February 24th, 2015

Women and negotiation

Possible link fu. I'll start with what set me off:


Opening story is of a woman trying to negotiate her tenure [eta: track job. So the applicant/aspirant/offeree? had no ongoing relationship with the people making the decision] offer. It went away. Here's what she asked for:

"She wanted a slightly higher salary than the starting offer, paid maternity leave for one semester, a pre-tenure sabbatical, a cap on the number of new classes that she would teach each semester, and a deferred starting date."

I used to work for someone who got the most amazing stuff written into his job offers -- extra vacation weeks, severance pay, high salary. He had a computer science degree from MIT and was a few years older than me. He'd had more jobs than me by the time we met, it was absolutely impossible to work with him on a project (I was the _only_ person who didn't believe this for the first 6 months I was on that job, and then we had to work together on a project and I started to see what everyone else was on about), and he was always laid off in the first round of a series of layoffs. Over time, it took him longer and longer to get a new job, but it didn't matter too much because, as I noted, he negotiated the severance package up front.

The woman in the story sounds like the man I used to work with. Nobody with any meaningful HR experience would hire a person like that if they could see it coming. Also, insert standard philosopher joke here.

I am supremely unimpressed by the New Yorker coverage positioning this tale as a Dangers of Women Negotiating. Part of why I am supremely unimpressed by this positioning is because I'm an idiot who really does believe that precisely two things matter in a negotiation: do you know what you want and do you know what your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). If your BATNA covers what you want, you shouldn't be fucking negotiating. Just go get that thing and wave good bye. If the other side wants something from you, figure out whether you think they've got anything you want before you proceed. The woman in the story did not have what I regard as a great BATNA (what's she gonna do next? Other than tell her story to the New Yorker. Maybe she's got a book written and ready to go. Maybe she's independently wealthy. Maybe she's got a better gig lined up elsewhere. But would you even be trying for a tenured spot in the philosophy department of Nazareth College if you had a better gig lined up somewhere else? She knows her situation better than anyone else.).

If your BATNA is less than what you really want out of a negotiation, then you need to understand what the other side wants. And believe me when I say, academic institutions have a set of expectations associated with junior people applying for tenure, and those expectations involve subservience, not to say groveling. There are exceptions: high flying people who already have tenure somewhere else and a list of publications as long as your arm in high impact journals and presence in the Contacts of numerous important pundits in the field. Those people get to negotiate for paid leave of one sort or another. And they are not junior.

Little of this has anything to do with gender, other than the historical bias that guarantees that the high flyers are overwhelmingly male and the aspirants are female. But as soon as you get a high flyer who is female, she really is going to be able to get away with asking for the moon.

I know this, because I just heard a story about a family member who asked for something that I would previously have regarded as completely unattainable in an academic context. And she got it. I concluded from this that the trustees concluded that she was absolutely not replaceable, and her presence in the offered position was absolutely required for the institution to enjoy future success.

Which is also a situation where you can start listing demands. And also did not apply to the aspiring philosopher.

ETA: Okay, I cannot resist. Once upon a time, yada yada yada, had to sign some stuff associated with a job offer. In a burst of proactive I dunno what came over me, I called the local bar association and got a referral to an employment law guy. I took my paperwork over to him, paid him $50 for a consultation to cover the referral fee charged by the local bar association and he looked it over and marked it up. I took the results back to the boss, El Jefe, shall we call him (har de har har), and we sat down and went over what the lawyer said and what the paperwork said and El Jefe and I agreed on some of the changes and El Jefe said flat out that some of the changes were not going to fly (honestly, I totes agreed that trying to get rid of the don't sue us you know this is a high stress job going in was a dumb idea), and I even got a modification to the no-compete (I got one person removed from the no-poach rule, on the basis that we were living together before we went to work with the company and we had already talked about maybe starting a company together -- never happened, and I think El Jefe knew it wouldn't and so didn't really care one way or the other).

I was happy. El Jefe seemed to find the interaction enjoyable (he has this amazing laugh) and unsurprising (I had already pointed out in a phone conversation regarding compensation that it was a good thing the boyfriend's job offer and mine were identical, given we had comparable job experience and identical educational credentials -- a fairly blunt announcement that I'm fucking watching out for gender discrimination and am happy you are not engaging in it). Some months, maybe a year later, I heard someone whining in the hallway about what was in their offer paperwork, and I foolishly said, well, why didn't you negotiate that? I did. At that point in time, there were still some people there who hadn't figured out that I really am not from this planet, and this story added to the general lore of Wow She's Really A Lot Weirder Than She Looks Even.

