Thursday, February 23, 2017

Don't Lean In. Stand Tall.

One feels vindicated by recent articles about how to negotiate a raise or a promotion. One has often warned people against the lean in approach. One does not believe that men ought to be confrontational and direct in negotiations and one does not believe that women should imagine that when men earn more the reason must be that they engage in more macho posturing.

One understands that the promoter of leaning in did not really mean to say that women should be more confrontational, but, truth be told, the concept of leaning in means being more assertive, more confrontational, more direct… and getting in your boss’s face. Leaning in is posturing.

Sheryl Sandberg knows how to negotiate, but she evidently did not understand the effect of the wording of a concept. The alternative to leaning in is not leaning back. It is: standing tall.

To be fair and balanced, one remarks that a certain politician, a self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal also gives the impression that a good negotiator is confrontational and direct. He was probably misstating his position, but the example he set was just as wrong as the concept that Sandberg coined.

Anyway, the Mental Floss blog offers some tried and true negotiation techniques. It explains that, somehow or other, people have gotten the impression that negotiation should be confrontational. Obviously, this is wrong, and one needs to reread Roger Fisher and William Uhry’s text: Getting to Yes.

Negotiation is not a blood sport. It involves cooperation, even when it is competitive. If you are negotiating a raise you should be able to show what you have contributed to the enterprise. Sandberg herself has recommended this, but it has gotten lost in the din about leaning in. By showing what you have contributed you are showing yourself to be a team player, someone who has worked for the good of the company. Such a presentation makes it far easier for your boss to give you a raise.

One adds that when asking for a raise or a promotion, do not make a demand or make a threat. You should always leave your boss with the impression that he has the last word, not that he is caving in to pressure.

To negotiate effectively, you ought to engage in some small talk, some schmoozing… in order to make a human connection. Various authors recommend that you expose a small, trivial piece of personal information, thus making yourself appear more human and less robotic. It also shows that you are reaching out to the other person, offering an open hand of friendship. As long as you do not extend this to oversharing, this is good advice.

In a competitive negotiation both parties will need to feel that they have gotten a good deal for their side. Recent research—don’t you just love research—tells us that sharing food helps create the right atmosphere.

Mental Floss explains:

"In more competitive negotiations, people want to have the best possible deal for themselves, and typically, they see their counterpart as having adversarial or opposing motives," doctoral student and study co-author Peter Belmi told the Stanford Business website Insights. "In cooperative negotiations, typically people are more concerned about reaching an agreement for all parties involved."

If you're in a competitive situation, say a negotiation to end a legal dispute, having food available can help ease the tension. "What we found is that when people were negotiating in a competitive situation, sharing the food—and by that we mean sharing, not just eating—they created significantly more value," Belmi said. The social ritual of eating offset the competitive tone of the negotiation, allowing subjects to pay more attention to each other and look for opportunities to create more value in the negotiation.

One might say that one should set out a bowl of chips and dip, but one would rather think of this in terms of communal eating rituals, of the sort that occur in some restaurants where people share dishes. 

As for the self-assertiveness, one emphasizes that when you are negotiating a raise or a promotion or when you are trying to be hired, you should be able to let your work, your production, your success even your resume speak for you. If you feel that you have to sell yourself—assertively and aggressively-- you are probably trying to compensate for weak performance.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

I imagine most women will feel relieved by this advice, and glad that "leaning in" in the sense of aggressive assertiveness doesn't work for men or women in general, and when it does work, its the except to the rule, and comes with unknown future costs.

But we still have to define what the metaphor "standing tall" means.

Stuart: To negotiate effectively, you ought to engage in some small talk, some schmoozing… in order to make a human connection.

This advice sounds sensible, although its hard to say this is "standing tall", but perhaps it is more about "being seen" while when we want something, and we're afraid of someone else's power, we would prefer to NOT be seen, prefer to hide behind a wall of impenetrable strength that hides our vulnerability.

And there's a reciprical part of this ritual - whatever small personal fact is shared, the other person may actually have a social duty to later ask you about that, to show they are interested in you as a person, rather than just as someone they can use. They will be honoring you in the future by showing they remember what you said, so that suggests its worth deciding a head of time what you share.

I suppose when I think of "standing tall", I'd go with something like the Four Agreements, and the first three have the most to do with our relationships.

We can't control how other see us, and stereotypes may misrepresent us to people who don't know us, and there's not much we can do about that. But "character" matters, and shows others who we are over time, and trust is created by being willing to stand for something, and showing you mean it in action.

And secondly we can see people in positions of power at times through the filter of all the people who have held power over us in the past, and that "projection" means any grudges we may hold from old relationships will slip into new ones, and so we mis-identify what others are saying, and we take it personally, and imagine things that are not true, and then may act poorly.

Perhaps agreement 3, "don't make assumptions" is where assertiveness exists. When you don't understand something, you have a right to ask for clarification. If someone has seemed to snub promotions for you, while your underlings have risen, maybe even above you, you shouldn't assume they were promoted because they are men, but you have a right to remind your boss that you're interested in advancement, and ask what you could do to help that happen.

Maybe there was bias, maybe people have taken you for granted, but you don't really know why unless you ask. As well, if you realize you may be undervalued, if you were honest, you might accept you also have biases, and wonder how someone who feels you've undervaluing them, imagine how they could get your attention without making you wrong for not paying attention to them. We all have unfair power at times.

I admit I've never had to negotiate a salary or raise, and its not something I feel comfortable doing, and I'd always prefer to prove myself in action than to try to defend my worth in talk alone.

I can see why many people prefer to delegate that sort of "leaning in" to agents or employee unions or try to gain unequal advantage like using social relationships to get a foot in the door.

I've seen union strikes, but never close enough to see how power is negotiated, and how healing occurs afterwards.

I suppose its very similar to political fights as well, and now we've learned, when party politics is wielded ruthlessly, burning bridges, and focusing on wedge issues that divide us, bully candidates like Trump can rise up, because they're willing to break every social rule, and in desperation people will vote for a candidate like that.

So we learn to defend our actions based on what what done to us in the last round, like an average second grader learns. Robert Bly called this a "sibling society."