How to Negotiate Effectively When You Feel Outgunned
Hired as vice president of a multinational's high-profile division, Noel wasn't happy. Due to his past successes, technical credentials and stellar references, he should have been able to write his ticket. However, he wasn't thrilled by the offer he accepted and he blames himself. Noel [a composite of three executives] had been ardently recruited, sailed through the headhunter's initial screening, done his homework on the company and survived the hugs and heat with composure. He seemed to have all the leverage he needed. So what happened? When negotiating business matters involving others, Noel is highly skilled, fair and able to hold his own. But when negotiations involve his role, compensation and performance incentives, things break down. He believes he didn't effectively present his cause, which cost him financially and reduced his clout in his new role. Certainly, his new package isn't insulting, and he won't know for a while how his standing might be affected. But this matter isn't trivial or without future reverberations. All people act on the basis of their perceptions, and Noel perceives himself as having negotiated poorly, which may color his interactions in his new job. Perhaps he'll show resentment or overcompensate for his perceived loss of standing by being too aggressive. His may have less self-control and self-confidence or feel more passive, conformist or conflict-averse than usual. None of this bodes well for his future. Dangers of the "Game Face" Two factors likely were at work during his talks: 1. How the parties regarded the interview process and 2. The perceived alignment of power -- formal and informal -- among the negotiating parties. People contemplating marriage spend more time and effort thinking about the wedding than about married life; after all, the wedding is the threshold event. Similarly, many job seekers see the interview and selection process as an end unto itself. They want to "create good chemistry" and find the right "fit," and they're genuinely concerned with their long-term satisfaction, growth and economic well-being. Yet when immersed in the hiring process, many candidates get caught up in the dynamics. Rather than seeing it as the foundation for long-term relationships or a way to gauge the working environment, they try to "win" the interview and get the offer. In the heat of the moment, even the most sophisticated executives can lapse into a reactive, shortsighted mindset and communicate from behind a "game face." This may be a poker face, happy façade or something glib. One senior corporate lawyer calls it her "dancing-bear suit." Rather than being an exchange of relevant information or an exercise in rapport-building, the interview process becomes a form of ritual competition. It's interviewer vs. interviewee and a question of who can out-think whom. It can get manipulative on both sides. Don't Forget to Buy Don't let your eagerness to look good or please screeners hamper your resolve to learn all you can about your role and authority or the "culture," style and temperament of co-workers. In other words, don't forget to buy. You must learn how performance will be gauged and about the forces affecting your advancement. Noel isn't sure about his standing because he allowed the selection process to play out superficially, with all parties maintaining game faces. They postured. He postured. Now no one knows where the other stands. A surprising number of executives leave attractive jobs after short, unsuccessful tenures. They often say they knew during interviews there might be a problem, but they didn't want to make waves. They hoped for the best...and got the worst. Particularly at the executive level, a quick choice can be catastrophic. If significant concerns arise affecting fit, it's better to air them during the selection process. If they're deal-killers, better to know now. Faces of Power
Noel and his new employer didn't intend for his interviews and negotiations to be winner-take-all battles. His interviewers weren't trying to bargain for advantage or take Noel down a peg. Yet somehow things got adversarial, with Noel feeling like he "lost." Power isn't a simple yes-or-no thing. There are many types and styles of power, each reflecting a different mode of influencing others. Noel has a lot of "expert" power due to his industry knowledge and technical credentials. Oprah Winfrey and Robert Redford have charismatic power, and people tend to follow them irrationally. Mother Theresa had moral power, while the mugger holding a Glock 9 to your head has punitive power. Interviewers have position power: clout because they're making the hiring decision. Most people have a natural primary "default" power that shapes how they influence others. They assume others will relate to them using the same primary power style. This means they may not use the type of power that's most appropriate for a particular situation. If they attempt to override their natural influencing style, they may seem forced or unnatural. When two human beings meet, they subconsciously seek answers to four power-related questions:
Do I respect you? Who defers to whom...and why? Do I like you? Do I feel comfortable and open with you? Do I believe and trust what you're saying? Are we having a real conversation or is our interaction artificial or manipulative? Are we alike? Do we share the values, priorities and experiences needed for a meaningful relationship?
