Why It’s Crucial To Negotiate Successfully In the Workplace


How are your negotiation skills? Are you deploying them successfully at work to drive positive change, manage projects, motivate employees and address issues? If not, you might need to prioritise your negotiating skills until using them becomes a second nature.

Why are negotiation skills so vital to workplace effectiveness?

If you don’t know how to negotiate, you can quickly end up between a rock and a hard place. Being unable to negotiate with a board member, a client, or a employee representative can lead to one of two bad outcomes:

  1. You simply say yes to avoid conflict, and end up operating from a position of weakness (plus you end up overloaded with work or other commitments)
  2. You say no but in a way that doesn’t go over well and leaves you and the other party both feeling wronged and upset

Having good negotiating skills can help you navigate situations in which you are put on the spot. If you work on your negotiation techniques and practise negotiating regularly, you can help yourself get through business negotiations. You’ll be able to handle client interactions smoothly and professionally without being railroaded into concessions, and may even be able to gain ground with stakeholders in an argument about resource allocation.

What exactly are “negotiation skills”?

When you negotiate, you are trying to strike a balance between what you and another party want. Usually you won’t both want exactly the same thing. The goals is to find a compromise you can both live with. Sometimes you are negotiating with an equal or near equal. Sometimes you are negotiating with someone who has power over you, but who also needs you to be on their side. Finally, you may end up negotiating with someone who needs something from you, but whom you can’t afford to offend, like a client.

In each situation, you may need a slightly different set of skills, but there are three skills that will always be useful in an negotiation.

Listening skills

Asking questions and really listening to the answers is one of the top negotiating skills. You also want to be able to drill down into the other person’s meanings and find out what is really important to them. Once you know what they really want, you can focus on on what you want in return. Not sure what they want? Ask. If necessary, ask again. Eventually they will tell you and you can work from there.

Rapport building skills

Being able to find something in common with other people can help with building relationships. By sharing a little about yourself that matches up with something about the other person, you can start building trust. I once found common ground with a very adversarial person over a shared love of fly fishing. It helped him see me as something other than an opponent, and we were able to negotiate a mutually beneficial deal.

Solution focused skills

Always be ready to come up with a solution, either by suggesting one or by asking questions to help the other person arrive at the ideal solution by themselves. When you come at a problem together instead of one person telling the other what to do, you can bring your negotiation to a successful close and end the conversation on a high note. This can help prevent future problems and conflict, and lead to smooth negotiations to come.

Encouraging negotiation in the workplace

Advise your employees to negotiate with you when appropriate. It’s better to talk about needs and wants than to give orders and find out later that resentment was building up. People want a better workplace, and they want to learn real negotiating skills. Teaching them to practise on you will give them a chance to achieve results and feel more confident in the workplace. They’ll be better workers and negotiators on your behalf and a powerful force to deploy when needed.

Want to learn more about negotiation skills building and teaching employees to be good negotiators? Contact ICML for information on our customised influencing skills course.

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