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Negotiating for a raise, promotion or schedule flexibility can cause anxiety for anyone. But women in particular tend to get in their own way and sabotage their chances, according to Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski.
The “Morning Joe” co-host laid out a roadmap for women to effectively communicate their value during her keynote address at the Ninth Annual Elly Awards at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on Monday.
At the awards, hosted by the Women’s Forum of New York, outstanding women leaders are honored. This year’s recipients included anchor and journalist Katie Couric, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and public relations executive and feminist activist Muriel Fox. Approximately 400 people attended the event benefiting the Education Fund, which offers grants to women aged 35 and older whose education was disrupted by adversity.
Brzezinski’s speech served as a rally of support for this year’s Education Fund recipients, as well as all women looking to get a leg up in their industry.
According to Brzezinski, here’s how women can demonstrate their value, anxiety-free.
1. Get used to talking about your accomplishments.
Doing your homework and entering prepared with facts and figures is very important when you’re negotiating, according to Brzezinski.
“You don’t ask for a promotion or a raise or flexibility without knowing your monetary value and all the reasons to back it up,” she said.
Sometimes women can find this preparedness challenging, since they often have a hard time talking about their accomplishments, according to Brzezinski. Or, they just assume that management has tacitly noticed all of their achievements.
“Don’t assume anything will be noticed,” Brzezinski said. “You have to put it into words… [Men] talk about their accomplishments in detail ...You need to make sure you talk about the value you bring to the table every day.”
2. Don’t give up, not even after hearing “no.”
Hearing a “no” might be disappointing, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of the discussion, according to Brzezinski. Circumstances might change, or you may later be a bit more prepared to enter talks.
“If you get a no, do it again three months later,” Brzezinski said. “It’s OK, a lot of nos happen to get that one yes.”
3. Don’t go whining to everyone else.
Brzezinski said women tend to talk to other people when they have issues with their bosses. Sometimes camaraderie can be comforting, but not when it comes at the expense of the important negotiation work.
“I spent so much time when I was in my negotiations at MSNBC, quite frankly whining about it rather than talking about it to people I should be talking to,” said Brzezinski. “You get wound up and wound up in your head, and you go in there, and you’re sweating bullets because you realize you’ve been talking to everybody else about this, but you haven’t been practicing for that moment.”
4. Accept that the conversation might end awkwardly.
If you leave a negotiation saying, “That went great, they loved me! I got a hug!” then the meeting did not go well, according to Brzezinski.
Often, women are so concerned about being liked that they wind up prioritizing those feelings over the actual money involved. It’s important to accept the fact that negotiation conversations often end awkwardly.
“Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable conversation, but that is sometimes the price that needs to be paid to get respect,” she said. “Caving often doesn’t look good. It’s not a good look, because that’s what you’ll do in the job.”
Women often take the ludicrous responsibility of making sure that everyone is feeling OK in the room, which is not only impossible, it also works against them.
“We think for some reason that we are the feelings police,” Brzezinski said. “We worry that people don’t like us more than we worry about the goal of the moment, or the goal of the mission, or the goal of the company. We worry whether we’re liked in the company, and I’m telling you some women will trade in money for being liked.”
5. Learn to push back in real time.
Pushing back in real time can be difficult, because it goes against women’s desire to be liked, according to Brzezinski. However, not pushing back can lead to a lack of respect.
“There was a vice president at MSNBC and he said ‘don’t go for this raise, people aren’t going to like you.’”
Brzezinski said that, in response, she was contrite toward the VP, which she now regrets.
“I look back at that and I cringe. Because we could have a respectable relationship today if I had just said ‘you know what? I’ve got two words for you.’ Instead women talk to other people about it. That’s not productive, that’s equally destructive.”
6. Learn to press reset.
Men are masters at negotiating, in part, because they know how to “reset” according to Brzezinski. She told a story about her husband Joe Scarborough and MSNBC President Phil Griffin, and how they once fought face-to-face with so much vitriol that their spit was flying.
“They both got something out of it, then they sit down and say: ‘Hey, you going to the game this weekend?’” she recalled. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can never survive this.’ They press reset in real time. They don’t even remember what happened two seconds ago!”
Women on the other hand tend to hold onto things, sometimes for years.
“Every time something goes bad in a meeting and you see that person again ... you’ve got 'my last meeting with you was really bad’ written on your forehead,” she said. “Walk in the room, hold your head up high. Work on your body language and press reset. They’ll forget. Chances are they already have.”
7. Don’t apologize.
Over-apologizing is a common issue among women that only works against them in the workplace. Women who are very valuable assets wind up debasing themselves this way, according to Brzezinski.
“Every woman in this room is guilty as sin of apologizing all the time,” she said. “And when you do that, you’re telling people: ‘I have to apologize for my existence.’ It’s like a nervous tick … and we also get taken advantage of at times.”
8. Find your Voice.
Finding, building and honing your voice is a crucial part of demonstrating your value, according to Brzezinski.
“You have to find your own authentic style ... Nobody can talk for you. Work on those moments when you need to use your voice for yourself ... Learn to get some control over this incredible tool. Or, sometimes stop using it. Pauses can be so powerful. Don’t be afraid of the awkward silence. Dig deep, be in the moment, be able to articulate your passion ... A waterfall of yeses will come when you know your true value. It took me decades to get this right, so try to get this a little quicker than I did.”