An employment negotiations, these rapport- and trust-building questions become muted and manipulated, masking the parties' true power posture. Both with words and demeanor, a candidate for a leadership position may want to seem as powerful and decisive as possible -- despite being an affiliation-seeking or collaborative person. Tough guys may try to appear mellow or deferential; conservatives may try to look entrepreneurial. Noel got caught between being respected and being liked. Knowing that his style can be aloof and opinionated, he tried to seem personable and collaborative. He may have succeeded too well -- coming across as more accommodating than he really is. He made himself likable and showed he could address the organization's needs. But in so doing, he didn't get his needs and priorities articulated and ratified. Noel's authority was diminished in a series of baby steps during the negotiations. When he deferred on a point, the employer liked it, so he deferred more. Pretty soon, he felt the leverage and momentum shift, and he couldn't reassert himself without appearing aggressive. He lost power for negotiating his employment terms and compensation. Noel also experienced his potential employers' manifest but unspoken power to reject him without explanation. As a rational, cause-and-effect decision-maker, he was threatened by the idea he might lose because of someone's whim or bias. Subconsciously he became cautious, so he wouldn't offend his interviewers. It's critical to not lose sight of the benefits of the long-term employment relationship in the short-term interview context. In the interview process, potential employers invariably have the upper hand. They set the pace and appear to define the rules of engagement. If the interviewee tries to over-control the process, the interviewer can reassert power by showing him the door. Therefore, skillful candidates shift everyone's perspective from the immediate power alignments to the long term "benefits of the bargain" -- how everyone will win, and why. They keep reminding the employer of the marriage, not just the wedding. Terms and Conditions When agreeing to roles, responsibilities and authority, the process should have a strong win-win flavor. Talking about the things you can agree upon first will establish a constructive tenor. Here, it's important to stress "we" rather than "I." Discussions about money are inherently adversarial. The employer wants to pay as little as possible; you want to maximize the pay figure. If employment negotiations start with an adversarial issue, one
party will feel like a winner and the other at least somewhat victimized. This victor-victim subtext can taint discussions about other issues. So talk about compensation last -- after you have demonstrated the value you can add to the organization. All too frequently, discussions about money, benefits and perks degenerate into genteel haggling, not unlike flea-market bargaining. The employer opens by saying he's prepared to offer X. You say Y would be "a reasonable expectation." He says they can do X + 5%. You say you could see "all the way down to Y - 8%." And so on. But unlike the flea market, where you can take or leave that antique nutcracker, these stakes are higher. And the process both use isn't designed to set a fair market price on your added value -- it's to see who will back down first. The dynamics of the transaction eclipse the bigger value-added picture. One leading candidate was told to "come on in, because we're going to make you an offer." He started the meeting by saying, "I'm very flattered to be receiving an offer, but my priority is finding a way to make this work so that each side comes out feeling like they've been respected and not out-bargained. "Given this premise, before you tell me what you're prepared to offer, would you tell me why you're offering it? I have a reasonable expectation of what an attractive package might be, based on the research I've done. I'll be pleased to tell you the factors I've used for my expectation -- if you'll share with me the factors you're using for your offer. If I'm all wet, I'll listen; I don't want to be unrealistic or overplay my hand. On the other hand, I'd welcome the opportunity to understand and comment on the basis of your thinking. That way we can put a fair price on the value I'm capable of delivering, rather than seeing who can overpower whom." After a pause, the board chairman said, "OK, that's fair." When Noel heard of this conversation, his response was, "Gee, I wish I'd thought of that."