I will point out that while I was moderately interested in a startup at the time, I wasn't desperate for one, and I was kinda skeptical about the long term payout (ha ha ha ha ha Wow Did I Underestimate That One). Also, I was employed at the time. There was a headcount layoff coming up which I volunteered for and they were so reluctant to let me go they sent a VP and, IIRC, Elf Sternberg over to try to convince me to stay. Which is my only Elf Sternberg story.

This is what I mean by BATNA.

ETA: Further evidence the philosophy aspirant story is a bad example of the whole women in negotiations -- the story has been floating around for a while, and in its earliest incarnations, was being interpreted by some commenters in a gender neutral manner.


"“It was the ‘no more than 3 preps a year’ however, that made me guffaw,” Ball added via email. “This candidate really has no idea what s/he was considering stepping into at a [small liberal arts college]. While s/he could have done the job just fine, working at a [small liberal arts college] is, above all, about collegiality and teaching ability, and this candidate basically offered [several] counterpoints to her being able to fulfill that part of the college's mission.”"

While "maternity" leave would seem to signal being a woman (and obvs Nazareth must have known her identity to check her credentials), I've heard people use "maternity leave" in a generic way.

That Inside Higher Ed analysis is excellent, showing that the hiring college has a BATNA, too (the next applicants in line). It further acknowledges that people new or recently returned to the job market often have wildly out of line expectations (wow is this ever true, and you try to tell someone this and they'll about bite your head off and then flounce away).

Here is Slate's take on the sich:


I think what happened here _really was_ a fit issue. For all that a bunch of reframes (was it about research vs. small liberal arts, it's a buyer's market, etc.), the real issue may have been different conceptions of how to open a negotiation. I was pretty reactive to the opener, but I suspect my PacNW buddies would have been even more reactive. And, apparently, there are some areas that are accustomed to a much more combative approach to negotiation.

I see a problem here


I really shouldn't read Slate. And yet, sometimes I do.

"Sokolow’s report ... claims that “incapacity rules are not gender-specific, so that anyone who has sex with an incapacitated person can be held responsible, regardless of whether the situation is male-on-female, female-on-male, male-on-male or female-on-female,” but the report uses “the pronouns of the usual suspects”—he’s the rapist, she’s the victim—“for convenience.”"

And then:

"Even if an incapacitated party is the sexual aggressor in an encounter, she is still the victim: “Too many incapacity inquiries become mired in ‘but she came on to him,’ ” Sokolow’s report states. “It does not matter.”"

Okay, so what about when a super drunk man physically holds down and penetrates a sober person who is screaming and resisting all the way? Is the drunk man the victim?

Nope. I mean, obvs, nope. But here:

"“Arguing that ‘he was drunk too’ doesn’t function to excuse the misconduct, especially since it is almost always disingenuous,” Sokolow wrote in his report. “How would two genuinely incapacitated people have the physical coordination necessary for sexual intercourse?”"

So, that's just ridiculous. Someone hasn't been paying attention to what drunk looks like. And if you haven't been paying attention to what drunk looks like, you shouldn't be writing policy about it.



"When a male student who had been expelled by Duke University for violating its sexual misconduct policy sued the university last year, Duke dean Sue Wasiolek testified that in cases where both parties are drunk, “assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex.”"

Just seems loony to me. Altho at least Wasiolek specified heterosexuality as a precondition. What about a couple drunk gay men? Hey, what about a drunk gay man and a drunk straight man? How about a drunk gay man and a sober straight woman? Actually, I sorta want to know the answer to that one, because it would seem like an awesome way to expose all kinds of biases in the people passing judgment. I bet a whole lot of people would squirm, because they want to say, well, he wanted it, and then they'd be going, wait. . .


"That’s an assumption that dates back to Shakespeare, but it’s not backed up by modern science. “It’s true that orgasm is impaired in both sexes” when people drink, says Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “With even tiny levels of alcohol,” sexual response “slows down, and delays, and sometimes goes completely.” But Koob also cautioned that there’s no absolute line past which all men are incapable of having an erection and that a total loss of sexual function is less likely for young men, the ones who are implicated in most campus sexual assault disputes."

