Careers, Empowerment, Inspiration for Change, Kathy Caprino Top 4 Reasons Professionals Are Afraid To Negotiate Salary, Remote Work and Other Benefits Written by: Kathy Caprino

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Supporting Today’s Workforce”

In a recent survey, nearly half– 48% — of those studied indicated that they are always apprehensive when it comes to salary negotiations, with another 39% reporting they sometimes feel that way. Only 13%  indicated they never get nervous regarding negotiations.

It’s a universal challenge – how to ask for what we want and get it successfully, whether that’s a bump in salary, a promotion, remote work arrangements, or other key benefits and changes in how we wish to work. In fact, my recent book The Most Powerful You and research about the 7 most damaging power gaps that 98% of professional women face that prevent them from reaching their highest goals at work, shares that 77% of women are experiencing what I call Power Gap #3: Reluctance to Ask for What You Deserve. That’s a very high majority who are likely leaving a great deal on the table due to their resistance to ask (and negotiate) for what they want. 

To learn more about how we can overcome our fears and reluctance to negotiate on our own behalf, I caught up this month with Andres Lares, co-author of Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions and managing partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI), a global provider of sales, influence, and negotiation training and consulting since 1995. Lares joined the team in 2009 and his multi-disciplinary and lingual skills broaden SNI’s ability to effectively teach and consult in a wide range of industries, languages, and cultures.

In Persuade, co-authors Lares, Jeff Cochran and Shaun Digan — accomplished sales, negotiation, and influence experts — deliver a concise and insightful take on how to transform your ability to persuade others regardless of the setting. 

Here’s what Lares shares:

Kathy Caprino: Andres, from your experience what makes us so intimidated and reluctant to negotiate for ourselves, for promotions, raises, plum assignments, etc.?  

Andres Lares: Before we jump into the act of negotiating our next job offer, it is important to understand why we are afraid of negotiating in the first place. A study from Payscale shows the trend may be more prevalent among women, with 31% saying they are uncomfortable negotiating salary, compared to 23% of men. But whether we realize it or not, negotiating is a common activity in our lives. 

Many people fear the negotiation process as a whole for a variety of reasons — lack of preparation, not understanding the negotiation process, not knowing strategies and tactics that can be employed during negotiation, or when or why to use particular strategies or tactics. 

Here are what I’ve seen are four of the biggest fears or challenges people have in engaging in a negotiation:

Fear of being taken advantage of
First and foremost, we are afraid to lose and/or get taken advantage of. Think about a time you or someone you know went to a dealership to buy a car and was worried about getting a good deal or the salesman taking advantage of them. You hear stories on how people were able to get incredible deals but it feels like you might not be so lucky. 

And, even worse than not feeling great about the outcome is having a negative experience, which further develops the fear or discomfort of negotiating. In order to combat this feeling and obtain an optimal result, before you head into your next negotiation, establish the highest goal, how you’re going to back it up, and when you’ll walk away, including the minimum you will take.

Feeling unprepared
Feeling completely unprepared or lacking in sufficient preparation is a very common reason why many dread negotiations. We simply aren’t prepared to have the conversation and the back-and-forth. We didn’t expect negotiation to occur or we just simply didn’t prepare for it as much as we should have and feel caught off guard. 

Feeling unprepared or blindsided doesn’t feel good, and we can feel humiliated and embarrassed by that so we fear it occurring again, even if we have some control over it – by just preparing! Ultimately preparing isn’t fun and we are all very busy, but if you have a proven process to follow to help you become prepared, you can do it quickly and it will increase your chances of a positive outcome.

Fear of the unknown
Another reason we fear negotiation is being afraid of the unknown and how it will play out. We don’t know what the other side is thinking or feeling or what they are going to do or say. We can’t predict the outcome and the uncertainty can be scary. Typically, people don’t enjoy uncertainty and as a result, try to avoid it. 

The best way to deal with this fear? By thinking through numerous different outcomes and scenarios in advance, knowing how you’ll react and respond to these various outcomes, and coming to terms with some uncertainty. 

It is about understanding that we can’t remove the uncertainty altogether but we can reduce its impact. Just as we cannot remove our emotions altogether throughout this process, we can learn to manage our emotions and reduce the possibility of saying something in the heat of the moment that we will regret or that will crush our chances of getting what we want. 

Fear of pushing too hard
Another final common fear around negotiation is that we are afraid we push too hard. Often, we are concerned with how our counterpart will see us, especially when negotiating with people we know, including friends or others who will continue to be in our lives. We are afraid that if we push to get what we want, we may damage the relationship. 

For example, when we ask our bosses for a raise, we’re concerned they’ll think we are pushy, greedy, or ungrateful. We fear this could potentially damage what was once a solid relationship and it might be difficult or awkward to continue working with them. To avoid this, you need to be able to justify your ask in your own mind, and you need to approach it empathically when presenting it to others. And you need to have clarity around your objective in advance.

