MEN ARE PIGS, PART 487….I’ve long counseled women I know to be more aggressive when it comes to negotiating salary and benefits on the job. My usual advice is, “Honest, no one will think the worse of you for trying. The worst that can happen is that they say no.”

Sadly, Shankar Vedantam reports today on some recent research from Linda Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles suggesting that that’s not the worst that can happen. It all depends on which gender you’re negotiating with:

Their study…found that women’s reluctance [to negotiate] was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more — the perception was that women who asked for more were “less nice”.

“What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not,” Bowles said. “They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not.”

….Subsequent studies used actors who recorded videos of themselves asking for more money or accepting salaries they had been offered. A new group of 285 volunteers were again asked whether they would be willing to work with the candidates after viewing the videos. Men tended to rule against women who negotiated but were less likely to penalize men; women tended to penalize both men and women who negotiated, and preferred applicants who did not ask for more.

So: if you’re dealing with a man, negotiating puts you at a disadvantage compared to men who are applying for the same position. Your choice, then, is to either negotiate and risk not getting the job at all, or to stay quiet and accept a lower offer than a man would get. On balance, I think I’d still offer the same advice I always have, since I suspect the downside of negotiating might be a fairly short-term thing. Still, “the worst that can happen is that they say no” is obviously a little too glib, especially if you’re dealing with a seething biological sack of testosterone on the other side of the desk.

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