Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I must admit that there are many things that I enjoy doing as a manager, yet negotiation is not on my list. The term always reminds me of some unpleasant associations that occurred in the past.
Do not misunderstand me; I know to negotiate. Sometimes I benefit, sometimes I loose. Like in other issues on life, we experience both. However, knowing I have to negotiate does not turn me happy.

Negotiation is a process we carry on for thousands of years, from the early days of history. We tend to relate it to commerce, however almost every discussion between two people or groups, no matter on what issue, includes some negotiation.

As this blog deals with managing people, I wish to examine the issue of negotiation through this perspective of negotiating with employees.

The first negotiation we handle as managers with the employee occurs even before s/he starts to work; we negotiate with the potential employee regarding his/her salary and terms. As I believe that negotiation turns on bad associations, not only to me, rather to many people, I believe that negotiating with the new employee to be, is not such a good idea:
If I set the employee down from his requests, even if from the correct reasons, the employee can live years with the feeling that s/he have lost.
If I accede, wishing to start the relationship with best feeling, people will hear and know, and I will find it more difficult to stand on what I think is right in the future.
Even, if after negotiation, we will compromise and reach agreement, the employee may always stay uncertain, thinking that if s/he only argued more, or maybe using other tactics, thing would end in a different manner.
As I am in the working business already several decades, not always running a business of my own, I can say that as an employee, I think I experienced all three scenarios...
Coming back to the starting point: good it is not.

What is the alternative? I try to lessen, as much as possible, situations of negotiation with employees. Negotiation outside the organization is possible, sometimes even a must, but inside the organization- less is better; less times; less powerful.

How do I manage?

With potential employees, having the issue so sensitive (salary), and having the time so sensitive (trust has not yet been established), I avoid negotiation at all. I listen to the employee, and evaluate his/her abilities, knowledge and experience in comparison to existing employees in the organization, offering a fair salary, as I understand, relative to the others. Working this way, I benefit twice: Once with the potential new employee, preventing the negotiation; in addition, towards all other employees, knowing that someone else does not earn more than they do as s/he argued better.
Do I also loose? Of course I do. It is naïve to think otherwise.

However, this was only one process in the lifetime of many processes and many situations. As much as I may wish to avoid negotiation at all, I know it is both wrong and impossible. Every person has his/her opinions, interests and ways in which s/he understands life. Negotiation is necessary.

A few tips I use when negotiating:

First, I remind myself that negotiation is a process of trade: give and take. If I entered a negotiation, obviously, I will have to give something. I think in advance, what I am willing to give and where do I put my limits.

I manage the negotiation openly and fair: Openly- sharing the person I am negotiating with, in early stages of the conversation, where I am willing to concede; fair- suggesting limits that I think are fair (and I know I am subjective), not biased, even if I have an advantage point.

I know that I am willing to pay for results. Doing this is not as simple as it may sound, but it puts me in a better position. If I leave for a minute the manger-employee relationship, a good example demonstrating this is negotiating on a working contract with a potential customer. I start the negotiation, knowing my red lines, knowing they are fair for both sides, and knowing that if I loose the contract, because the other side insists on moving the line, it is OK with me. I do not work if the price is not reasonable.

I listen to the other side, trying to have a professional, yet pleasant and calm conversation. Many researches have been conducted, teaching that handling negotiations with positive feelings, may only help. We know it is indeed true. Nevertheless, there are situations in life where conversation turns loudly. In some occasions, this happens without control, in other situations, as a way to impress and pass a message. No matter why this happens, it is important to bring the conversation back to positive atmosphere and as soon as possible.

And always, but always, I try not to take the anger to far in any negotiation. Also if I seem angry, also if I feel angry, always I remember the positive things I know regarding the person I am negotiating with and try to go back to base line positive atmosphere.

I also know that negotiation is the bridge to agreement. Therefore, it is not as horrible as it may seem.



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