Caprino: Do you see key differences in challenges and resistance to negotiating between men and women? 

Lares: Yes, I have certainly seen in over a decade of training, coaching, and researching in the area of negotiation that there is a gender gap here. Men and women are both often afraid of negotiation but women more so. Men and women are both sensitive to being too aggressive and damaging the relationship, but women more so. And men and women both lack confidence around negotiation, but women more so. 

This is one of the reasons I think our training has been so successful over 26+ years. It empowers people by giving them an equalizer – a process (Prepare – Probe – Propose) that increases confidence and improves performance. Understanding that we control only our preparation is one of the key ways to lessen the fear and discomfort around negotiating. 

Asking great questions helps to gain information but also develop a relationship with the other side, and learn and address the other party’s needs. And it leads to finally proposing a solution in a way that maximizes your share while satisfying the other side. 

Caprino: What have you see the biggest blunders that unseasoned negotiators make that hurt them?

Lares: There are many but one of the most prominent we see is being involved in negotiations when they don’t even realize it. People see negotiation as something similar to bartering in a flea market, with a specific time and place, but everything that happens before that sets the tone as well. 

Think about the salesperson who has a wide-open online calendar in booking a new client. The potential client can’t help but wonder, “How busy can this person be if there are so many open slots? And, if they aren’t busy, how much will they want this deal? Probably a lot.” These details all have an impact on the other party so it’s important to look holistically.

Other blunders are around thinking, “I’ll just wing it” and not asking sufficient or appropriate questions because they are in problem-solving mode…leading them to fail to flush out the core problem from the other side’s perspective. Instead, they make many false assumptions.

Caprino: In your book, you talk about the PAID method, to address and move through our fears to negotiate. What are those steps?

Lares: The PAID method is thinking through these key components to the negotiation well in advance of the process, including:

Precedents – Think to yourself, “Have I engaged in these types of negotiations before with this individual? If so, what can I glean from those situations or how can I use those situations to help persuade the other side?” 

Alternatives – Including alternatives in the discussion gives you the power of options. Not only do alternatives create leverage, but asking for several aspects at once (such as paid time off, salary, title, work from home capacity) allows you to work through various alternatives together, which moves the negotiation from a fixed sum outcome (“I want this, you want the opposite”) to collaborative (“Let’s work through this together to get to a solution that works for both parties”). 

Interests – We cannot overstate the importance of asking questions and being curious. Asking thoughtful questions helps to gather information and develop a solid relationship with the other side. If you follow it up with active listening, it demonstrates to the other party that you care about them and their priorities. Examples of a few thoughtful questions are:

“What is most important to you?”
“Can you tell me more about that challenge?”
“Has something like this ever happened before?”
“Why has that become a top priority?”

Additionally, all too often we are not specific or clear enough with our own interests and objectives. For example, do you want to get a $5,000 raise at all costs and will leave if you do not receive it? Do you want a raise between $2,500 – $5,000? Or, are you hoping for a raise and if you get it, you’ll be thrilled because you didn’t have to ask? These are very different interests and should therefore translate into very different approaches. 

Deadline/Timeline – Finally, determine if the negotiation result has a deadline and if so, work backward from that date with a set timeline. Then use that timeline to keep the momentum going via conversations and contact. By setting a timeline that both parties agree to upfront, you make it less likely you will avoid the dreaded stalling that can occur when other priorities creep up or perhaps one of the parties wants to avoid the negotiation. 

Caprino: You share in your book about the process of “scripting” – what is it and how is that helpful?

Lares: Scripting is taking the time to write down the anticipated dialogue for a meeting. It prepares you for what you will say and what you anticipate the other side will say. You may not be able to predict the exact course of events, but you can rehearse the scenarios you anticipate. By thinking through and writing down scripts for the way you think events will unfold, you will have a solid foundation for dealing with the twists and turns of actual events. Scripting also allows you to gain confidence in the message you are trying to deliver. It’s valuable for crafting not only the message you are trying to convey but also how you will do it. 

Often, negotiation conservations are tied to strong emotions, especially when you’re arguing for something in your favor that you deem vitally important. It is critical to leave emotions out of the argument, as best as you can. Often, it’s impossible to remove the emotion, but it is about managing it – about not reacting when you are emotional because you have prepared enough, prior to being in that state, to make the right decision regardless of the pressure and emotions involved.  

Overall, an upcoming negotiation can feel intimidating and even frightening but by taking these solid, doable steps, you will be better prepared to anticipate potential objections and outcomes, and be more ready to build and communicate a powerful case for what you want that addresses the other party’s needs and wants as well as your own, which will pave the way for a more successful outcome for you both.

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Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a career and leadership coach, speaker, educator, and author of The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss. She helps professionals build their most rewarding careers through her Career & Leadership Breakthrough programs, speaking and training, Finding Brave podcast, and her courses The Amazing Career Project and The Most Powerful You.