Sheryl Sandberg is the COO at Facebook. She recently wrote a book aimed at helping women to be more successful in their career advancement (Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead). Sandberg presents various strategies beneficial to anyone concerned with equality in the workplace and career advancement. The book is receiving mixed reviews.
Although the book has many excellent points, I do find one point of advice rather surprising and counterproductive. Sandberg encourages women to open salary negotiations with a statement indicating you know women are often paid less than men are, and therefore you intend to negotiate rather than accept the first offer. Wow! I think a better path exists.
First, male or female, why would I want to open a salary negotiation with the veiled accusation my prospective employer plans to take advantage of me based on my gender? That certainly puts everyone at ease now, doesn’t it? Regardless of whether gender discrimination happens (and of course, we know it does happen and it is definitely not fair, ethical, or legal), what do I gain by raising that specific issue in a salary negotiation?
Second, again male or female, why would I want to open a salary negotiation with the blatant affirmation I have no plans to accept my prospective employer’s first offer. In so doing, I have actually weakened my negotiation position because now my prospective employer knows the score (true, some candidates do accept a first offer). Professional people understand negotiation principles without needing to state the obvious. We generally know we are not going to accept that first offer without some careful consideration, and very likely a counteroffer.
Third, a good negotiator behaves in such a manner that both parties walk away feeling like winners. Therefore, I want to avoid any behaviors that communicate an adversarial relationship. This principle is not only important in its own right, but it has serious future implications. Assuming I accept that job, now we have to work together. I do not want either party to go into that relationship with a bad taste in their mouths.
Bottom line—we can be firm, wise, and pleasant negotiators, even when it involves bringing home the bacon. In fact, being firm, wise, and pleasant might just allow that negotiator to bring home more bacon.