When women are asked what prevents them from negotiating, the most common answer is “fear of damaging the relationship.”
Negotiation doesn’t have to be adversarial. With the right mindset, it can be quite the opposite. The authors of Getting To Yes encourage counterparts in a negotiation to “sit on the same side of the table.” They suggest that instead of thinking of two attorneys battling it out in front of a jury, imagine instead you’re judges working together on a joint opinion.
When done well, the negotiation process can enhance your relationship with your employer, because you have demonstrated that you can professionally navigate potentially challenging workplace situations. I’ve had several clients actually receive compliments from their bosses or HR team for the way they handled themselves when negotiating a new position.
Once you have an offer, you also have a shared goal: you both want you in this new role. At this point, it becomes a matter of figuring out how to make it mutually beneficial. If you compare the offer letter to what you wanted prior to the negotiation, you are likely to have several areas that you already agree on. Start with the easy wins.
Joining the Team
Several years ago, I had just started my consulting practice when a friend I’d worked with previously offered me a full-time leadership role at the nonprofit she led. I felt conflicted. On the one hand, it was hard to pass up consistent income and the opportunity to contribute to an organization doing meaningful work. On the other hand, I didn’t want to sacrifice the consulting practice I’d worked to build.
My friend told me, “I’ll hire you as a consultant, or you can join the organization.” Knowing I’m a huge nerd for collaboration and teamwork, she concluded her pitch to me with a brilliant line, “You just have to decide if you want to be on the team.” My friend made it clear that she wanted to work with me, and having worked with her previously, I knew I wanted to work with her. Once we had that shared goal in mind, it was just a matter of sorting out the logistics.
My biggest goals were to have flexibility to work with consulting clients, stable income, and to be clear that this was a short-term role. A like-to-have for me was health insurance. My boss-friend wanted to know when I’d be in the office and that I’d attend all necessary meetings either by phone or in-person.
Starting with the easy wins, we worked out a 6-month contract where I would have a flexible schedule but generally be in the office three days a week. I agreed to keep my shared calendar up to date and to consistently attend staff meetings. Since the health insurance company required me to work 30 hours a week to provide coverage, that became the deciding factor. I joined the team with a 30-hour work week, flexible schedule, and health benefits at a slightly lower salary than my boss-friend had budgeted for the full-time role.
It worked out beautifully for both my boss-friend and for me, and I remained in that role for about a year and a half. In hiring me part-time, she was able to bring someone on board who could reliably run the department at a lower cost. I built out my consulting practice with the security of steady cash flow, the fulfillment of working on a cause that mattered to me, and the joy of being on a team.
Because we began the conversation focused on our shared goals and easy wins, the other aspects of the negotiation were easier to determine.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.