The Nuances of Negotiation

The Packaging and Processing Women’s Leadership Network delves into some tips for mastering mediation during its Learning Circle series.

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As part of the Packaging and Processing Women’s Leadership Network’s ongoing Learning Circle series, Stephanie Neil, former Editor-in-Chief of OEM Magazine, Angela Hall, associate professor, Michigan State University, and Joyce Longfield, principal of HPP applications, Good Foods Group, discussed the nuances of negotiation. Here is a brief excerpt from their discussion. To watch the full Learning Circle, visit pmmi.org/womens-leadership-network/videos. 

Stephanie Neil:

Negotiation is an important part of career development, but it doesn't come naturally to many people. Is it a skill that can be learned? 

Angela Hall:

You can develop your negotiation skills. What is important is that when you learn or try to develop these negotiation skills, you focus on a few things. One of them is to focus on what your own strengths are. What do you bring to the negotiation?

There's something called the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. That means, “What's your plan B if this negotiation does not work out?” You need to know where to go and what you want to get from a negotiation. You need to know the point at which you will walk away or the point at which you say, "This is not going to work." You need to come in with your aspiration point. And your aspiration point is what you would dream about getting.

Stephanie Neil:

Joyce, I would imagine you've had to negotiate a number of contracts. How did you learn? 

Joyce Longfield:

I think it was two things. I did have two male mentors, which was a significant help. Especially because we were selling equipment, and sales is kind of like a negotiation. The other piece of it, too, is I was 33 when I started, and so old enough and mature enough to be more confident and comfortable in myself. 

Stephanie Neil:

Are there other ways to learn to move your strengths into the business environment without it becoming too emotional? Because, as women, we don't want to be too emotional in the work setting. Is there any other advice there? 

Angela Hall:

I think that it's important to know negotiation techniques that are successful in the workplace. How do you frame something? If you want to negotiate with your boss about giving you a different type of assignment, you should frame how it would benefit that person or will benefit the organization in the long run.

Another type of framing technique is contrast. You can say, "Well, we can do this, and if we want to do a good job and we want to be successful, this is what I suggest that we do, as opposed to when we did that, and it ended very badly." That's also another technique called legitimizing.

So, how you can use these psychological techniques called influence tactics goes a long way at work and, frankly, in any other aspect of life where you're going to do any negotiation. 

Stephanie Neil:

Joyce, you said that earlier in your career, you had male mentors, and I'm just wondering, should men and women negotiate differently, work differently, communicate differently? 

Joyce Longfield:

Yeah, I think that's a fine balance, and it's all a part of doing your homework, reading the room, and just feeling the energy of the room. And obviously, women have been labeled as being emotional, being dramatic, being hysterical, this kind of thing. So, I think one of the skills that I learned is to control my emotions so that even if I feel myself getting upset about something or overwhelmed, I don't want that being presented to the room because I don't want anybody to start judging me or shut down or anything like that. 

Stephanie Neil:

In 2022, women typically earned $0.82 for every dollar earned by men. Are there certain things and go-to’s that you can lean on in these situations to try to get higher pay? 

Angela Hall:

That $0.82 on every dollar figure is the result of multiple factors. Part of it could be gender discrimination, and part of it could be the fact that women oftentimes leave the workplace or take lower-paid roles because they are the primary caregivers of their children. Others could be that they don't negotiate that higher starting salary and then their subsequent raises are based on that. It's so important that, to the extent that you can get the highest salary going in. 

Joyce Longfield:

The art of conversation is so important. And when you were talking about money, I think money is something that a lot of women struggle with. Especially if they must walk into a room and converse with a male. To make the conversation more fluid and comfortable, I'm a big believer that the story you tell yourself is the story you live. [Rather than walking in the room] thinking, "I'm so nervous, I don't know if he's going to give me what I want," maybe beforehand, write out a list of what this raise means.

What will they get out of it that will make them happy and want to pay you more? Build up your confidence before you go in there. "I'm going in there, and I'm going to tell them all about the wonderful things I'm going to be able to do and that this raise will motivate me” for whatever reason that you want this money. Maybe you feel like you're being underpaid, and you want to be treated more equally; I still think you need to go into it thinking, "I have to show them that there's a reason behind giving me this pay increase.”