So this is sort of amazing to me. Don't any of these people read the Bible? I mean, I know this is _spectacularly_ something-ist, because it's the Hebrew Bible take on where some of their neighbors got their start, but:


Basically, after mum got turned into a pillar of salt, Lot and his two daughters went to live in a cave, the women got dear old dad drunk on some wine and got themselves knocked up and their offspring were the progenitors of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Older. Than. Shakespeare. Part of our cultural heritage. More importantly, you'd think someone with a name like Sokolow would know that.

We only think we're speaking the same language


What's a double room? In Australia, according to this, a room with _1_ bed in which _2_ adults are the rated capacity.

Of course, for much of the US (and as is apparent in the comments), a double room is a room with _2_ beds, with _4_ people the rated capacity.

OP doesn't state whether the guests were Australian or other.

If you search on the definition of double hotel room, you'll see that the confusion extends to single rooms as well, which can be a room with _1_ bed in which _1_ adult is the rated capacity or _1_ bed in which _2_ adults is the rated capacity.

Women and negotiation, redux: the real estate edition

When we were buying the house we now live in, it and the house next door to it were for sale, new. They'd been built but then the bust hit and work had slowed to an absolute crawl. The price had come down a ways and the last finishes that had been done already were cheap shit -- the dishwasher, in particular, was awful. They hadn't done the floors yet, so we paid for wood on the second floor and better carpet on the third, and a plumbing fixture upgrade. The fridge we bought ourselves.

Anyway. I don't recall negotiating on the price of the house at all. The house met all our of have-to-haves, and was well within our price range. I'm not the sort to try to nibble at the margins. When I get what I want, I close the deal. And then all kinds of entertaining things started happening. In particular, we got all kinds of gossip volunteered about previous offers on the house (few) which were _insanely_ low. They'd been rebuffed, obvs (these were hoped to be close to a million dollar house when speced in 2006-7, and came in a lot lower than that, but the offers were in the 500K range, which was just loony), and it was clear that the builders/sellers had taken some real emotional damage by receiving that offer/those offers. They were confused and their confidence -- already rattled by wondering about how they were going to survive the bust -- shaken. It was one of those moments where I gloat about the weird shit you gain when you treat people well in a transaction.

Fast forward some months, maybe a year or so, and we're chatting with our neighbors WHO WE LOVE. They are great people, we share a lot of the same values, they are easy to get along with and their kids are sweet. And it turns out that the crazy low ball offer was put in by friends of theirs who were looking, but not seriously at that house, to sort of test the waters. A clever ploy, and our neighbors did manage to get a better deal on price for what is a very similar house to ours. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm about 3/4s sure that the instigators on this idea were the women of the two couples involved, not the men. Altho the men seemed perfectly okay with it, too.

R. and I talked about that whole thing for a while. I'm not sure if we can to any sort of conclusion, other than that was not the sort of thing we would do.

Rewinding a ways, when I bought my condo on cap hill, I again found a place that was more or less in my price range (a little high for me, but I could easily get the loan; I had pre-qualed) and had all my have-to-haves. At the time, I thought I was buying and boyfriend would be living with me and paying rent, so I put in a rider that he had to okay it on my offer -- which my agent was _not_ happy about. I also offered about 10% less than what they were asking. I was offering _after_ the agents' showing but before the unit was listed on MLS. My agent didn't like any of what I was putting in the conditions, not the price, not the boyfriend okay (which was stupid anyway, he decided he wanted to get his own place and didn't tell me until after the deal was signed). All of this was in 1997, IIRC, if you were in the market at the time, a lot of people thought it was nearing the end of its run but of course it really, really, really wasn't. I got what I wanted; everyone was happy.

A lot of commentary about women and negotiation misses what I believe are really important aspects of negotiation. If you construe negotiation as the back and forth at the offer counteroffer stages, you may miss things that happened _before_ the offer counteroffer stages (definition of what was wanted; preparing the ground with a separate insane lowball offer to make a later lowball offer seem worth accepting). And a person who _doesn't_ counteroffer but takes an initial offer isn't necessarily doing so out of fear of asking for more. If you got everything you were looking for, you're an idiot if you dick around and lose what you were trying to get.