Sciencewomen

Negotiating tips

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgI recently had the privilege of attending a COACh workshop focused on developing the negotiating skills of women STEM faculty, and I highly recommend it and the other workshops they offer. Here are few nuggets I gleaned from the session.

Here’s a sample dialog between a new faculty member and their chair:

“Why do you need fancy piece of equipment X? Can’t you just go to nearby university Y and use theirs?”
“Umm, I think it will be faster to have it in my own lab and we won’t have to travel back and forth so much, so…”
“The Dean’s not going to like giving such a large startup package.”


That’s a much weaker negotiation than something like this one:

“Why do you need fancy piece of equipment X? Can’t you just go to regional university Y and use theirs?”
“I need fancy piece of equipment X, because I’ll be able to run 4x as many samples for the same cost and in the same amount of time. Plus the data will be better quality, because the samples won’t have to be transported.”
“The Dean’s not going to like giving such a large startup package.”
“I’d be happy to provide you and the Dean with a 1-page summary of how Fancy Equipment will benefit the amount of funding I can bring in. Fancy Equipment will also be used by Professors A and B in our department and Dr. C in Another Department, so it will benefit the department and the university.”

What’s better in that second negotiation?

  • No “I think” to lighten the statement
  • No trailing “so…”
  • No filler words
  • “Because” cues the listener into the fact that you have a reason for your request
  • Use of specific details to convey that you’ve done your homework and can quantify the advantages of your preferred option
  • Offers to provide (or better yet, have ready) an executive summary of your request for later reference
  • Helps the Chair sell the package to the Dean by framing it in terms of things like overhead monies and things the university cares about

A few more tips:

  • Find a mentor that can help you frame your argument and practice your negotiation.
  • They recommend that you bring in 3-4 items that you want into a negotiation. One thing should be your primary objective, an one should be something on which you’d be willing to give up.
  • Remember that “negotiation is a 10-act play.” If the first scene didn’t go as you would have liked, you can go back and try again better prepared and with a better stated argument. Expect things to go several rounds before being resolved.
  • Finally, if you don’t ask for something, you can’t get it. You need to let people know what you need.

Comments

  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    March 2, 2009

    Good: I need it because….
    Better:The Department needs it because……
    and I will take care of it and make it available
    Best: YOU need it because…..

  2. #2 Jenn, PhD
    March 2, 2009

    Great post SW! Especially this:

    Finally, if you don’t ask for something, you can’t get it. You need to let people know what you need.

    We need to remember this in lots of life areas.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    March 2, 2009

    It’s also important to realize that–while universities’ stated mission is always some highfalutin’ happy horseshit about “advancing human knowledge”–chairs and deans really care about money and prestige.

  4. #4 Rob W
    March 2, 2009

    The other nice thing about “do your homework first” is that sometimes in building the case to justify something, you come up with an even better idea.

    Or alternatively, you realize the case isn’t actually that great (maybe it *would* be nice to have fancy piece of equipment X, but neighboring university is relatively close & your current relatively minor research only actually requires using it a handful of times…) and you can dodge feeling dumb when you realize this later, then focus your energies on obtaining fancy equipment Z instead (for which you have a rock-solid case).

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    March 2, 2009

    They recommend that you bring in 3-4 items that you want into a negotiation. One thing should be your primary objective, an one should be something on which you’d be willing to give up.

    Always include something that they can cut. It lets them prove that they’re doing their job. Sort of like throwing a peasant off the back of the sleigh, you don’t want to run out of peasants.

    A corollary of this is that you include one sacrificial victim for each level of approval that you need (or, precisely, for each level that will actually see the details.) If you’re unlucky, your requests won’t be the “one to throw off the back of the (department’s/college’s) sleigh.”

  6. #6 Carrie
    March 2, 2009

    I believe this point is key: Finally, if you don’t ask for something, you can’t get it. You need to let people know what you need. Whether it be start up fund or your salary, you definitely won’t get it if you don’t ask for it! People are not going to recognize you just because you do great work because they feel like it. You need to ask for the recognition (especially if it concerns finances).

  7. #7 Rachel
    March 2, 2009

    I went to that COACH workshop just before I started interviewing for my position. I was so helpful. I try to remind myself of so many of the things that I learned there. Thanks for this great summary. I’ll probably refer back to it from time to time!

  8. #8 Peggy L
    March 4, 2009

    Our ADVANCE program has hosted those workshops on our campus twice, and they always get rave reviews. If you ever have a chance to attend, don’t miss it!

  9. #9 FREE PHOTOS
    March 5, 2009

    Always include something that they can cut. It lets them prove that they’re doing their job. Sort of like throwing a peasant off the back of the sleigh, you don’t want to run out of peasants.