Negotiate on Behalf of Someone Else

Posted May 1, 2013 by Katherine Toll in Career Moves

Why? You fight harder on behalf of someone else….

In Adam M. Grant’s terrific book, Give and Take, he discusses different negotiating styles. One of his findings demonstrates that ‘givers’, people who eschew the law of reciprocity in favor of giving unconditionally, tend to negotiate with more fervor when they negotiate on behalf of someone else. Interestingly enough, women fall into this ‘givers’ style when they negotiate as well.

As I listened to the passage (on my handy-dandy iPhone) the information rang familiar. Grant used a salary negotiation as his example. Men are far more likely to ask for more money during a salary negotiation as compared to women in the same situation, unless the woman in question is negotiating as an agent for someone else. When a woman acts as an agent, or advocate she tends to stand her ground and worry less about how the other side perceives her.

Makes sense to me — when I negotiate on my own behalf I suck at it. I tend to give in too fast and too easily, however if I negotiate on behalf of someone else I forget about how I’m perceived by the other party and instead, focus on securing the best deal possible.

Why do women (me, included) behave this way? I found an interesting answer at in a video featuring Margaret A. Neale, the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at Stanford’s Business School. Simply put, women are concerned about appearing,

Too demanding, too greedy, or not nice.

Really? That’s so…well….wimpy, especially the ‘not nice’ part, but often times the opposite of ‘not nice’ (for a woman) takes the form of a ‘real bitch’. A ball-buster. A naysayer. I could go on….

Instead, let’s look at Professor Neale’s recommendations:

1.)  Engage in communal problem solving – Adopt what Neal refers to as a ‘communal orientation.’ Use phrases like I have a problem, or We have a problem. Enlist the other side’s help.

2.)   Use communal packaging – Package multiple options for the other party. We can do A, B, or C – here are the pros and cons of each option. Now the discussion becomes focused on refining the best option. It moves from a competitive environment to a more collaborative one.

3.)  Use your natural tendencies – If most women negotiate better on behalf of someone else then use that information to your benefit. Instead of negotiating your salary on your behalf, negotiate it on behalf of your husband, your aging parents, or your cat. Or, all three! Whatever….you get the point.

Neal sums it up this way,

“Expectation drives behavior. If we expect to do poorly, we will behave in ways that insure a poor performance.”

Always expect better from and for yourself when you negotiate. Engage in the negotiation as if you’re acting on behalf of women everywhere. Because you are!

Watch Dr. Neal’s full video here.

About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.