Can you negotiate like Mad Men's Peggy Olson?

This article analyzes one of my favorite scenes from last Sunday's episode of the television show, Mad Men. When I watched it, I thought to myself: Yeah, that's how you do it. It was a good lesson on how to seize an opportunity to empower yourself-- in whatever way you want to. The article below makes some interesting points. Power to us Peggy-s!

Mad Men's "Peggy Olson"

In the last episode of Mad Men, Peggy is asked to work through the weekend on a copywriting project for a client.

Roger, ever the acerbic piranha, tosses 10 bucks her way for her, um, effort, and the lie he wants her to tell.

Peggy seizes the opportunity to exact a better deal.

That is, 400 bucks.

Here’s how it went down:

Peggy: Hold on a second. You want me to work up an entire corporate image campaign for 10 bucks?

Roger: I can make you do it for nothing. I’m the boss.

Peggy: You’re right. The work is $10. The lie is extra.

Roger: Incredible. What do you make a week, sweetheart?

Peggy: Oh, you don’t know. That’s helpful…

Roger; You know, I could fire you.

Peggy: Great. There are some portfolios in Joan’s office. You could find someone tonight.

Roger: Why are you doing this to me?

Peggy: Because you’re being very demanding for someone who has no other choice. Dazzle me.

Roger: Fine. How much do you want?

Peggy: How much you got?

Roger: $400.

Peggy: Give me all of it.

Roger: Jesus. (Hands $$ to her) This better be good.

Peggy: You want me to take your watch?

Boy, Peggy’s come a long way baby.

To put this in perspective, $400 in 1965 would be worth about $2800 today using the consumer price index inflation calculator.

That means Peggy increased Roger’s chump-change offer of around $75 by a factor of 37.

I call that a good ol’ boy negotiation.



Some might call it unladylike and unprofessional.

A little flirting, pressuring, threatening and extorting.

If the tables were turned, however, Roger would be called a baller, and he’d have a new accolade to add to his collection.

Peggy didn’t have negotiation training. It’s been clear from the start that she’s learned everything she needs to know about competing in a man’s world by the seat of her pants.

It’s that experience that has given her, by season four, such hard-won confidence in her abilities.

Still, in the same episode in which she so masterfully turns the tables on Roger, she worries about being “manly.”

She knows she can be replaced, albeit not on a Friday night, and not by someone who has her chops and institutional knowledge.

Opportunity was the mother of her invention, and negotiation made it worth her while.

Was Peggy secretly always this good?

Here’s another negotiation scene from season two in which Peggy uses irritation coupled with self-promotion to escape the office she’s been forced to share with a Xerox machine.

Peggy: I don’t know if you’re aware, but I brought in the popsicle account today. On my own [...]. I need my own office.

It’s hard to do business and be credible when I’m sharing the office with the Xerox machine. Freddy’s office has been vacant for some time and I think I should have it.

Roger: It’s yours.

Peggy: Really?

Roger: You young women are very aggressive.

Peggy: I didn’t mean to be impolite.

Roger: No it’s cute…there are 30 men out there who didn’t have the balls to ask me.

Season Two Peggy voiced her concerns about her “place” at the advertising agency out loud.

Season Four Peggy makes demands without apology, only later, after a few too many drinks with one of the new secretaries does she worry about being too “manly.”

Workplace performance expectations of women, by women and for women are still bollixed up with mixed desires to be winning, competitive, helpful, productive and strong without the gender “blow back” most women experience when they’re self- rather than other-serving.

Women suffer most by not asking in the first place. We suffer again when we fail to ask for reciprocity in exchange for extraordinary efforts.

Over time, this can make very attractive doormats of us.

To be sure, most of us, man or woman, would be on shaky ground “extorting” our bosses for cash. Then again, the boys on the golf course do it to one another all the time.

So, what do you think would be a fair exchange in today’s workplace for a desperate Roger-request?

Do you worry that your negotiating style will brand you as the word that rhymes with witch?

What “unreasonable” requests have you made lately?

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