The meaning of negotiation skills for your career

April 30, 2018

Knowing how to negotiate good deals will foster your career perspectives.

If you want to get ahead in your job, you have to work hard, to show effective communications skills and you need a little bit of luck too. That’s obvious. But one skill is continuously underestimated: your ability to negotiate good deals. Your role in a company is constantly up for negotiation, therefore you need to recognize and capitalize on opportunities to negotiate for your future career success. But how do you do this? Here are three pieces of advice:

#1. Focus on your long-term success

Most people think of negotiation in a workplace environment only at salary negotiations. But money is only one aspect to feel valued and fulfilled as an employee. There are many more factors you should take into account. D. Lax (1) recommends keeping the “big picture“ in mind and thinking some steps ahead. What job would you like to do next, after the one you’re applying for right now? And what job could be of interest for you thereafter? These questions help you change your mindset and recognize other factors that you should include in your current job negotiations, like staff, training, job title, etc. For the employing company there should be no difference on which things they spend the money: on your salary or on other benefits that are important to you (i.e. an organization might pay your tuition for extra-occupational studies, maybe even at a lower cost than you would pay out of pocket).

#2. Re-negotiate individual workplace conditions over time

Once the new job has started, most people don’t re-negotiate their benefits. They rather change jobs to get what they need, instead of approaching their current boss again.  That’s a capitulation and comparable to leaving the negotiation table too early in other business negotiations. Here gender differences play an important role too, but that’s another discussion. 

In general there are different types of negotiations at work: the ones where you deal with clients and customers on behalf of your company (commercial negotiations), as well as those where you negotiate for yourself and for your individual workplace conditions (i.e. asking for additional resources for a specific task, negotiating through a disagreement with a co-worker, or demanding a higher salary).

Let’s assume your superior hasn’t promoted you in two years. Probably you don’t know what might be possible, and you assume that he might have no incentives to negotiate with you, leaving it up to you to start the conversation. First, you should gather information from your network inside and outside the company on what’s possible. Then you should “motivate“ the other party to negotiate with you, e.g. by making your value for him visible (prepare in detail all your successes of the past two years and show him how the company, and he as superior benefited from your achievements).

#3. Have an alternative when negotiating your workplace benefits

Employees often start these kind of negotiations with a clear goal in mind. When some see that their plan is not going to work, that may threat quitting or changing the department. Unfortunately, in most cases these threats have no well-founded ground. Therefore you should search in your preparation for the negotiation for interesting opportunities in and outside of the company. Apply for these jobs, make your alternative (BATNA) as attractive as possible to you. With a strong BATNA you are prepared to leave the table if necessary, without hurting yourself or your reputation.

#4. Keep internal stakeholders when negotiating commercial issues

In a commercial negotiation with clients and customers you also have to convince stakeholders in your own organization (i.e. finance, general counsel, product development, production/manufacturing, etc.). At the beginning, start with exploring your company’s complex interests. Arrange meetings with key personnel,  find out how they view the potential deal and what interests of theirs you may need to accommodate to ensure successful implementation. Then, secure a mandate to negotiate on behalf of these stakeholders, such as the authority to explore certain kinds of deals and perhaps make temporary commitments on their behalf. If you achieve the goal, make sure to keep the persons who mandated you up to date on your progress, and involve them as appropriate. This will strengthen your mandate. Finally, educate these individuals about any special needs or challenges that arise, such as cultural issues or policies that put constraints on your external partner.

If you follow this advice, and if you display the right mindset/approach in your negotiation, your reputation as a valuable negotiator will boost your career.

(1) David A. Lax, coauthor of „3-D Negotiation: Powerful Tools to Change the Game in Your Most Important Deals, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2006, Lax/Sebenius

ISMAN & Partner
ISMAN & Partner ist eine Unternehmensberatung, die nationale und internationale Konzerne, mittelständische Betriebe und Start-ups, Organisationen und Institutionen bei komplexen Verhandlungs- und Konfliktlösungsprozessen begleitet. 2015 von Calin-Mihai Isman gegründet, unterstützen die Experten für Negotiation & Mediation Manager und Mitarbeiter aus den Bereichen Sales, Einkauf, M&A, Contracting, HR oder IT.


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