Successful negotiation in any environment is usually a combination of having the right mix of skills and knowing where and how to apply them. While women are perceived as able negotiators in general, often, they hold back from applying the same rules at work. Here we look at some reasons as to why women hold back when it comes to negotiating at work, and how we can stop doing so.

Social conditioning gets the better of them

"Social conditioning plays a large role in why women think not twice but several times before asking for a promotion or even negotiating while being interviewed", is how Deepali Rajani, HR manager, Syngenta India sums it up. She feels that women are innately able negotiators but when it comes to a professional set up, they hesitate to ask for what they deserve. This is more to do with the culture of compromise that they are brought up in.

Shuchita Basu, Talent Management head with a European IT company, only derived the courage to ask for a raise in the last two years of her 18-year-long career. She says that while she has been a good performer all along and received the highest increment yearly, over a period of time she realized that she was getting paid far less than her peers. "I never asked for anything more than what I was getting so I was never given, anything more than that". She feels that since women hesitate, they don't ask for that raise or promotion.

Does this mean that their ambition is any less than their male counterparts? Definitely not! It is these invisible barriers that women need to learn to navigate through.

How can women use their negotiation skills in their favor?

Here is how women can flip the board to put negotiation skills to favorable use for putting their career ambitions on a fast-track mode.

Ask for what you think you deserve

If you don't ask, you will not get it. It does not hurt to ask. Remember the worst that can happen is that the other party will refuse. Do your research and lay it out as to why you are the best candidate for the job.

Shuchita feels that women have it at the back of their mind, it is just that it since they are wary of facing any gender based discrimination, it doesn't come to the forefront at all. To get into the negotiation mode, she says, "Do not be satisfied with your lot. Lay it out there – ask for what you want. Nothing should stop you from asking."

Approach the task at hand with preparation

Be prepared. You will not be taken seriously otherwise. Do the preliminary work and have your answers ready. Negotiation starts long before you reach the table. Be sure of what you want and why you are asking.

Elaborating upon this, Deepali shares, "During my 12 year stint in HR, I have noticed a sharp difference in the way women and men approach negotiation." Men, she says, come to the table with a clear idea of exactly what they want. They come across as clear thinkers and have already worked out a package consisting of several elements and stick to their ground while negotiating. Women, on the other hand, play it by the ear, since they are unsure of how they may be received. Sometimes they settle for less and then try to work out a better deal after joining the company.

Never let emotions come in the way of professionalism

If you are unsure, upset or nervous you will not present well. Focus on your goal and let nothing stand in the way of you getting it. Do not let your emotions interfere with the negotiation. Even if you are turned down, do not let the disappointment stop you from trying again. Try to find out what it happened and what you can do to make it work for you the next time. "Under such a situation, you may experience self-doubt. At this time, talking to a mentor or a senior woman at work will help achieve the change in the mindset", says Deepali.

Work on your reputation and projection at work

Talk about that deal that you negotiated successfully. Speak up in forums about work done well especially if it involved managing stakeholders through negotiation skills. Let the perception around you be that of a great negotiator. This will not only help you when you negotiate for a raise or a promotion but also instill confidence in other younger women who possibly looks at you as her role model.

As Sheryl Sandberg aptly said, "Believe in yourself and negotiate for yourself. Own your own success." Learn to value yourself and what you bring to the company. You'll never get ahead if you don't own your worth.

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