When your work life is good and everyone is getting along, it’s easy to let your negotiation skills slip. However, it never seems to last long. As much as you may dread it, change happens. You might get a new boss, a new employee or a new colleague who turns your happy life upside down.
When change happens, it’s time for you to brush up on your negotiation skills so you can become your own advocate. If you’re aiming for a promotion or raise, for example, you should be able to explain why you are deserving of it. Practicing your persuasive speaking will do you a world of good in this situation. Good communication is key. You can’t expect to negotiate effectively if you can’t articulate your position.
Simply saying, “I need a raise,” isn’t going to win over your manager. Instead, say something along the lines of:“I appreciate you complimenting me on my successful handling of that big account last week. I’d like to get some time on your calendar in the next few days to update you on my other high-profile account accomplishments. During my last evaluation, we discussed the possibility of me getting a raise based on these types of endeavors, and I’d appreciate your feedback as to how close I am to meeting that goal.” Not only are you showing your confidence, but you’re also showing the extent to which you took the suggestions on your performance review to heart.
It’s advantageous to be emotionally adept. If someone was promoted ahead of you, it’s perfectly OK to ask what you could have done better. Practice a mature, neutral tone of voice, so when you ask for time to discuss the query with your supervisor, you’ll come across as a colleague eager to learn — which sets you up as a candidate who will be well thought of in the next round of promotions.
I believe becoming emotional about a change that doesn’t benefit you personally will waste your time and diminish your sense of perspective. It’s easy to think someone has it in for you when your work world falls to pieces. Step back and look at the situation dispassionately, and you’ll realize that you weren’t the personal target of the change. It was likely initiated by a business need in the organization.
I’ve worked with people who think their VP has a personal vendetta against them. It’s difficult to make progress in your career when you won’t stop complaining. It doesn’t solve anything, and it only serves to make you look irrational. No one is interested in giving a raise to, or promoting, an employee with a negative attitude.
What instigated the change?
Divorce your feelings of betrayal from your powers of logic to answer the question, “What caused the change?” Is one office or department underperforming? Are there some major discrepancies in the projected profits and the current balance sheet? Did corporate decide to consolidate offices?
Instead of bottling up your feelings, reach out and connect on a reasonable and honest level. If at first you feel like doing some venting, remember that work is likely not the proper venue. Your friends and loved ones can provide you with a safe space to express your feelings. Take a deep breath, and connect with a workplace counselor, trusted colleague or mentor.
When your boss announces the change or holds a preliminary meeting, you might be too overwhelmed at that time to make sense of it all. Once you’ve processed it, you can absorb the facts, have a constructive meeting and negotiate your way into a more advantageous position during the change.
When you do feel ready to negotiate, be prepared. Who will be in the meeting? What questions are you likely to be asked? This is the time to bring facts and figures with you. Documentation, logic and rational thinking are called for.
Be an active listener. What are the major points being made? Make notes so when it’s your time to speak, you have relevant material to bring to the conversation. The best negotiations are collaborations where everybody wins at least a little.
If you’re new to the negotiation game, consider the advice of “Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains” by Deborah M. Kolb and Jessica L. Porter. They explain, “If you have previously never negotiated in your workplace, then you’ve essentially trained people to expect that you will not do so.” They advised that if others will likely be surprised by the fact you’re even negotiating, you “should address their surprise and consider how they will react to the content of your negotiation.”
Think about how you’re going to frame this negotiation in the best light for the team and for the company. How can you ease the participants into a valuable discussion mode? Consider the tools you have, from persuasive speaking to credible presentation material.
Ensure you’re all on the same page.
I’ve found clarification is also important. The assumptions you and your perceived adversary have made might be completely off the mark. According to Peter Landau at Project Manager, “Chances are both parties are walking into a negotiation with a lot of preconceived ideas of what the other wants. … Therefore, it’s always helpful to start the negotiations on the same page by asking the other party what their motivation is.”
When you step outside yourself and think in terms of the other person, the main participant in this negotiation, you bring yourself into a different viewpoint, and you can get into a better space for the meeting. When you think of it as a fair compromise between two or more parties who desire different paths to the same outcome, it’s easier to visualize a successful conclusion for everyone concerned.
Once you’ve managed the art of cooperation instead of confrontation, you’re well on the way to achieving a peaceful and profitable resolution to the issue at hand.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes