Whether we’re imagining ourselves in a royal wedding or drafting players for our team in a fantasy football league, chances are that each of us at one time or another has wondered what it would be like to wield absolute power. While it’s delightful to daydream about how we would run civilization if given the chance, the Rolling Stones said it right: “You can’t always get what you want.”
Since we can’t force co-workers and project team members let alone the government or even our own family members to always do what we want, we need to be able to negotiate.
In fact, negotiating is something we do all the time. We negotiate over roles and responsibilities, car and home purchases, job assignments and family chores.
When it comes to executive hiring, negotiation has evolved into a fine art. The hiring company and the candidate both should be prepared for the process, coming to the bargaining table with clear ideas about what they want, what is important to them, how far they are ready to go in order to achieve their objectives and, conversely, when they are willing to walk away.
The Price of (Not) Negotiating
Historically, male candidates are about four times more likely than their female counterparts to initiate salary and benefit negotiations, and women are twice as likely as men to say they feel a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiating. In fact, when asked to pick a metaphor for the process of negotiating, the most popular option among women was “going to the dentist.”
But female candidates are becoming more aware of the benefits of negotiating. Many candidates recognize that negotiating does not need to be contentious. In fact, the process is appropriate, may be necessary, and is certainly rewarding. One study estimated that women who consistently negotiate their salary increases earn at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.
The wisdom of negotiating even applies to candidates of both genders who are new to the marketplace. Another study found that if an individual does not negotiate on their first salary, they stand to lose more than $500,000 in income by the time they reach age 60.
Employers need to understand, then, that negotiation will be a necessary part of every executive hiring process. It helps to think of negotiation as a vehicle for problem solving, and as a process that takes place within the context of a relationship. What happened between an employer and candidate yesterday will affect what happens today, and what happens today will impact tomorrow.
Of the many factors at play in the negotiation process, none is as important as the degree of trust between the parties. When people trust each other, their communication is likely to be more open, and the parties will be more willing to take risks with each other.
When we negotiate successfully, we achieve the best agreement – not just any agreement. The end results of such a negotiation are that both parties meet their objectives and live up to their commitments. And that’s a win-win for everyone involved.