Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, recounts a story of how she negotiated her salary with Mark Zuckerberg in her 2013 best selling book on women, work and leadership, Lean In.
She says that when it came time to consider the offer from the Facebook CEO, she related her negotiation back to the job she was being hired to do: “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator.” And off she went on a series of negotiations with the famed company. And we all know how that turned out since she is still there many years later.
But what if you don’t have the experience or the ability to relate your negotiations to the job you are actually interviewing for, or the promotion you are lobbying for? How can you overcome the fear of negotiation? Because let’s face it, what we are really afraid of is the rejection, not the negotiation itself.
Here are some ways to overcome that fear so you can get down to business advocating for what you want in the workplace and in life.
Write it Down
One of the first things you need to do when you are planning negotiations is to sit down and write down exactly why you think you deserve the job or promotion you are vying for. You need to get your story straight. If you don’t know why you deserve the amount of money or responsibility you are seeking, why should anyone else tell you? You need to know what it is you want and why.
Shoot Some Holes in Your Theory
The next step is to go through the list of what and why and shoot some holes in it. This is a favorite activity of mine: I want to find fault with my own arguments so I can strengthen it before someone else finds fault with it.
Practice What You Preach
The next step after plugging the holes is to practice what you now know: say it out loud. Look in a mirror and repeat the words you wrote declaring to the world why you should get the job over anyone else. Be fierce about it. If you aren’t confident in your conviction, you will have a hard time convincing others to buy into your conviction too.
Walk the Walk
Whether or not you get the job or promotion should not stifle your efforts to continue to push forward for what you want. It can take time to get good at rallying on your own behalf. We have been bred and raised to hold back our opinions and to try to be nice to people, and while it is great to be nice to people, sometimes we let our own wants and needs fall to the wayside because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Sheryl Sandberg talks at length about how people, women especially, are trying so hard to be nice, that they don’t feel like they can ask for what they really want. She’s founded a non-profit organization that encourages people to sit at the table and negotiate for themselves.
People tend to take a back seat when it comes to directing their lives in a way that doesn’t yield the results they want, and then wonder why they didn’t get the promotion or raise they were hoping for. We need to learn to ask.
When it comes to asking for what we want, sometimes we suffer from the thought that people should just know we want a raise. Who doesn’t want a raise? But it can be difficult for people at all levels of an organization to tune into that level of attention and understanding about what individuals want out of their careers.
If you aren’t comfortable just stating your case and asking for what you want, start with asking for an opportunity to speak about your career path. Like Sandberg did with Facebook, you can start the conversation about where you want to go and what you want to achieve and then bring up the conversation around achievements, career goals, and salary expectations. Once you get the ball rolling, it can be an easy conversation to have. The hardest part is getting the ball rolling.
If at First, You Don’t Succeed, Don’t Freak Out
First, congratulate yourself on asking for what you wanted. If you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, or any movement on the subject matter, it is not a total loss. Consider the strides you’ve made in just moving the conversation from inside your head to the bargaining table. That’s a big step millions of people will never take.
You are already ahead of the curve in asking for more. While your superior or potential new boss didn’t see the value in ponying up the money or position right now, it doesn’t mean that you have failed. Sometimes there are situations beyond their control (and yours!) that lead to an unfavorable response.
A good manager will keep in mind that you want more from your career and you can always follow up in several months. If it was a job offer that was lost, call them up and ask them for feedback – another tactic many job seekers leave on the table. You want to know what you can improve upon next time.
It can seem like a major blow to the ego to lose out on an opportunity, especially if you put yourself out there and asked for more money or asked for a better job. The more you ask, the better you will get at it, and the more likely you are to overcome that fear, and eventually, you’ll get what you ask for.
Remember that the negotiating table has two sides, and while you may be willing to take full responsibility for your words and actions, it does not mean that the other side of the table is also willing. Some people will never see your value, but you need to keep seeing it, despite the feedback you may be getting.
Don’t give up, don’t quit. Keep asking, even if you have to preface it with a bunch of lead in stories and anecdotes about famous CEOs and COOs – do it. And keep asking.