Many of our most successful companies have made commitments to increase diversity in their leadership ranks, in part because research continues to show that companies with diverse leadership perform better than those without out.
A common element of these diversity efforts has been the identification of unconscious biases, and work cultures that create barriers for women and people of color to advance. But recognition is not enough; companies are coming to understand that they also need to take steps to counter biases.
When performance bias is identified - i .e., when managers hire people who look like themselves rather than recruiting from a broader pool - companies can establish objective hiring criteria. Further, companies can hold employees accountable for countering bias when they face or witness it. But identification of these biases also creates negotiation opportunities for individuals.
- Recognize - The first step is to recognize the biases as negotiation opportunities. If a qualified person sees that she is not being considered for a promotion, she can negotiate for consideration. If she finds, as the research shows, she is not getting the same recognition for her work, she can negotiate more credit. And if the she finds that being a parent excludes her from career building opportunities - like overseas assignments - she can negotiate for those assignments.
- Position Yourself - Given that not everybody will recognize the biases you may be encountering, you need to have a strategy for getting negotiations like these started. That means you need to position yourself to negotiate. People negotiate with you because you have something they want; that is, the value you bring to the relationship. Being clear on the value you bring and making your value visible in a currency that has value to the other person - the new client, the product launch, the savings you have achieved - makes them more likely to negotiate with you.
- Prepare - When you negotiate about workplace issues, you often challenge biases that other people don't see. Perhaps they are oblivious to the extra work you have been doing without compensation, or they have not considered you for a key assignment because of your family responsibilities. Or your name has not appeared on the leadership-ready list despite your performance. That is why it is important to prepare to negotiate by gathering information. The more you know about what others have attained in negotiations similar to yours, the more defensible and confident you will feel negotiating for what you want.
- Develop Options - Finally, it helps if you approach negotiations with creative options in mind. When you anchor with options, it focuses the discussion on solutions, not problems. In developing your options, it helps to anticipate the 'good reasons' your counterpart would have for saying 'no' to your ideas. Considering their potential objections in advance allows you to incorporate these 'good reasons' into your proposals so that more of their concerns are taken into account.
Negotiating at work often requires you to move out of your comfort zone to challenge unconscious biases. And when you do, you contribute, with small wins, to your companies' other efforts to counter implicit bias in the interests of more diversity.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Simmons College, in conjunction with the 37th annual Simmons Leadership Conference - the premier women's leadership conference in the country - held March 29 in Boston. For more information about the conference, visit here. To follow the conference live, follow #SLC16 on March 29.