Negotiate Like The Pros...The Book
Does This Sound Familiar? Elaine, an office employee, walks up to the secretary's desk on Monday morning and says, "Barbara, do we have any refill cartridges for the computer printer?" Barbara says, "Did you look in the supply closet?" Elaine answers, "I didn't see any, it would probably be a good idea to order a couple. We have several projects that will be wrapped up in the next week or so, and I don't think the cartridge we're using now will hold up." Barbara responds, "To tell you the truth, Elaine, I don't see how I'm going to have time in the next couple of days to take care of that. The boss just gave me a week's worth of dictation he needs typed up and mailed out by tomorrow afternoon, plus all the end-of-quarter reports are due by Friday. Do we really need a refill in the next couple of day?" Elaine says, "Yes, we do, or we stand a chance of missing some important deadlines. Will it help any if I find the refill number for you so you don't have to take the time to look it up?" "That'll make it a whole lot easier," Barbara responds. "Just put the number on my desk next to the phone, and I'll place the order either this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning. Will that be soon enough?" Elaine says, "Sure," and goes to get the cartridge number.
What's Negotiation? Any human activity that involves two or more persons usually requires some degree of negotiation. Asking for help at work, coordinating chores at home, discussing give-and-take arrangements on the job: most of us, deal with these kinds of situations several times a week. In fact, it's about as easy to avoid negotiating as it is to avoid breathing. Unfortunately, negotiating effectively, unlike breathing, is not an automatic reflex for most of us. Even though we spend a great deal of our time negotiating for things we want, most of us are not natural-born negotiators. We may be afraid to ask for what we want, so we go without; or, we ask for too little. Sometimes we demand too much. Basically, a lot of people just don't know how to get what they want without being SOB's. You Can Learn to Negotiate Effectively If you understand the process, exactly what it means to negotiate effectively, you can improve your performance at the bargaining table immensely. If you are committed to getting what you want in life, you can become an expert negotiator by mastering the basic strategies and tactics that work in all kinds of negotiations, from convincing your spouse to help with the housework, to hammering out an acceptable compensation package with your boss, to buying a house, to just about anything. As a trial lawyer, I've handled everything from simple wills to death-penalty murder cases. As a consultant who provides training and development programs for businesses and legal professionals, I spend many hours working out the details of consulting packages and fees with my clients. In other words, the bargaining table is a second home to me. And I can tell you that although every case is a unique negotiating opportunity, most of the strategies and tactics I share in Negotiate like the Pros(tm) can be modified to suit any occasion. Is Negotiate like the Pros for You? Have you ever walked away from negotiations shaking your head and saying to yourself, "Boy, is she a shrewd negotiator. I just gave up everything but my first-born child"? Have you ever felt like you could have negotiated a better deal if only you had known what you were getting into? Have you ever wished you were the kind of person who would "drive a hard bargain"? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, this book is for you. Most people don't consider themselves "negotiators." They believe negotiating is reserved for the big-league players in business and politics. Well, wipe that misconception out of your mind. That myth is just one of many that this book blows out of the water. Negotiating is unavoidable if you ever have contact with other people. And it can be a fun and rewarding experience - if you know what you're doing. Read Negotiate like the Pros™, and you'll know what you're doing. This book, which is based on years of experience and the study of many expert negotiators, is a comprehensive guide to effective negotiation. In it, you will discover the pragmatic strategies and tactics that translate into power at the bargaining table. You will also learn about the dynamics of the negotiating process, which will help you build on your strengths as a negotiator.
Christine Fiske and Janet A. Clark Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia Have you ever experienced any of the following?
A father and daughter argue over the use of the family car. Two brothers disagree about whose job it is to take out the trash and demand that a parent settle their argument. A couple strongly disagrees over how to balance a checking account. A wife and husband are increasingly at odds over how to share housework and child care. A parent's job is threatened because he or she regularly misses work due to a preschooler's frequent illnesses. Employees resent their employer, who has set an inflexible work schedule to follow.
