More often than not in organizations, one party wins at the other party’s expense, leading to strained work relationships. The organization gets divided into silos and opposing factions try to score over each other in subsequent rounds of fire.

Why are Negotiation Skills Important

More and more organizations are moving to matrix reporting structures, forcing managers to coordinate the activities of individual contributors and business units over whom they seldom have formal authority. Accountability and decision making is being pushed downwards to make companies more flexible and agile. As a result now colleagues have to amicably settle differences and work together smoothly, often without running to a common superior for playing the role of an eternal mediator.

Few Signs of Failure of Negotiations at workplace

  • Real challenges which impact clients are buried under the carpet as it involves a healthy debate and constructive criticism, which is seen as enmity.
  • Higher level managers spend hours trying to mediate issues which should have been resolved at ground zero.
  • Colleagues are treated as competitors at best or aliens who need to be hunted.
  • Agreements are sealed, but never implemented on the ground.
  • Meeting invites fill your calendar and involve more and more senior leaders who spent time drilling holes in a great idea, because it was not invented in their camp.

Negotiation can be used very effectively to reach an agreement in most of these cases, especially If there are conflicting interests at work and when neither party has an upper hand or authority over the other.

Welcome to Negotiations @Workplace

Workplace negotiations are very different from other kinds of negotiations, as the party’s involved share the same roof and workspace. Effective workplace negotiation is about getting the best possible deal while leaving the other party’s stake, interests and dignity intact. In the best-case scenario, both the sides go away with exactly what they wanted.

So what can you do to hone your negotiation capabilities at work?

Build rapport and confidence first

Jumping straight into the negotiation arena sets up a two-way contest; it is best to start by warming up and building rapport before getting down to brass tacks.

If you are the host, start with an unrelated topic and make an attempt to break the ice to put everybody at ease. Remember, you are dealing with colleagues – not opponents. During actual negotiations, mix the two teams – you do not want the two parties sitting on opposite sides of the table. Opposite side seating is preferred for serious diplomatic negotiations.

Build confidence early on by sharing your interest and information. Chances are the other party will share their interests too, and trust will build up. Take time to understand where the other party is coming from.

Know your ‘best alternative to no deal’

Before entering into any negotiation; it is advisable to calculate your ‘Best Alternative To No Deal’, commonly called BATNA. Think about your BATNA in advance; this will portray confidence and clarity in your mind when you negotiate. It is not enough for you alone to know your BATNA. You should try to evaluate other party’s BATNA as well, and thereby see scope for common ground.

Avoid taking a premature stand

In workplace negotiation; taking a stand early on can elicit strong reactions from the other party. Allegations, blaming and strong statements will result in an equally strong, if not harsher response. The best way is to avoid taking a stand early on. If you do not have a choice, explain to the other party rationally and calmly why you are taking that position, and what the underlying drivers are.

Don’t blow your lid

More often than not; there is a lot of heat generated during a workplace negotiation. Keep your cool, as the objective of the other party may well be to get off from the negotiation table and keep the impasse going.

Strong emotional outbursts may make the other party sense weakness in you, which equals an inability to keep pace with tough situations. Avoid emotional reactions such as interrupting, denial, name-calling or even non-verbal clues like fidgeting or drumming your fingers.
If the other side is venting frustration, let them blow off the steam – you don’t need to respond in the same fashion. Renowned negotiation expert Max Bazerman, Professor at Harvard Business School, advises that you should separate people from problems. Stick to the facts and don’t get into personal clashes or name calling

Manage logjams

Seldom do people agree on all the points in a negotiation. Believing that you will be able to achieve such a comfortable situation is often a Utopian ambition. Impasses in a negotiation are real, and the way forward can be to document the points both parties cannot agree on and move over to the other items on the agenda.

With this approach, you can discover common ground. The pending items can be referred to a third-party arbitrator who has equal power and is acceptable to both the sides. This third party can write up each party’s interests and positions and keep suggesting options until both sides agree. This will avoid a full face-off, which is important because both the parties have to continue working together in the same place.

Remember, successful negotiations are the ones where you are able to increase the size of the pie rather than claiming a slice of the pie. The hallmark of a good negotiation is the ability to arrive at a stable agreement and simultaneously improve your long-term work relationships

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Jappreet Sethi

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