Negotiation Strategies for the “Anti-Negotiator”- by Alva Gardner-Perez

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Guest blog by 

Alva Gardner-Perez

Musings on the joint event run by Mums in Tech and the Equal Pay Advocacy: ‘Believing Your Worth: The Art of Negotiation’ at The Club at The Ivy on 8th November.

Mums and Tech and Equal Pay Advisory bring together Industry experts who give tips the everyday person can use to bring out their inner negotiator and level the corporate playing field.

I like to think of myself as the anti-negotiator. This doesn’t mean that I am a timid or weak business woman, nor does it mean that I am passive or worth any less than my male colleagues. The fact is that negotiation makes me uncomfortable.

When I hear stories of life changing pay rises, great buys and the people who can negotiate their way out of the proverbial ‘paper bag’– I think of it as magic. To me it’s an elusive skill and state of mind that before Wednesday, 8th November 2017, I thought was out of my skill-set, capabilities, and future in business.  

On this day my professional and personal skills changed direction thanks to an event held at The Club at the Ivy hosted by Mums in Tech and the Equal Pay Advocacy: ‘Believing Your Worth: The Art of Negotiation’.

 Our panellists L-R: June Angelides, Charlotte Sweeney OBE, Tabitha Brear, Penny Haslam, Natalie Reynolds

 Our panellists L-R: June Angelides, Charlotte Sweeney OBE, Tabitha Brear, Penny Haslam, Natalie Reynolds

The event structure was unique, one part workshop the other panel – both full of great advice.  However, it was the panel and the advice given by panelists, including: Penny Haslam, Natalie Reynolds and Charlotte Sweeney, OBE (if you don’t know these names, I encourage that you do) that really steered my change, and being the anti-negotiator can no longer my reality or even an option. Despite the wealth of information shared on the day, I will focus on the 3 key lessons learned on the day.

The first ‘key’ to negotiation is to know and value your worth, or as Charlotte Sweeney, OBE states: “know what you are worth and when you are comfortable to walk away”.  Whilst I have always had confidence in my level of education, and the things that I have achieved in my career - after the first question posed to the panel, it became clear to me that I wasn’t insisting that people valued me as much as I valued myself . My problem: I was too trusting that the pay or salary I was given factored in that people were valuing me. The truth: people want to save money, and they will often undervalue you in the name of money, it is up to us to ask to be paid. Most important here, is the fact that we must not be desperate for perceived opportunities, but willing to take the huge step of walking away when those that we negotiate with do not exhibit a bit of flexibility.

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The second ‘key’ to negotiation is to be mindful that for most people: negotiation is a skill to be developed.  Natalie Reynolds stated: “negotiation doesn’t come naturally to many “; she continued with the observation that “there are some people who are naturally confident and it’s important to know what to do with these natural skills”, this serves as a reminder that as much as not negotiating hurts, being misdirected and overconfident in negotiation also has a huge impact leading to alienation and failure. Reflecting on my negotiation style, or lack thereof, this key brought to light, a gap in business education - teaching negotiation skills. Perhaps, many women are like me – with a higher education degree in business, but not formally trained in negotiation – a skill that is increasingly revealing itself as just as important as the academic.  Perhaps addressing this hole in education can go a long way in addressing the gender pay gap in the future.

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This leads me to the third and final ‘key’ to negotiation: don’t make negotiation personal and practice it often to make it work for you.  Penny Haslam said it best on the panel, when she said: “negotiation is a fun game to enjoy…and you should fake it til you make it.” To my professional persona: the world has always been black and white; in my adulthood/career “no” shifted from a word  to be challenged, to a barrier, something I accepted in order to be deemed ‘professional’ and ‘easy’ to work with. However, the event had me questioning: is this the right way? Now, I’d say no.  To develop confidence in negotiation, we need to make it something enjoyable and integral, and shed the fear that it makes us undesirable to work with. To do this, the key is to practice and practice until it’s a habit.  Like the panel host June Angelides said: “the more you persevere, the more you get accustomed to talking about what you want and go for it”.  I for one am incorporating the game of negotiation in my day, and have already tried it this past weekend during my usual jaunt to the farmer’s market. My overall savings: approximately £2.50 for the £25 I spent, but the lessons learned were priceless as I gained invaluable practice in shifting negotiation from a fear to a natural practice.

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For my case, let’s see what the future brings, however, in terms of combatting the gender pay gap in business industries the panel and group agreed that the following changes could be met:

1.     Making negotiation a mandatory part of curriculum, from a young age with top-ups prior to and during the careers of women.

2.     Transparency about salaries in industry

3.     For those negotiating to be armed with information

4.     For negotiation to become a part of life and learning to get past no

All of the panelists have written amazing books that are definitely on my gift list this year.

Titles include:

Inclusive Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy: - Locally and Globally – by: Charlotte Sweeney

We Have a Deal by: Natalie Reynolds