Disagreements are bound to happen because parents and children, employees and employers, and couples inevitably have differences in their opinions, values and goals. Many common situations can become sources of disagreements and conflict in personal relationships.
To find solutions to these disagreements, negotiation skills are needed every day at home, at work and in the community. Negotiation means developing an ability to resolve disputes and conflicts. Effective negotiation requires a willingness to work with other people to reach solutions that everyone can live with. Your personal relationships are often shaped by how well you are able to manage and settle conflicts. If conflict is managed effectively, then a relationship can be maintained. But if conflict is handled poorly, the outcomes may weaken your relations with family, friends and work acquaintances over time.
Ineffective approaches to conflict The following examples illustrate some common situations that can lead to conflict. After a discussion of how to develop successful negotiating skills, this publication concludes with suggestions for resolving the conflicts in these examples. Example 1: Parent-child conflict It's Friday, and Jose' and his mother are arguing once again about the teenager's weekend curfew. Mrs. Santiago has grown increasingly distressed by her son's continuing resistance to the 11 p.m. curfew she has set. Jose' insists that this is unfair. Both become so angry and frustrated that they storm off to separate areas of the house to avoid each other and further conflict. Example 2: Workplace conflict Lamont has been late for work several times in recent weeks. He has failed to turn in several important project outlines on time without explanation or apology, annoying his employer. Until recently, Lamont's attendance and performance at work had been consistent, motivated, and highly productive. Lamont's recent behavior has been so uncharacteristic that his employer decides to confront him, demanding a meeting the next day.
Example 3: Marital conflict Diana and James have the "perfect" marriage, two children and a lovely home. Both work in professions that provide personal satisfaction as well as a comfortably secure income. They have "made it." And they are miserable. Work and family roles have left them with little time to spend together and have increased their areas of disagreement. Diana and James have become focused on meeting their own needs with little regard for the needs of the other. Resentment, dissatisfaction and conflict are all they seem to share any longer. The goal of negotiation: "everyone wins" People resolve disagreements in many ways. Some tend to deal with potential conflict by denying it or trying to avoid it altogether. Instead of confronting and resolving problems, people may let their anger and resentment build while they remain silent. This approach can result in constant personal stress, which can lead to illness or poor general health. If disagreements are not resolved, the possibility for more intense conflicts at some later date is increased. Problems seldom improve on their own. Conflict can involve issues of power and authority. Adults may resort to threats and punishments to solve problems with children. Labor unions may strike and management may respond by laying off workers. These are examples of using power to control, intimidate and force solutions on other people. These forced outcomes only add to the grounds for future conflict. Conflict can also be motivated by ego. Solutions are selfishly sought with little regard for the other person. The conflict becomes a "win/lose" situation in which one person "wins" at someone else's expense. The one-sidedness of this "solution" increases the odds of more conflict. "Losers" will defy, test, resist and retaliate against the "winners." Effective negotiation is a two-way process that encourages both sides to actively participate in making decisions. It also provides a way for people to learn to understand each other better and to grow in their relationships. Negotiation helps to create a healthy balance between "giving" and "getting." Everyone becomes a "winner" through negotiation. How can everyone win? The key to effective negotiation is clear communication. Communication involves three important skills: understanding. You can't have one skill work without the others — for example, you can't have good understanding without good listening and speaking. Negotiation is most effective when people are able to clearly identify and discuss their sources of disagreement and misunderstanding. Speaking. Negotiation begins with a clear, concise explanation of the problem as each person sees it. Facts and feelings are presented in a rational manner from the individual's perspective, using "I" statements. Communication between people will go more smoothly when statements such as "I become very upset when you " are used rather than more aggressive statements such as "You make me mad when you," which blames the other person and puts him or her in a defensive position. Shared concerns rather than individual issues remain the focus of discussion throughout negotiation. The negotiation process will be most effective when people take time to think through what they will say. When possible, plan ahead to meet at a time and place convenient to everyone. A quiet, neutral spot where there are few distractions or interruptions is perfect for open discussion. Listening. Listening is an active process of concentrating all of one's attention on the other person. Encouraging the other person to share thoughts and feelings, giving feedback on what has been heard, and maintaining eye contact are skills that show you are interested in understanding
