Battle of the Sexes

“Most of the trouble in this world is caused by people wanting to be important” T.S. Eliot

Gender inequality has long been one of the most prevalent issues in the work place. Everyone wants to be the top dog and it’s a problem that has caused considerable difficulty for managers since the prehistoric age… well maybe not that long but you get the idea.

This level of competition is a force that can provoke huge amounts of unrest for staff morale. For example, if Pam and Dave are doing the same job but Dave’s raking it in, pulling up to work in a jag, while Pam struggles to insure her KA, there’s going to be some serious resentment issues and those issues can directly impact company productivity. The real question is, in this day and age why are women still deemed as being less worthy than men in the professional domain?

One of the major factors affecting the attitude towards female high-flyers, is that any successful woman is deemed to have got there by being aggressive or ruthless. Not everyone should have to express their inner Wilhelmina Slater to obtain the career of their dreams, nor should they remain quiet to avoid the negative connotations associated with an assertive character. The key is finding a healthy balance.

Ms Slater asserting her authority.

Babcock and Lashever, in their book “Women Don’t Ask!” state that it isn’t actually a case of women being poor negotiators in comparison to men; it’s that they fail to negotiate at all. Below are some simple steps to standing your ground without treading on your colleagues egos…

1)      Know Your Value

Be well prepared, research into similar roles and companies to find out the sort of salary level you can expect. Know your BATNA!

2)      Be Positive

If you approach the negotiation with a pessimistic attitude then you will most likely end up with less than you deserve. Confidence is key. If you have followed point 3 then be confident that your negotiation will prove successful.

3)      Take a Clever Approach

This is a better way for women to negotiate and avoid negative connotations of aggressive demands. Show how what you are offering will benefit everyone not just yourself.

4)      You Don’t Need A Masculine Alter Ego

Unfortunately there is a double standard that prevents women from using the same tactics as men when it comes to getting results in a negotiation. The important thing to remember is that being a Wilhelmina will only get you so far without everyone starting to strongly dislike you! Take a friendlier approach but stick to your guns.

5)      Practice Makes Perfect

Role play the negotiation environment before hand so you are ready for any unexpected directions and have prepared appropriate responses. The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown so familiarising yourself with the situation will help your confidence for the real thing.

At the end of the day, if you don’t ask you don’t get! If you are confident in the knowledge you possess the skill level and experience necessary to warrant a pay increase, then stand your ground. Always assume that your salary is negotiable and the higher your expectations and goals, the higher you will progress.

What is your experience with work place negotiation? Let me know in the comments section below. Your story may be helpful for other budding negotiators…

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Neighbourhood Watch

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Urban dictionary describes my beloved home town of Orpington with the following, highly accurate, statement,

“Total and utter crap hole town located in the London Borough of Bromley. Pretentious people who don’t wish to admit they live in Orpington, try and cover up where they live by describing their home as being in “Chelsfield”. In reality, it’s Orpington.”

After 21 years living in gypsy Mecca, the council have made the decision to rejuvenate the town centre and create a friendlier environment. Any change, be it positive or negative, will always be met with some form of opposition, because it’s in our nature to resist anything that will alter the natural order. In many cases however, change can be a positive force that reinvigorates and encourages growth. Cottinger 1997 says that no organisation can mature without necessary conflict, as it encourages people to challenge the status quo, in the same way that the new plans will improve the stale condition of the local high street.

Regardless of the positive aspects these changes will bring to the town, many shoppers and residents have taken to online forums to voice their concerns. One such angry local illustrated his feelings on the issue with the simple, yet effective, “More money wasted trying to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear!” apparently he’s not convinced.

A seven screen Odeon cinema is expected to bring much needed footfall to the high street and the addition of a further four retail units, three restaurants and a complete revamp of the public square, suggests to me, nothing but positive change. Orpington’s MP Jo Johnson (Boris’s brother) has made it clear that the £10 million project will meet “a great number of local needs” and claims to have considered feedback from residents at every stage of planning.

A public consultation was held by the development company to give the neighbourhood an opportunity to express any concerns or suggestions for the remodelling plans. This type of involvement in the process is another way to ease the level of conflict surrounding an issue. If people feel they have more of a say in the change being imposed on them, they will be less hostile towards its implementation. Similar to a work place environment, the practice of careful communication is essential to prevent unnecessary worry or anger arising through lack of understanding. Managers are “advised strongly to communicate effectively and regularly with their workforce” (Wakeling 2010) to avoid those circumstances occurring and it’s a similar practice used when corresponding with the community.

Personally, I feel that any attempt to improve the decaying face of Orpington is a welcome one and there will always be opposition to change until people realise the personal benefits of a new system; something that won’t be recognizable until the development is up and running late next year.

