Academic research reports it is more important for women to be ‘likeable’ rather than good at their job if they want a pay rise or promotion.
New research from Melbourne Business School has found that it’s more important for women to appear ‘likeable’ than ‘competent’. Professor Mara Olekalns, who teaches negotiation management as part of the MBA curriculum, found gender stereotypes were still in place whilst investigating the persistent 17% wage gap between women and men.
She said: “The issue in negotiation is that the behaviour we normally associate with strong negotiators – competence – is also male gender stereotyped. This means that when women increase their competitiveness by demonstrating their competence, they violate their gender stereotype which prescribes that they appear more accommodating and relationship focussed.”
Olekalns’ research reveals part of the explanation for the pay gap is women are often their own worst enemy by being reluctant to negotiate. And when they do negotiate, they ask for less. But in spite of this, she says that harder negotiating is often not the answer.
She added: “For women, negotiating harder often invokes a backlash effect where they get a poorer performance evaluation because they lose on ‘likeability’. They can be subjected to nasty comments in the office because they are perceived to be acting pushily.
“My advice to women is to start any negotiation by building rapport through general chit chat. Find common ground and use it to clearly signal that you have the same values and goals as the person you are negotiating with.”