Managers negotiate daily. Most of their negotiations are informal conversations with their staff, co-workers and customers. Many managers are poor negotiators because they did not learn the art of negotiating. You can become a better negotiator at work by doing 10 simple, yet powerful, things.
1. You negotiate with people, not companies, departments or organizations.
As a negotiating manager, you meet people. Workplace negotiations are about building and growing mutually beneficial relationships with these people. People have their own interests, needs and motivations besides their goals for the organization. You will be more successful negotiating at work when you help your staff, co-workers and others get what they want personally and professionally.
2. Perception is reality.
Perception is more powerful than fact. Negotiation is about perceived value. People act upon what they perceive to be true. To improve your negotiation skills, learn to create perceived value in the minds of the people in which you are negotiating. Point out the value and benefits of doing what you want done. Educating others is a critical negotiating skill.
3. Always be willing to walk away from a deal.
The person who must reach agreement has the least leverage and power in the negotiation. If you must make a deal at all costs, you are not negotiating. You might be groveling, begging or pleading, but you are not negotiating. Determine what you will do if you cannot negotiate an agreement, and use that option to evaluate potential deals. If you cannot get a workable agreement that is fair to everyone, your best option may be to walk away and end the negotiation.
4. When you make a concession, get a concession.
When the other person asks you to give them something, ask for something in return. For example, ask "If I do this for you, what can you do for me?" Trading concessions is an expected and accepted practice in negotiation. It works for managers, too. People perceive a concession as more valuable when it costs something to get it. Use concessions from the other party to increase the value of what you are giving them.
5. Do not negotiate with yourself or unilaterally disarm.
Sometimes the other party will ask, "Would you be willing to take X?" This is an inquiry without a specific offer. Your response should be, "Are you offering X?" Otherwise, you are committing yourself to accepting something without getting something in return.
6. Expand the issues in a negotiation.
This will increase the number of potential bargaining chips and ways to put together a deal. Do not narrow a negotiation to a single issue. Single-issue negotiations are difficult to resolve, especially if they involve strong emotions, because you have no room to trade concessions. You want to have multiple options, issues and interests so you can create bargaining opportunities. Find ways to trade things that are of low value to you, but of high value to the other party. In return, get them to give you what is of low value to them, but highly valued by you.
For example, do not narrow a negotiation over a job offer to the single issue of salary. Expand the negotiation to include other issues like relocation packages, job responsibilities, promotion opportunities and timing.
7. Don't get greedy.
Look at the long-term relationship. If you bargain tough and get the last dime on the table but damage the working relationship, you may lose in the end. When forced into an unworkable agreement, people will try to get out of it at their first opportunity. The best thing to do is to give extra value and build a long-term working relationship. Let the other party feel they got a better-than-fair deal.
8. Avoid confrontational negotiation.
Find common ground with the other party. See negotiation as a common search for solutions to problems. Refer to similar experiences that resulted in success. Try to see things from their perspective by figuratively, if not literally, stepping to the same side or sitting in their seat when you negotiate. Confrontation escalates conflict in the workplace and forces people to seek allies and reinforcements. Treat a negotiation as mutual problem solving. Ask, "How can we work together to find a solution to this problem?"
9. Negotiate from interests, not positions.
A common problem in negotiation is deciding what conditions you will or will not accept before you do any negotiating. When that happens, you dig into your positions and defend them at all costs. An alternative is to identify the real interests and needs behind the positions and look for other ways to satisfy those needs. Listen to learn the other person's interests and needs. Yes, really listen to what the other person is trying to tell you. Explore why the person wants what they are asking for and what it will do for them if they get it.
10. Recognize the principle of declining value of services.
The value of your services goes down quickly and dramatically after you perform the services or deliver the goods. Negotiate your compensation before delivery or performance. Know in advance what you will get in return.
Do these 10 things and many of your workplace negotiation problems will disappear. Soon, people will marvel at how skillfully you get what you really need and make deals that really work in the workplace.
Terry Bragg, the founder of Peacemakers Training in Salt Lake City is the author of 31 Days to High Self-Esteem. He works with organizations that want their people to work together better and with individuals who want to improve their people skills.