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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Does ego make men weaker at negotiating than women?

Gender affects how salary is negotiated
Men and women negotiate salary from different angles
By Susan Glover

Good negotiation skills are an important requirement in the business world. Negotiations are involved in our day-to-day interactions as well as in more formal business transactions such as legal contracts. But who makes the better negotiator - does ego make men weaker negotiators than women?

Recent research has found that women negotiators are seen as either too assertive and arrogant or too weak and gullible. Male negotiators however, who are perceived as either assertive or arrogant have no negative backlash. Clearly, there is a gender gap between how male and female negotiators are perceived.

Regardless of a gender gap, all good negotiators require certain skills. They need to be flexible, creative and honest – and they need to be good communicators who have the ability to listen and understand another person’s point of view and they need the ability to build relationships. Negotiators also need to be competitive - and of all these negotiation skills it is most probably competitiveness - that men are more comfortable with than women, whilst women are far better at building relationships and networking than men.   

Competitiveness and gender

In general, women are less competitive than men. The numbers of women CEO’s may be rising but they still remain far below that of men - as do their salaries. Research has shown that women are less likely than men to apply for jobs where competitiveness is a requirement. This is because if part of their salary is based on their performance versus a co-worker’s performance, women are less likely to feel comfortable in this type of job setting.

The problem is that jobs with a larger pay packet are usually in the most competitive working environments. Also, because of their dislike of competition, women are less likely than men to put themselves forward for a promotion. This dislike of competitive environments can make women less able negotiators when compared to men, however a lack of competitiveness can also indicate a strong desire for a peaceful resolution.

Relationships and negotiations

Women like building relationships and tend to focus on the big picture and on relationships, in other words they focus on what each side needs out of the negotiations, whereas men focus on the negotiations first and the building of relationships second. This makes women appear more sensitive to another’s needs and can be seen as producing a ‘fairer’ outcome to negotiations.

Good communication is a skill that women excel at as they listen to the other person’s point of view more than men – and in the process women can build networks which can last a lifetime. For men, the male ego makes them more aggressive in negotiations, less able listeners and more impatient – they want a fast outcome and then they want to move on to the next challenge as soon as the negotiations are completed.

Overall, women tend to use a collaborative style in negotiations whilst men use a competitive negotiating style. So whilst men are perceived as being more successful negotiators due to their competitiveness, their need to win and their ability to compartmentalise and focus on the job at hand - in general, if women can become more competitive in the work place - by being more self-assertive, their sensitivity and relationship skills may give them the upper hand in negotiations.

About the author: Susan Glover is a freelance writer, independent business consultant and journalist.

Image license: Victor1558, CC BY 2.0