “They’re good listeners. They’re patient. They listen hard for the interest that lies behind positions. … Hard-ball negotiation works once in awhile, but not a lot.”
Psychologist Don Kopf, who chairs Hawaii’s Pyschologically Healthy Workplace Award committee for the Hawaii Psychological Association, says women have inherent sensitivities that can provide an added benefit in negotiations.
“Women tend to focus on the relationship and on emotions and that can work for them if they’re able to read the situation more clearly,” Kopf says. “A lot can be determined by watching the other person’s reactions and understanding their body language.”
American psychologist Albert Mehrabian created a theory that says words communicate 7 percent of our feelings and attitudes to others, tone of voice communicates 38 percent, and body language 55 percent.
“When people see an inconsistent message between the body language and the words, they tend to think the true message is in the body language,” says Kent. “So you have to be very careful — tone of voice, grimaces, eye contact, how close you are — these all matter.”
In using communication skills to their advantage, women should also focus on being flexible and creative.
“It’s being able to ask for what you want, but also explain why it’s important to you,” says Wiltgen. “Your approach is important. If you come across too strong, it may turn them off. But there are different philosophies. If you dance around the issue you may also lose an opportunity.
“It’s about being upfront and straightforward,” she says, “and not using tactics like ‘If I don’t get my way I’m going to stomp out.’ ”
Adler agrees that keeping the process in win-win territory is almost mandatory. That can even include when things aren’t going in your favor.
“You can always ask, ‘May I approach you again?’ ” he says. “Or ‘Could I come back to you with another proposition?’ Or ‘Let me think further about it and come back to you with options.’
“I go a long way to keep the doors open,” continues Adler. “Maintaining those relationships is in everyone’s interest. Likely you’ll be negotiating with the same person next time, so keeping options open and not burning bridges is important.”
As Ellen Carson looks back on how much support has come from her workplace, and how its doors have always been open to making her life work, she knows the balance she has found has improved her life on every level, and maybe even helped save it.
These days, she works three days on, four days off — a schedule that gives her time to contribute to church projects, throw dinner parties for her many friends, and take long walks with her husband, Bob Godbey, also an attorney.
“It gives me the energy to do wonderful things and have a sense of control,” she says. “It’s important just to have the time to appreciate life.”
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