I was going to write something fun this week to give you all a break. We’ve been examining some pretty heavy social issues lately, and I wanted to make you laugh.
But I just finished the book Ask for It, and in the chapter called The Likability Factor, authors Babcock and Laschever say that for all our efforts at becoming more assertive at the negotiating table, women have to take care not to offend.
Offend? I thought, are you sh#@ing me? Apparently, they are not.
Behavior that seems too aggressive typically doesn’t work for women and often backfires…We’re not just guessing here. Multiple studies have shown that using a “softer” style can improve a woman’s chances for success when she negotiates.
The authors didn’t want to believe it either, so they constructed their own study to see if it were really true, and they not only confirmed that men punish women for being too aggressive, but women do too. To be fair, women on the power side of the table punished everybody for acting assertively, both men and women who pushed too hard for higher starting salaries, raises, or a cheaper price on that yard-sale sofa.
Good to know, huh? And right now you’re thinking, thank God the old peeps are dying off, because the younger women are much more egalitarian and fair in dealing with our own gender.
Wrong. 80% of the test subjects were under forty.
While you may think that this response to a woman being forthright and direct sounds outdated, research has shown that it is surprisingly current – even among men and women in their late teens and early twenties. The average age of people who participated in this study was twenty-nine, which means that it’s not just baby boomers who react negatively to women negotiating in an aggressive manner.
As disheartening as is this evidence of gender bias at the negotiating table, I’d rather be aware of it than not. At least now we know how to act. And it doesn’t have to remain this way.
…Using a sociable, friendly style may help you get more of what you want and deserve. It may help you rise into senior positions where you’ll have more influence over the culture of your organization, your profession, and perhaps even the larger business world. And then you can use your influence to make it more acceptable for women to ask for what they want in whatever way suits them.
The authors suggest we effect change ourselves. Have you ever criticized another woman for acting pushy or coming on too strong? Rather than roll your eyes at a her for behaving in a forceful way, say out loud, “That’s great that she’s going after what she wants.” Little by little, we can change the outdated norms for how society wants women to behave.