What is your opinion on community conflict? Has your neighbourhood ever been up in arms about proposed change? Did the council try and take away your parking spot? Mrs Smith start dumping her rubbish on your drive? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cracklin’ Negotiation Skills

As a student of humble means, I have had to step up and do a little manual labour to afford any luxuries that I happen to take a fancy to, essentials obviously, (Topshop trips, shoes, make up) just your basic human necessities…

In order to fund this lavish undergraduate lifestyle, I have maintained a job at a local restaurant back in my home town of Bromley. I’ve been a waitress there for about 5 years and during my time have encountered my fair share of conflict and hostile negotiation. For some reason, people are under the impression that it is socially acceptable to treat wait staff as if they were actual servants. This, funnily enough, is not the case and yet I have some of the most bizarre anecdotes centred around my time on the job.

Taking things back a few years to 2011, I was working away in the uncomfortable summer heat that so rarely graces us English folk. As I ran around like a maniac trying to keep up with orders, I was confronted by a well dressed woman in her late 50’s. She ordered a simple bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and went off to find herself a seat on the tables outside. I carried on with my hurrying and took said sandwich outside to the waiting woman.

As I strolled back towards the kitchen, satisfied that the main lunchtime rush had been a success, I heard a screechy voice, which I recognised to be directed at me (although to be fair, “Oi, You!” could really have been aimed at anyone). A little alarmed, I turned around to address the customer only to be greeted by a rasher of bacon flying directly at my face. Yes, that’s right; this woman threw bacon at me. I’m sure in her mind that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do but as far as I’m concerned she was a nutter.

Based on my many years in customer service, at this point I would consider myself an amateur, bordering on semi professional, negotiator… the first action therefore, was to direct her back in to a rational frame of mind. Following the process outlined in the ‘Ladder of Influence’ diagram below, I remained calm with a level tone and enquired what exactly the issue was with the bacon now lying uncomfortably at my feet. Apparently, because the kitchen had failed to trim the fat from her bacon, the only acceptable reaction was to launch it at the waitress; obviously.

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The most important step on the ladder is to listen, which is exactly what I did, I proceeded to introduce myself in to the situation and be empathetic to her ‘problem’. It was at this stage that I began to gain her trust by suggesting that I replace the sandwich she had clearly taken a disliking to. (This is by far the most important step.) I watched the kitchen staff like a hawk as they removed every last inch of fat from the rashers. The last thing I wanted at this point was another blow to the face from her lunch. After taking out the replacement and checking that she was happy, the woman seemed genuinely grateful, which was a very different scene than the pork launching maniac I had encountered just a few minutes earlier.

The moral of this story is threefold…

1)      You have more influence over people’s cooperation in a hostile situation if they have a level of trust in your capability. A trust that must be built and maintained.

2)      Irrational people can be persuaded into rational thought using the aforementioned steps. A skill not only valuable for negotiating with angry meat throwers, but for general everyday conflicts, such as negotiations in the workplace.

3)      Being a waitress is by far the worst job I will ever have.

 

If you think you would have handled it differently or if you wish to share a similar experience please feel free to comment below, but know in advance, “I’d have thrown it back harder”, isn’t a legitimate response…

Hissssstory Repeating Itself?

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I wouldn’t consider myself an astrology enthusiast, nor do I claim to take much interest in history, but when I stumbled across an article online last week about the changing zodiac year, I felt somewhat compelled to vent! According to several online sources, some of the most historic conflicts of our time have been a direct result of the ‘Year of the Snake’… Call me crazy but I feel they may be getting a little creative with their finger pointing!

Previous snake years have apparently been responsible for the September 11th terrorist attack, the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour back in 1941, as well as the 1929 stock market crash that sparked the Great Depression. All in all, it would seem that snake’s been pretty busy over the past few years *rolls eyes*.

So according to the aforementioned prophecy, 2013 is destined to be a rotter no matter how you handle yourself. Astrologers claim that the competing fire and water elements associated with this zodiac symbol will bring inevitable turbulence and conflict for everyone, specifically in the imaginatively named “Snake Month” between May 5th and June 6th, which is apparently when two snakes will collide.

The oxford dictionary defines conflict as a “state of opposition”, a clash of two forces. Whether that be physical or psychological, it is something that everyone encounters in some form on a day to day basis. If this theory is to be applied to the depressing year ahead, the rival entities will cause a fall out that has the potential to influence everyone, no matter what your beliefs or temperament.  

It’s all a bit farfetched if you ask me. Much of the conflicts they have blamed on the zodiac year have been a result of communication breakdown, power struggles and greed; all unfortunate aspects of human nature, not the consequence of two competing, fictional snakes! It’s all very quaint to attach negative events to a higher presence, but I think society should take responsibility for the conflicts that have plagued our history, as opposed to palming it off on predetermined fate. If we are to avoid further problems in the coming years it’s not beneficial to ignore the benefits of conflict management and resolution.

Not to be too judgemental, but I am of the opinion that you are seriously lacking in intellectual capacity if you believe that any disagreements you find yourselves involved with during the course of this year, are not in fact a result of your own personal issues, but the product of two disputing reptiles…

Although thinking about it, this could be the perfect excuse to justify that heat-of-the-moment name you called your boss last week… “It wasn’t me! It was those bloody snakes…”

Comment below and let me know what you think of this year’s negative forecast.