what he or she has to say. It is always helpful to simply ask, "I understood you to say Am I correct in this?" or "I hear you saying that you are Is that how you feel?" Active listening assures the other person that he or she is heard, accepted and respected. The ability to listen actively supports open, ongoing negotiation. Thinking ahead or anticipating the course of the discussion are distractions that interfere with listening. Poor attention and listening can lead to misunderstandings, inappropriate solutions and continuing conflict. Understanding. Before two sides can look for solutions, a common understanding must be reached. If two people do not understand each other's problems and concerns, then the process of negotiation will either be broken off or will end with solutions that do not work. Active listening encourages understanding. It is important to pay close attention to what someone says as well as to how he or she behaves. Body language, including facial expressions, hand gestures and degree of eye contact, can provide clues about the other person's thoughts and feelings. Observations, however, are shaped as much by the observer as by the person being observed. It is good practice never to assume to understand the other person without first asking, "Did I hear you correctly?" or "I have noticed that you appear " or "I sense you are under strain. Do you want to talk about this?" and "I'd like to hear from you about how you are feeling" are all good examples of statements that encourage communication and better understanding between people. Guidelines for successful negotiation Show respect. Success rests in accepting the other person despite differences in values, beliefs, educational experiences, ethnic backgrounds or perspectives. Negotiation permits you to examine a problem from all sides, and to promote understanding and interest in the other person without necessarily agreeing to her or his viewpoint. Taking time to listen and to ask questions makes it easier to learn more about someone's perspectives. Considering different perspectives will increase the range and variety of possible solutions. Genuine interest in other people and in their contribution to finding solutions builds trust. Trust provides a foundation for continuing a relationship. A foundation of trust also eases future efforts to solve problems. Recognize and define the problem. Each person begins with a clearly identified statement of what he or she wants and/or needs. Negotiation should identify not only individual concerns, but mutual concerns, perceptions and interests. From this process, a common ground for agreement between the individuals is sought. Selfish issues and goals are eliminated in favor of mutually acceptable goals. Problems are examined apart from the personalities involved. Blaming the other person is inappropriate and destroys the cooperative nature of negotiation. Seek a variety of solutions. More information about the problem may be needed before a solution can be decided upon. It may be helpful to examine other sources of information such as books, magazine articles and people who may be familiar with the issue. Outside assistance may help you to overcome your own biases. Mediators can provide impartial assistance with the negotiation process. Brainstorming is one way to gather many creative ideas rapidly. This process allows everyone to openly make suggestions without fear of criticism. At this stage, every suggestion has value and is accepted. After all suggestions have been shared, they are reviewed to determine whether they might coincide or overlap with each other. Negotiation then becomes a matter of choosing a solution to which no one has an objection. Remember, personal goals should not take priority over shared goals. Collaborate. Working together doesn't mean "giving up" or "giving in" to another person's demands or goals. Two or more individuals can agree that disagreement exists. However, they can also agree to put aside their anger, frustration, resentment and egos in favor of working
