How Diversity Affects Negotiations

Being good at conversations is an important business skill, whether one is a negotiator or a job seeker. And during any negotiation, diversity can be an unpredictable factor.

Molly Fletcher is an expert at building trust, establishing connections in negotiations and getting the most out of meetings. Her approach and 20 years of experience have led to fruitful results in sports negotiation, and she has secured deals with men’s basketball coaches Billy Donovan of Florida and Tom Izzo of Michigan State.A regular keynote speaker on leadership, team building and personal development, Fletcher collected her insights for a book being released Sept. 19 titled “A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done.”

Fletcher’s insights cover how gender and diversity come into play in negotiations, such as ways in which women don’t reach for opportunities as often as men do. Diversity Executive asked Fletcher to share her insight. Molly Fletcher

In negotiation, how do gender and diversity affect the outcome?

Inside of any negotiation you are trying to solve a problem; there is a gap that needs to be closed. There is a strong business case for diversity. Research has shown that people in diverse groups are more likely to “step outside their own perspective” than people in homogenous groups. When you put that in the context of negotiation, it’s really important because that’s essentially what you are trying to get to in order to have a mutually beneficial solution. Diversity in negotiation challenges our assumptions, forces us to better articulate our positioning and opens the door to more possibilities. In a negotiation, that’s powerful.   

What are the negative outcomes women commonly settle for and why?

The biggest mistake I see women make is to not even ask. According to a recent survey, about 20 percent of women say they don’t negotiate at all. Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women do. There are a lot of factors that play into these discrepancies, but I want to challenge women to recognize when there is an opportunity to negotiate and be confident in making the ask. A lot of times as women, we worry about what’s at risk when we ask. Maybe we should start focusing on what’s at risk when we don’t ask. 

What do “embracing the pause” and “knowing when to leave” entail?

Embracing the pause is uncomfortable for a lot of people and it requires a great deal of intentionality. Our natural tendency is to want to fill the space. Learning instead to embrace the pause is really powerful. It’s amazing what you can learn from the move the other side makes within the pause. A pause can serve many purposes: it projects confidence in your position, creates anticipation and possibilities, limits emotionality and adds perspective. 

Another hard part of negotiation is determining if or when to leave. When do you settle or walk away entirely? One mistake is not even seeing leaving as an option. An agreement isn’t necessarily better than no agreement. Knowing when to leave requires clarity going into a negotiation about what you want and what you won’t accept. The other part of it is knowing when to stop pushing. Overleveraging a negotiation can be equally damaging in the long-term. Don’t put yourself in the position where you can’t go back to a relationship because you overleveraged your situation. 

How do you handle unpredictable turns a negotiation takes? Any examples of unique situations with some of your bigger sports clients, like Bobby Cox, Tom Izzo or John Smoltz?

A negotiation almost never goes as planned. Part of being an effective negotiator is embracing the ebb and flow. That’s why I frame up the process in five stages so I can make sure I’ve laid the groundwork at each stage. You have to get comfortable with ambiguity, remain flexible and stay open-minded. Remember that negotiation is a productive conversation and an ongoing relationship. If you can learn to think of it that way, the unpredictability is less stressful. 

My other tip is don’t be afraid to build in a pause. A negotiation doesn’t need to happen all at once. If you are uncomfortable with the turn it’s taking, create a pause so that you can pull back and re-evaluate the factors in play. As you can imagine, I dealt with unpredictable turns in negotiations a lot as a sports agent! I share a lot of those stories and how I dealt with it in my book.

Any tips for job seekers who are facing negotiation during a job interview?

Statistics have shown that a job offer is often the best time to negotiate. Many employers expect an initial negotiation, so it’s a less intimidating time to ask with confidence. A few nuggets:

  • Have 360 degree awareness: Do your best to get inside the head and heart of the person you are negotiating with. Do your research so you can be armed with the hard data and comps. But also spend time putting yourself in their shoes. What do they value? What are their constraints?
  • Consider the full offer: Is salary the only thing you want to negotiate? Consider the value of the entire offer and know what else you want to ask for. Even if you don’t negotiate salary, you should get clear on the road map for your compensation structure moving forward.
  • Keep options on the table: Many people have a tendency to go piece by piece to reach an agreement on each priority in a negotiation. Instead, keep multiple options on the table. This keeps the conversation flowing, giving more flexibility and opportunity for mutually beneficial tradeoffs.