In isolation and negotiation, beware your biases

What things have been driving you crazy during isolation? Inconsiderate people in the supermarket? The crowds at your local park? People flouting social distancing measures and congregating at beaches?

Imagine this scenario. You are out having a run at the beach and you see a group of people ignoring the physical distancing laws and sitting together. You run by and shake your head at the “selfish jerks” (insert a different, more pejorative term as appropriate). You then see police approach them and issue fines. Admit it, you feel pretty smug, don’t you?

The next day, after the same run, you decide to sit on the beach for 10 minutes while you cool down. Unfortunately, you are spotted by the police and handed a fine. What do you do? You protest that you were following rules, you were just having a quick break after a run, you’re not a “selfish jerk”.

This type of scenario plays out on the roads every day. If you cut me off, you’re a bad driver. If I cut you off, I had a reasonable excuse for doing so.

Our tendency to blame circumstances for our own poor behaviour but judge someone’s character for theirs is a cognitive bias called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). Stephen Covey, he of the 7 Habits, explains FAE thus: “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior”.

A few years ago, I worked quite closely with someone who was later diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. His approach to anything was an extreme example of FAE – if something went well, he was solely responsible; if it didn’t go well, he couldn’t bring himself to take any responsibility for it. Few people take their biases this far, but we are all impacted by FAE more than we know.

When preparing for a negotiation, it is critical that you identify and deal with any possible sources of bias. FAE, if unacknowledged, can have a major impact in a negotiation – it can lead to poor judgement about the other party, and impact our ability to understand their needs and make rational decisions.

For women, FAE can make negotiation even harder. Gender bias in society often means that a woman negotiating assertively is perceived as pushy or bossy, but a man with the same demeanour is seen as strong and confident.

To combat FAE, try these tips:

  • Be honest with yourself that you have biases and try to recognise them.
  • Be mindful of people blaming you for things outside your control and gently challenge their assumptions about you.
  • Likewise, remain aware of your tendency to blame others and aim to understand their motives.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt – rather than judging, practise empathy and assume a more positive explanation for their behaviour.
  • Endeavour to see the other side of the story; this will lead to more creative discussions and collaborative problem-solving.
  • Don’t get distracted from your negotiation goals by allowing yourself to be influenced by the other party’s reputation or behaviour.


This model is all you need right now

I’ve solved it!

This little model is all you need in these uncertain times.

I designed this as a guide to negotiating during these Covid-19 days but, guess what? It helps with any decision you need to make at the moment.

Should I ride my bike around the bay? If I can trust my skills but am not sure if the crowd will be too crazy, inch forward. If you know that everyone is at home watching MasterChef but your bike-riding skills are rusty, wait it out for now.

Should you fire up the oven in a moment of boredom to make a chocolate souffle? If you have the right ingredients, a good oven and you’ve done it successfully before, then go for it. If you’ve never made a souffle and you are short on eggs, then no, don’t even consider it.

See how this works?

In terms of negotiating something in these uncertain times, it’s fine to proceed if the other party is someone you trust, and you have enough predictability in the situation. But, please, don’t start negotiating with someone if there is low trust. Even if the situation has a high level of certainty, there is too much flux elsewhere so it’s not a good time. Just wait it out and spend the time building trust until the right time to proceed comes along.

If you are wondering why this model is valid now, in Corona-times, and not all the time, the answer is the context. With the souffle example, in non-Corona times you could start preparing the souffle in the knowledge that eggs are readily available at a corner store. With the bike ride, it would be fine to take your rusty skills out for a spin on a quiet day. And for the negotiation, in non-Covid times you would probably proceed while exploring opportunities with the other party to improve the relationship and decrease uncertainty.

Can you think of other ways this model applies in these uncertain times?


Day of Pink

I discovered by chance this morning that today, 8th of April, is the Day of Pink.

My first thought was of the movie Mean Girls and that iconic line: “on Wednesdays we wear pink”. But no, the Day of Pink is about standing up to bullying and discrimination.

Discrimination takes many shapes, but you may not know that female doctors experience high levels of discrimination and bullying as well as pay gaps in some specialties as high as 50%.

Surveys and reports released by ASMOF NSW show that more than half of female doctors have experienced sexual harassment in their workplace, while male doctors report a fraction of this number. Despite reaching comparable numbers in medical schools, women are also vastly underrepresented in senior medical roles such as deans, CMOs, medical college board members and hospital CEOs.

In my most recent whitepaper, I argue that learning consensus-building negotiation skills can equip female doctors to receive more acknowledgement in the workplace, to negotiate better salaries and working conditions, and neutralise the impact of bullying and hostility.

I also outline a case study where I helped one doctor negotiate a whopping 28% pay rise as well as role and roster changes.

Get in touch if you would like to receive a copy of the whitepaper.


