The Job Coaches: Rules teach art of negotiation

Nothing aids success as much as the ability to negotiate. Inside the organization, getting the position, promotion, pay increase, corner office or the authority to launch your project requires negotiation with superiors and colleagues.

In the outside world, everything from entering a market to signing the right contract is a negotiation. The list is endless.

Rule No. 1: If the item to be negotiated is important to you, do the research. To be sure, understanding every aspect of the issues and parties involved in the negotiation does not guarantee success. But a command of the facts and a clear-eyed appraisal of the situation will greatly minimize the prospect of failure.

Rule No. 2: Understand the communications revolution that is just beginning so you can separate what is factual and reliable from the coming avalanche of background noise.

Organizations have already changed. Layers of managerial authority have been removed and the old rules, policies, procedures, buffers and reporting systems have largely been replaced with standards of procedures built on information exchanges.

Now, new technologies are altering the ways people get their information (and misinformation) and interact to interpret it and pass it on.

Consider just one new product, recently reviewed by Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal: Motorola Cliq, he writes, provides, in a hand-held device with easy screen access, a method of consolidating communications and social networking that allows people to constantly display their own status and keep up with others on various services such as Facebook and Twitter.

What this means is that the line between what is inside the organization and outside has been erased. Anything impacting an issue to be negotiated may be immediately available to a multitude. Separating the knowledgeable judgments of the well-informed from the opinions of people who don’t know what they are talking about just got harder.

Rule No. 3: Set the discussion agenda by framing the issue in a way that can benefit you. Dealing with children has given lots of women this practical experience.

“Do you want to wear your red jacket or your blue jacket to school?” usually works better than “You need to wear a jacket today.”

Rule No. 4: Power is important. Realistically appraise where the power lies and plan from there. You are a skilled, hard-working, and valuable employee but underappreciated and fed up.

Ready to tell the boss you are leaving if you don’t get what you want? Run through your mind the scene where, after hearing you out, the boss stands up, offers a hand, says “good-bye” and wishes you good luck in whatever you do next.

Or would you be better off lining up a new job first and then having the conversation?

Rule No. 5: Walk a long way in the shoes of the other party. Anticipate the possible responses to everything you will say and offer and refine your presentation accordingly.

Rule No. 6: Prepare for a long negotiating process, consider the possibility of flare-ups and be prepared to always remain professional.

Rule No. 7: Pick your walk-away point. We all want an ideal outcome, but we seldom get everything we ask for. Decide what is minimally acceptable to you in advance.

Finally, a word about women, power and negotiations. As any number of studies have shown, women do not prove to be nicer, softer or less effective as managers or negotiators than men. But a number of prevailing sex-role stereotypes that hold men and women to different standards. You have to find your balance on a playing field that is still a bit tilted.

Dorothy Perrin Moore, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship Emeritus, The Citadel.The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, October 30 2009.


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