Find Mediators Near You:

Instead of Eliminating Negotiation, How About Eliminating Backlash?


I am grateful for Michael’s push in his blog post last week to think more about job negotiation, particularly after Reddit announced that they will no longer negotiate starting salaries (in order to avoid gender bias). The Program on Negotiation followed up Ellen Pao’s gambit noting three problems with her approach: (1) women aren’t the problem (it’s the backlash and societal expectations that are the problem)l; (2) negotiation isn’t a competition; and (3) forbidding negotiations could backfire (people will go elsewhere for their jobs.)

I have focused mostly on problem number one–the perceptions versus the reality of how women negotiate. In multiple studies of both women lawyers negotiating on their clients behalf and of women law students negotiating their own salary, there are not gender differences. Let me say that again. I have not found salary differences between male and female law graduates–the differences are between those who negotiate and those who don’t! And, when looking at women lawyers, there are few stylistic differences as well. To the extent that there is a problem, it is the backlash that occurs from others when women negotiate on their own behalf–this likeability v. competence choice. The story at Nazareth College is one such example (and I’ve written with others on that debacle here.)

Instead of eliminating negotiation, let’s eliminate the backlash. My co-authors and I have outlined some specific strategies for women to take in order to minimize this backlash (article here) and I’d like for those of us with whom women negotiate to also do our part and celebrate rather than punish this assertiveness (which, by the way, we all want these women to have on behalf of their clients!)

I think Michael’s example from the Chronicle of Higher Education is dealing with problem number (2) from above–that we view negotiation as a win-lose when, in fact, it is the opportunity to continue to build the long-term relationship with the place that is hiring you. The story from the Chronicle is a great example:

Officials at Princeton University wanted to recruit Albert Einstein to join their Institute for Advanced Study. To begin the negotiation process, Princeton wrote to Einstein in Austria to ask how much he would need to accept the job offer. Einstein wrote back: “$3,000, unless you think I could get by on less.”

Did Princeton match his request or try to talk him down to $2,800? No, they offered $15,000 – which I suspect was a pretty handsome sum back in the 1930’s. Officials there knew he would figure out the salary structure soon enough, so rather than create anger and resentment, they decided to pay him competitively to create both trust and commitment. Imagine beginning the hiring process by offering a fair and competitive deal!

So my additional advice is that, until the backlash is eliminated, we also need our institutions to be fair. Salaries need to be reviewed regularly to double-check that we are treating all faculty fairly based on accomplishment and not just personal assertiveness. A hard lesson for me as well–my first raise at Marquette was from my previous dean, Howard Eisenberg, who told me that he gave me a raise after a male colleague (hired a year later) had in fact negotiated his salary higher than me…and now Howard was raising my salary to be at least as high as his. I always appreciated Howard’s strong sense of fairness and the difficult lesson that I learned about not negotiating on my own behalf. I have been sure to do so ever since. Of course, my current dean (the male colleague hired a year later) might regret that sometimes!


Andrea Schneider

Before Andrea Kupfer Schneider even knew or understood the words negotiation or mediation, she figured a way to outsource her chores to her younger brother by paying him a part of her allowance.  Not a new trick, but noteworthy that she hit upon the idea naturally. Such is the somewhat… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Avoiding a Conflict Debt at Work

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine SegalConflict debts at work are hard to pay down It is natural and human to want to avoid or dodge conflict at work or anywhere,...

By Lorraine Segal

Long Term Care Ombudsman

Perhaps it’s her big smile, the friendly eyes behind her wire-rimmed glasses or the way she doesn’t let a simple “I’m fine” pass without a follow-up question. Judith Sullivan, 66,...

By Jeff Thompson

“I’m Sorry You’re Such A Crybaby” Isn’t Really An Apology

You’ve more than likely heard one before and you may have even delivered a few yourself--an apology that isn’t really an apology at all. You know the ones; the zingers,...

By Vivian Scott