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Negotiating for the Future

This week’s session started with Ain’s pitch, who has worked on watershed management and universal water access. Ain spoke about the water war, which has affected millions in India and the world. She urged the fellows to read about the water, so vital yet so taken for granted.

Then we broke out into our kitchen cabinets. This week, Tuba shared how she had been facing difficulties moving forward with her career due to COVID. Understanding her situation, we suggested her to employ Led by research opportunities and reach out to local organizations.

It was followed by an informative second negotiation workshop by Joan Moon. Negotiations are essential strategic steps for career advancement. In the Indian scenario, examples of women at higher positions are still rare. And growing up, they are thought and expected to adjust and to put others before themselves. At the workplace, many important tasks are not assigned to her because it is assumed that she cannot work late and bear the workload. Even if she is as qualified and competent as her male counterpart, the important opportunities are handed over to men making them feel inferior. This thought dampens their ability to negotiate for a better opportunity that might be available. It also stems from the fear of losing the current position of an uncomfortable social environment post-negotiation.

With setting aspirations, the emphasis of the workshop was on how to clear ambiguities for a rewarding negotiation. There are three significant areas of ambiguity. One is ambiguity about who the negotiators are, another is an ambiguity about how to negotiate, and the third is an ambiguity about what exactly is negotiable.

When there’s ambiguity about “who” the negotiators are, we try to take information from the pre-set biases we may have for the person in that role. Knowing about the person we are negotiating with as an individual and a professional, would help us understand their position and shape the negotiation. Ambiguity about “how” is when you are equivocal about how to have the negotiation. In some organizations, that’s transparent, but in others, you have to use connections to know what is appropriate. Clearing ambiguity about “what” is negotiable is essential. Defining what our needs are and what is legitimate for the other side as well would help save us from awkward impasses during the negotiation.

We went back to our smaller groups, to discuss the case of one of our peers to clear the ambiguities, defining the type of negotiation, and formulating the negotiation case.

The session reminded me of a fantastic biography of Erin Brockovich. She negotiated her way in a career alien to her, while not losing her personality and even managed to get a humanitarian settlement with a big firm. The movie showed the power of negotiations, and the session was super helpful to actualize it ourselves.

Fatima Ahmed Salehbhai is a final year student of Mechanical Engineering at IIT, Bombay and a 2020 LedBy Her Fellow

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