Negotiating Tips for Work and Home

We all need what Vicki Medvec has got—a better way to negotiate what we want while making the other person feel good about giving it to us.

Medvec of Lake Forest, is the Adeline Barry Davee Professor of Management & Organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She’s also the Executive Director of the Center for Executive Women, a consultant who regularly works with Fortune 500 companies like General Electric and Abbott Labs, and a mother of two savvy teenagers.

Talking about her expertise in negotiation, Medvec gave a dynamic keynote speech for a May event at the Chicago History Museum, which celebrated 18 Women’s Boards and the $675 million they have raised for Chicago’s civic good. 

You Can Negotiate Better

As Medvec explains, it’s not that women don’t negotiate well. “In fact, they’re fierce negotiators for their kids and organizations!” she declares. (This helps explain how a relatively small number of women raised that mighty $675 million for others.) “They just don’t negotiate for themselves with the same conviction as they do for others,” she says.

4 Negotiating Pitfalls for Women

According to Medvec, research has determined at least four reasons for this poor self-advocacy:

  • Men and women hear “no” differently. Men think, “not at this time,” but try again. Women think, “This is not negotiable—no means no.”
  • Women set less ambitious goals and perceive themselves as less qualified than their male counterparts in otherwise equal circumstances. For example, if a job description includes five criteria, women don’t apply unless they possess all five. Typically, men apply if they have only one.
  • Women view accomplishments—like a board seat or officer position—as a reward that is passively received for a job well done, rather than as a career path to be actively pursued.
  • Women don’t want to damage relationships.

4 Better Negotiating Strategies

Medvec recommends strategies to overcome these issues and create win/win outcomes.

  • Prepare for negotiations by identifying the important issues—yours and the other party’s.
  • Set ambitious goals—not just what you have to have, but what you want, based on your understanding of their needs.
  • Meet face to face, acknowledge that you have their needs at heart, and make the first offer, which should be a package offering multiple equivalent simultaneous offers.
  • Give yourself room to concede.

As an example, Medvec describes her work with the female CEO of a small pharmaceutical firm, whose job required extensive travel. The CEO became pregnant and thought she needed to quit. “Women don’t think to negotiate a change for themselves, the way that men do,” Medvec states. “So I helped her craft a proposal.”

The firm was about to bring two new drugs to market at the same time; a situation that the company had never faced before.

The CEO proposed that it was in the company’s best interest to reassign her traveling responsibilities to the sales force, so that she could focus full time on the successful launches.  Her board agreed. She helped the company see and solve a problem. And she created a better future for herself in the process. Win for the company, win for the CEO.

Whether you are negotiating in an employment, volunteer or family setting, Medvec’s strategies can empower you to craft a better future for yourself and others.