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  • Margaret Curtis, MD

In Which I Negotiate Like A Man

My husband recently reminded me that I have not yet received my sign-on bonus - for the job I started 8 months ago. Which I was not initially offered and had to ask for. Which is included in my contract, which I also had to ask for. Since he knows there is a fine line between supporting and micromanaging, he was struggling to find the right words until he finally blurted out:


"A man would never put up with this."


That got me on my horse like nothing else. The next day, and almost every day since, I have been calling, emailing and even showing up at HR to discuss my errant bonus. Person who cuts checks is out today? I'd like to speak to whoever is covering. This has to go through legal for a promissory note? Sure, I will call over there. Promissory note has the wrong date on it? Try again, please and thank you.


And my gentle persistence and insistence that I get the sign-on bonus that every other new employee gets - worked . A mere 8 1/2 months after starting, I have my check in hand. (It will go straight into the high-yield savings account, and every year on the anniversary of my hire I can transfer another third into a taxable investing account. After three years of employment it's mine free and clear).


Being paid according to the terms of my contract may not seem like much of a victory, but for me it is. I went up against a bureaucracy that is not set up to look after my interests, and I did it with calm and efficiency.


I don't know if this is truly "negotiating like a man". I do know that the training young women receive, that is reinforced at every level of our education, to be conciliatory, self-sacrificing and pleasant can leave us with pretty poor negotiating skills. Adopting an attitude of healthy entitlement got me a lot farther than "going along to get along" or, the opposite, walking into negotiation with guns blazing. Those are the two extremes that someone who has been taught to avoid conflict tend to fall back on. I have tried both and neither has served me well. If I have to borrow calm assertiveness from a (fictive, stereotyped) male until I actually have my own, so be it.


Even better than a check is a check plus another patina of professional confidence overlaid on the old ones. And the timing couldn't be better, because not long after getting my bonus I got an email about a reassignment of exam rooms in my office. I think this will go well.

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