How to… negotiate with staff

05 February 2016
How to… negotiate with staff

Negotiating can put strain on professional relationships. Philip Cripps advises on how to get your way without causing long-term damage

I've never met anyone who admits to being a bad negotiator, and I have often wondered why so many consider themselves to be so competent at something that is both complex and intellectually demanding. Especially when so few people have been trained to negotiate.

Negotiating is not selling. Selling involves persuading someone to want to do what you want them to do, whereas negotiating involves securing a mutually acceptable agreement when one party wants to "buy", and the other wants to "sell". Negotiations requires the parties involved to trade concessions. Because if either or both parties are not prepared to move their positions, an impasse will be reached.

Remember, you want to keep the door open, rather than shut it in your team member's face. The negotiations you undertake all require you to demonstrate a range of skills and one very important attribute: patience.

Take time with your negotiations. Do not allow yourself to be rushed into hasty decisions. It is far better to walk away from a negotiation than to live to regret an outcome reached in haste.

Philip Cripps is managing director of Thameside

Eight ways to approach negotiations

1) Negotiations, regardless of their subject, involve giving and securing concessions. So don't negotiate unless you have to. Sell the merits of your proposition, idea or suggestion. Aim to become a ‘no-gotiator'.

2) One of the biggest advantages you have when negotiating with your staff is the fact you know each person. One of the biggest advantages your team member has is that they know you! Familiarity can become your biggest enemy, because you can be tempted to concede too much just to secure an agreement and to maintain your relationship. Therefore, separate your personal feelings from your professional responsibilities. Ensure your team member understands that you are going to focus on the issue, rather than on the relationship you may have with that individual.

3) Every negotiation has to be planned, you cannot afford to wing it. Planning involves (as a minimum) defining your objectives, calculating the concessions you could give, determining the concessions you require, structuring the opening to your discussion and rehearsing your responses to likely demands.

4) When you negotiate with a team member, look for what you have in common and not what divides you. It is all too easy to focus on your differences. You work in the same business and you share a lot in common, so highlight these points. They will help to reduce any tension between you.

5) I have referred to your need to grant and gain concessions. However, whenever you are prepared to offer a concession, make sure it is a conditional offer. Insert the word "if", for example: "I would be prepared to increase your holiday allowance if you agree today to

the new working arrangements".

6) Trade concessions one at a time. Effective negotiators treat every concession as a valuable asset. They never give everything away at the outset of a negotiation in the hope they will get something of equal value in return.

7) When your team member makes a demand of you, such "will you…" or "are you going to agree to…?", ensure your reply starts with the phrase "it depends". These two words offer wonderful protection. They allow you to explore the nature of the demand and gain you time to consider how to respond.

8) Negotiations can be emotive activities. That is why you have to avoid using killer words and phrases when you are placed under emotional pressure, such as "under no circumstances" or "you cannot be serious". Of course, there will be times when you will have to acknowledge that an agreement cannot be reached. When you are at this point, use softer phrases, such as "On this occasion I am unable to agree to…" and "Let's revisit this matter in a couple of weeks".

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