Are you a skilled negotiator, or do you shrink from the opportunity to defend your position? Taunee Besson, career transitions expert and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions can offer some excellent guidance here for both the experienced negotiator and the newbie at the table. — Maurice Gilbert
When you want a promotion, a new computer system, a vacation during a very busy month or a company-paid MBA, do you:
Eagerly anticipate the discussion?
Screw your courage to the sticking point and go for it?
Avoid broaching the issue and hope it will eventually take care of itself?
Negotiating provokes a variety of intense responses from those who claim to swim with the sharks, admit a resemblance to Casper Milquetoast or fall in the muddling middle. While opinions on the subject are mixed, people are rarely indifferent about it.
Below is a quick quiz that will test your savvy on how to get what you want on the job. Choose true or false for each of the questions, then read the answers to see how you fared. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get them all correct. The subject of negotiating is fraught with misconceptions perpetuated by a culture that still agrees with Vince Lombardi’s famous tag line, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
|T or F||1. Most professionals cringe at the thought of asking for more responsibility, staff, a raise or a transfer.|
|T or F||2. The best negotiating strategy is “winner take all.”|
|T or F||3. Negotiating is a process, not an event.|
|T or F||4. Your performance appraisal should contain no surprises.|
|T or F||5. When asking your manager for more responsibility, the most important thing you must tell him is why you deserve it.|
1. Most professionals cringe at the thought of asking for more responsibility, staff, a raise or a transfer. (True)
Negotiating doesn’t come naturally for many of us. If we loved to “put on our tradin’ pants,” we would flock to car dealerships in eager anticipation of getting a great deal. When was the last time you looked forward to bargaining with a salesman? There’s a good reason why the percent of buyers purchasing vehicles online continues to climb.
Along with our reticence to negotiate, most of us lack a basic understanding of how to do it. After all, it wasn’t part of our mandatory school or college curriculum, was it? Throw in a natural distaste for conflict and a catastrophic expectation (“the worst is sure to happen”) and we have the prime ingredients for a serious case of avoidance behavior.
2. The best negotiating strategy is “winner take all.” (False)
A “take no prisoners” negotiating approach is still practiced by autocrats in Third World countries, but it has little relevance in the team-oriented organizations of the 21st century. Aside from being primitive and self-centered, an I-win-you-lose strategy has a very short-term payoff. This technique may work for car salesmen who never expect to see their customers again, but it’s not viable for professionals who plan to nurture and maintain long-term relationships. Losers have long memories.
Good negotiators work to achieve a collaborative compromise where both parties feel like winners. Mutual decisions that respect everyone’s position have a much better chance of producing positive results.
3. Negotiating is a process, not an event. (True)
When most people think about negotiating, they picture two or more individuals getting together to iron out their differences or plan a course of action. Yet this scenario is only a part of an overall process. Excellent negotiators understand that negotiating is based upon frequent and honest communication, so the parties involved always know where they stand. People don’t like surprises unless they’re wrapped in pretty paper. When individuals work together to determine goals, chart progress, put out fires and share rewards, they are actively engaging in an effective negotiation.
4. Your performance appraisal should contain no surprises. (True)
As previously mentioned, a successful negotiating process requires lots of communication. If your manager doesn’t schedule regular meetings with you to set goals, review progress, brainstorm ideas, compliment good work and suggest specific improvements, you must take the initiative to solicit her feedback on at least a monthly basis. When it’s performance appraisal time, both you and she can take a few minutes to discuss her already familiar written comments, then concentrate your remaining time on talking about your career development and goals for the future.
5. When asking your manager for more responsibility, the most important thing is why you deserve it. (False)
Actually the most critical piece of information you give him is why your having more responsibility will benefit him and the company. While you should also be prepared to state why you can handle and deserve higher-level work, your boss’s greatest concern is the impact of your request on his situation. Honor this need. Provide him with the best ammunition for convincing his manager that your request will benefit the company as well.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.