In Praise of Doctors

The 30th of March is National Doctors’ Day in the USA. Australia doesn’t seem to recognise this day widely but right now, amid a pandemic, it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on.

Send a message of thanks to the doctors you know – those on the frontline of Covid-19 and all of the others who are holding up the rest of the health system and keeping us safe.

If you want to hear about the work I am doing with female doctors, get in touch if to receive a copy of my latest whitepaper: “Negotiation Skills as a Remedy for Gender Bias in Medicine”.

The difference a month makes

I have just emailed a follow-up to a great group of people who attended my Introduction to Sustainable Negotiation training course a month ago. I like to follow up on Learning Plans a week, a month and three months after training and today’s email was the one-month check-in.

But what a month! A month ago, we had four Covid-19 cases in Australia and we’d never heard of social distancing. A month ago, there were no queues snaking around the block at Centrelink offices. A month ago, the Liberal Party still had its “Back in Black” mug for sale.

My follow-up emails are business as usual, but it is not business as usual in Australia right now.

Strangely, there is no better time to learn to negotiate – we are all negotiating for limited resources, many of us are negotiating with staff about changes to their jobs, some of us are facing unemployment and are negotiating with Centrelink and landlords, a few of us are negotiating with banks about interest rates, and almost all of us are negotiating with family members about how to share the house while we work from home.

It is not business as usual for me either. I have always delivered negotiation coaching over Zoom but am now adapting my group training courses to be delivered this way too.

Despite all this, it doesn’t feel quite right to be marketing at present. So, if you need support negotiating something or help with boosting your skills, get in touch. But if you just want to chat, or get a second opinion on a decision, or talk through what you have on your plate, that’s fine too. Just get in touch.


International Women’s Day 2020

This International Women’s Day don’t overlook the opportunity to celebrate the women who inspire you.

However, also be sure to take a minute to ponder these statistics from the WGEA and ABS:

  • Just over 47% of all employed people in Australia are women
  • More than a third of women have attained a Bachelor degree or higher qualification compared with 27% of men
  • Nationally, the full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 13.9% less than for men
  • Only 14% of chair positions and 27% of directorships are held by women
  • Only 17% of CEOs are women

I encourage you, both men and women, to use your influence to help improve these figures.

To do my bit, I am offering 20% off my 13-week coaching program for any woman who signs up before the end of March 2020.

Get in touch if you are interested in learning more about my training and coaching programs in Sustainable Negotiation.

I have just published a new whitepaper too: “Negotiation Skills as a Remedy for Gender Bias in Medicine”. Send me a message if you’d like to receive a copy.

Australia’s gender equality scorecard

The latest results from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency have been released today. You can view them here:

In good news, the gender pay gap is moving in the right direction. However, with a drop of only 0.5 percentage points, the national average gap of 20.8% will take decades to close.

On average, men out-earn women by more than $25k per annum and, in some industries, the gender pay gap has taken a backward step. Most notable is the Health Care and Social Assistance industry, where the gap has increased in 2018-19 by 1.2%.

I have a proven track-record in helping women negotiate higher salaries, promotions and different working conditions. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more.

[Un]Equal Pay Day

Using ABS labour force data, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has calculated that women must work an additional 59 days a year to earn the same annual salary as men.

Today, Wednesday 28th August, has been declared [Un]Equal Pay Day because it is the 59th day since the end of the 2018/19 financial year.

While the national gender pay gap has reached its lowest level in 20 years, at 14% it is still far too high. The WGEA has a range of suggestions for closing the gap, including the advice that women should learn to negotiate their salary and know their value.

My Sustainable Negotiation coaching course has been designed specifically for this. Get in touch in you want more information or to hear some of the success stories.

Gender Equity in the Workplace

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, in conjunction with the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre, has today released its latest report on gender equity in the workplace.

While there are clear indications that women are gaining ground, there is still a way to go. Here are some of the key points from the report:

  • The highest-paid 10% of women in key management roles make $160k less annually than the highest-paid men ($599k cf $436k), equivalent to 27.1%.
  • The lowest paid 10% of women in management roles make $14k less than the lowest paid men in similar positions ($72k cf $58k), equivalent to 19.5%.
  • At current rates, the projected timeframe for women to reach equal representation in executive level positions is 2047.

Improving these statistics requires employer-led action and accountability by boards and employers. For the individual women affected, few skills will have as much impact as learning how to negotiate.

If you need help with this, get in touch to find out more about my 13 week one-on-one coaching course, Sustainable Negotiation … How women can negotiate more out of work and life without burning bridges.

Coaching Women in Negotiation

Thought I’d share the good news that I am launching a new service. As usual, my interest is in negotiation and conflict resolution, but I am adding an extra focus on coaching women in negotiation.

There is lots of research that shows women find this difficult – a quick look at data about salary differences and work in the “second shift” at home says a lot.

If you know anyone looking for help in this area, please introduce us.