Co-Director of UniSA’s Centre for Human Resource Management, Professor Carol Kulik, says ‘best practice’ negotiation strategies which work for men frequently backfire for female employees and can damage their relationships with employers.
“A common recommendation to women is to get tough – to ask more often and to ask more assertively,” Prof Kulik said.
“But this recommendation backfires: the behaviours associated with higher negotiated outcomes such as strong arguments and active defence of personal interests violate traditional gender-role expectations.
“Consequently, the woman who successfully negotiates favourable outcomes for herself may be perceived as competent, but she is also likely to encounter a backlash and be perceived as less likeable than a man engaging in the same behaviours.
“Competent women are often viewed as less friendly, helpful, sincere and trustworthy, but more hostile, selfish, devious and quarrelsome – not the perceptions you want your boss to have of you!”
Prof Kulik says this has a long term cost for the woman, because likeability is an important component of leadership potential.
She says women can avoid this situation by carefully framing their requests to avoid being perceived as “pushy” and by managing the negotiation process.
Organisations also have a role in creating an environment that does not punish women who choose to negotiate.
Prof Kulik says negotiation is a major factor in the salary gap between men and women.
“A wide variety of research evidence indicates women begin their careers with a salary gap. One study of 500 MBA graduates showed that the median salary for female graduates was half the median salary for male graduates,” she said.
“The salary gap widens over the course of a career, leaving women less financially secure at retirement than men with comparable skills and experience.”