together for a solution to a common problem. All negotiated work is completed by consensus. A negotiated solution is reached when everyone has given up something to gain common benefits. Be reliable. It is important to follow through with negotiated agreements. The very work of negotiation implies a commitment toward whatever outcome has been decided. Developing a "plan of action" that spells out who is going to do what, where, when and how is helpful. This plan is followed for a specified period of time, then evaluated at the end of that time period. It may be necessary to change plans and goals along the way, depending on how well the first draft met the shared needs of the individuals involved. However, the success of any negotiated outcome depends on everyone's fullest cooperation and participation. Individuals become reliable and trustworthy partners as a result. Preserve the relationship. In general, people will try to preserve valued relationships. Negotiation is a non-adversarial approach to resolving conflict in those relationships. There are no "good guys," "bad guys," or "winners/losers." Negotiation is based on equality. No one wields more power or control than another. The individual's ideas, attitudes, values and objectives are recognized and respected as legitimate. Solutions are mutually agreed upon. Successful negotiation outcomes This section provides suggestions for resolving the conflicts discussed in the three examples at the beginning of this publication. Example 1: Parent-child conflict Effective approach: compromise. Mrs. Santiago has retreated to her room to calm down. It is time to discuss the issue of curfew with Jose' directly. She is careful to listen to Jose' and to give him time, attention and respect. He can express feelings without fear that his mother will ignore or reject them. Jose' admits that he had grown frustrated by his mother's seeming lack of respect for him, causing his anger. Mrs. Santiago and Jose' agree to an 11:30 p.m. curfew. Jose' had asked for a midnight curfew, but settles for the additional half hour. Mother and son have found a middle-ground solution that both can live with. Example 2: Workplace conflict Effective approach: consensus. At the meeting, Lamont explains that he has been caring for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Attempting to maintain a schedule at home and at work has proven difficult. Lamont is concerned that he will lose his job. Lamont's employer reassures him that his job is not in jeopardy. However, alternative and more flexible scheduling must be considered to resolve family-work conflicts. A consensus is sought. The employer values Lamont's training and experience, and Lamont values his job and his employer's understanding. Both are willing to discuss options and to try out alternatives that best serve mutual needs. Example 3: Marital conflict Effective approach: mediation. Intimate relationships can become battlegrounds of unresolved issues, complaints and unrealistic expectations. Diana and James' marriage is one that is stuck and in serious trouble. They are unable to step back and view their problems rationally. Both have acknowledged their inability to resolve any of the multiple problems facing them. Diana and James decide to seek the assistance of a family mediator.
Licensed family mediators are trained to provide impartial help in defining the problems and to assist in the problem-solving process. Mediators and counselors both provide additional information and resources to individuals in difficult relationships. Mediation has proven successful in relationships that have repeated difficult-to-solve problems. Diana and James' marital problems are not unusual. For that reason, family mediation services are being used more often as an alternative to counseling and/or legal services. For further information concerning family mediation, see "Resources."
Summary As life becomes more complex and the world more diverse, your ability to use negotiation skills becomes more important. Negotiation requires time and patience. By practicing the negotiation strategies and skills suggested in this publication, you can make conflict resolution a regular part of your approach to managing relationships at home, at work and in the community. Negotiation can serve not only to preserve relationships, but to continually strengthen and improve them. Negotiation is most successful when both sides:
Recognize the value of a relationship and have a mutual desire to continue it. Participate actively in the process. Show consideration and acceptance of each other's perspectives, values, beliefs and goals. Separate personality from the issue involved. Work together to develop a solution everyone can accept.
Successful negotiation tips:
Communicate clearly. Respect the other person. Recognize and clearly define the problem. Seek solutions from a variety of sources. Collaborate to reach a mutual solution. Be reliable. Preserve the relationship.
Resources The Academy of Family Mediators. P.O. Box 10501, Eugene, OR 97440. (503) 345-1205. Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R. and McKay, M. (1988). The relaxation and stress reduction
workbook. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Fisher, R. and Brown, S. (1989). Getting together: Building relationships as we
negotiate. New York: Penguin Books.
Fisher, R., Ury, W., and Patton, B. (2nd Ed., 1991). Getting to yes: Negotiating
agreement without giving in. New York: Penguin Books.
Maddux, R. (Rev. Ed., 1988). Successful negotiation: Effective "win-win" strategies and
tactics. Los Altos, Calif.: Crisp Publications, Inc.