Negotiation Techniques for the Workplace
Whether you’re discussing a raise with a supervisor or reviewing your building’s lease with a landlord, knowing how to negotiate is an important skill for association professionals. An expert shares negotiation tips and how to apply them in the workplace.
The process of negotiating can be stressful and uncomfortable, and people don’t want to be perceived as greedy if they “win” or weak if they “lose.” Those are some of the reasons why many association pros shy away from negotiation, according to Belinda Lyons-Newman, principal and founder of Lyons-Newman Consulting.
However, reimagining negotiations as an opportunity to engage in learning, listening, and collaborative problem-solving can not only help people approach these discussions confidently but also lead to better solutions for all parties.
“Everyone is better off being good a negotiator,” Lyons-Newman said. “In an effective and productive negotiation, both people do well by working together. You can expand the number of options available through creative dialogue and exploration of each other’s interest.”
The path to becoming a better negotiator starts before any negotiation begins. Do some research and think about what you want and what you anticipate the other individual may be able to offer.
“For example, if you’re planning to talk to a potential funder, research what gifts they’ve given elsewhere, and how much, and to what causes,” Lyons-Newman said. “You want to get a sense of where you stand, your alternatives, and what alternatives the person you’re negotiating with has.”
Knowing the best alternative means having a sense of your backup plan if the negotiation doesn’t work out the way you initially wanted.
“Once you have an alternative in mind, determine your aspiration point, or your goal for the negotiation,” Lyons-Newman said. “Also identify your resistance point, or your bottom line; it’s often slightly better than your best alternative.”
Doing this work prior to your meeting will put you in a good place for the conversation.
According to Lyons-Newman, honoring your relationship and acting with integrity can have a positive impact on your negotiations. In other words, don’t lie and do what you can to create a feeling of trust throughout the negotiation. The goal is to find common ground and create value for both parties.
“Instead of approaching a negotiation where you’re dividing pieces of a finite pie, you want to expand the pie,” she said. “Constructive conversations can help you expand the options available.”
Whether you’re approaching your supervisor about your salary or work-life balance, be clear about what your values are and what you’re looking for from the negotiation.
“Don’t downplay the things that you’re negotiating for,” Lyons-Newman said. “Express your appreciation and explain what it is that you value.”
By finding areas of commonality with the other person, both parties can reach an agreeable arrangement that will increase the value for everyone.
Offers and Compromises
Though it might feel intimidating, it’s not a bad idea to make the first offer in the negotiation. According to Lyons-Newman, the first offer has an anchoring effect that can influence the rest of the discussion.
“Making the first offer can help forward problem-solving,” she said. “You’re putting an idea out on the table to see if it works, so it can help you get to a solution.”
As you discuss options and issues, you may find yourself making compromises. When you are in compromise mode, make sure you let the other person know that you are making that concession.
“Your negotiating partner will appreciate a sense of flexibility,” Lyons-Newman said. “Be clear that you are compromising, have a clear rationale for making it, and ask for something in return.”
No matter the outcome, it’s important to keep up a friendly rapport throughout the discussion and thank your negotiation partner at the end. Even if the negotiation fails, maintaining a good relationship can help keep the door open to future agreements and conversations.
“Leaving a conversation without reaching an agreement isn’t always a sign of an unsuccessful negotiation,” Lyons-Newman said. “It might just be that you explored, listened, and problem-solved, and decided for both of you that it wasn’t the right fit. That can still be successful.”