Maybe it's the fear of rejection or the daunting prospect of a one-on-one with a boss, but one thing is clear: People don't like to negotiate.
A new study from LinkedIn finds that when it comes to negotiating in the workplace, 42 percent of U.S. professionals find it uncomfortable. One quarter, in fact, admit they have never negotiated in the workplace.
"Ours is a culture where negotiating is not the norm, a factor made worse by people's current fears over the economy and job market," says Selena Rezvani, author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want. "Many Americans believe negotiating is essentially asking for an exception to a rule, which then makes their request a loaded affair based on 'deservingness,'" she says.
LinkedIn's study surveyed 2,000 professionals in eight countries. Globally, it found that 35 percent of people report feeling anxious or frightened about negotiating, while 34 percent said they feel confident. Just 10 percent said negotiations are exciting and 10 percent feel indifferent about it.
LinkedIn found that professionals from Germany and India have the most positive outlook: Twenty-one percent of Germans reported they are excited about negotiating, while Indians were the most confident with nearly half (47 percent) reporting they feel confident about negotiating.
"In other cultures like India, for example, negotiating everything from the price of a piece of fruit to the terms of your job are the norm," Rezcani says. "Indian culture allows for more aggressive negotiating where people actually expect you to push back on their initial offer."
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Professionals who fail to negotiate well, or at all, do themselves a serious financial disservice, Rezcani says. "When we don't negotiate our salaries, we leave thousands, even millions, of dollars on the table unclaimed. This not only affects us negatively right now, but drastically dwarfs the retirement savings we work so hard to accumulate."
But the drawbacks aren't just financial. They're directly related to career growth. " What's more, in my interviews with top executives, negotiation and conflict-resolution skills emerged as a leadership necessity," she says. "So, if we don't negotiate effectively at entry and mid levels, we may be branding ourselves as workers who aren't leadership material."
Rezvani offers seven tips to boost timid negotiators' confidence.
1. Consult your network. Rezvani says that your network is usually the most underused tool in a negotiation. Look to your LinkedIn connections for insight into your counterpart's motivations and style, and bounce ideas off them.
2. Set high expectations. People suffer from low expectations more than anything else, says Rezvani. This causes negotiators to aim low and get too little, or to avoid negotiating entirely. "Always start with an ambitious outcome that would delight you and thrill you, not just simply satisfy you," she says.
3. Close the gap. Don't overestimate the other party's power, Rezvani suggests. Instead, see the person you're negotiating with as a peer. "This can make all the difference in getting the outcomes we want," she says.
4. No means "Not Yet." "One big mistake people make is to assume that when someone says 'no,' the matter is closed for discussion," Rezvani says. The timing might not have been right, so ask a second time under different circumstances. "If you never hear 'no,' you're probably not asking for enough," she says.
5. If there's no precedent, still negotiate. Rezvani says it's OK to ask for an exception to the rule. Be the first to ask for it, make the case for how it will work and how your boss can build in checkpoints along the way to evaluate how it's going.
6. Do your homework. You can gain an advantage by drafting a plan for what you're proposing, Rezvani says. By highlighting the key details of your proposal, you save the other side time. Adding a signature or approval line, too, strengthens your case, she says.
7. Hold your ground. "While in a negotiation, try drawing out the conversation rather than ending it short or surrendering with, OK,'" she says. "You can experiment with being silent for a few seconds to level the power or you can ask questions that open up dialogue and deepen the conversation."
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org