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Speaker Stories: Charlotte Westerhaus-Renfrow, Clinical Associate Professor Kelley School of Business IUPUI

Jun 25th, 2019

Author: Heather Lowey

Negotiation: A Woman’s Most Powerful Career Tool

Charlotte’s discussion began by taking the record number of women at the Hatch through her upbringing. She was born in Cleveland, OH, to parents who quit school at 16 and 18 to begin their family. They quickly realized one of their biggest dreams was for their children to attend college. With humble beginnings and dealing with discrimination which only someone growing up African American in the ‘60s can understand, her parents pushed for their four girls to have every opportunity to learn and grow. Charlotte explained her parents’ incredible determination to expose their daughters to music, religion, arts, sewing, and especially a love of learning. She graduated high school as a 16-year-old, a year early, and went off to college.

Her ah-ha moment on negotiation came quickly in the form of the acceptance of her first job out of college. Charlotte knew her worth and knew the job she was accepting had a $25k salary. However, when the offer came to her at $18k, she accepted. The frustration in knowing she had accepted an unfair offer eventually led to her quitting. When asked why, her response of the salary discrimination was met with, “well, you didn’t ask for $25k but we would have given it.” Always counter an offer. Always. Men counter 82% more than women in negotiations.

This may be easier said than done for some, especially women. Gender differences may not always predict tendency to negotiate, however, men tend to negotiate larger stakes. Some of the biggest mistakes women make in regard to negotiation are as follows:

  • More likely to take “no” for an answer
  • Tend not to recognize opportunities to negotiate
  • Build relationships, value a relationship, and tend to protect them
  • Shy away from bold behavior
  • Fail to do their homework, do not know their own worth
  • Set lower goals and are satisfied with less than men
  • Start off in the hole
  • Take negotiations personally

We need to stop this, but how? Charlotte has four steps to improve our negotiation habits:

  1. Prepare
  2. Select a Strategy
  3. Listen and Learn
  4. Ask

PREPARE: Charlotte used her favorite presentation visual, the iceberg, to represent this preparation. The portion of the iceberg you can see equates to the want, while the ice formation under the water, not clearly visible is the why. It is important to identify the needs and interests of both parties to have a successful negotiation. “Negotiate the why, not the what.” You should also be prepared for a no. She calls this BATNA, Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Meaning you should go into a negotiation prepared with what you can live with if you do not get everything you are requesting. We also learned; you are more likely to stick to your guns when you drink coffee. So, grab a cup of joe and hold firm!

SELECT A STRATEGY: The following are the five types of strategies for negotiation: Competition, Collaboration, Accommodation, Avoidance, and Compromise. You should choose your strategy for each scenario based on the importance of the relationship along with the importance of the outcome. For instance, the higher the importance of the relationship with a lower importance of the outcome falls into the Accommodating strategy. Meanwhile, a low relationship value with a high outcome importance would fall into the Competitive strategy. Thinking through the relational versus outcome importance ahead of time will help you define your best strategy for each particular negotiation.

LISTEN: Active listening is often an overlooked yet extremely important part of negotiating. Charlotte discussed how we need to truly listen versus hearing to respond. If this is done, you can then ask the why questions and get to the root of what is causing their want as part of the negotiation. In addition, do not try to make everyone happy. Listening for understanding will help both parties.

ASK: The first negotiation may need to be with yourself. Ground yourself by figuring out what is bothering you, what assumptions you have made, the emotions you are carrying in regard to this particular negotiation, and what will happen if you win or lose. Once you do this, strike your power pose and believe in yourself. Charlotte took us through her various power poses when sitting, standing, and in a meeting. As silly as it may sound, you need to practice this and be prepared with the pose which gives you confidence. Find a role model for yourself. Someone who exudes presence to you and take cues from their power pose to make your own. And now…. ASK. You are prepared. You have done your homework and have your power pose. Begin the negotiation.

With these simple steps, you can help yourself quantify why you are worth it. Negotiation isn’t about greed. With preparation, you are allowing yourself to understand your own worth. When Charlotte was asked what every woman should know, her response, “YOU CAN DO IT.”

Want to connect with Charlotte? Find her on LinkedIn here.