Is that negotiable?
December 11, 2000
How to have the power
By Karin Call
Call it what you will: Driving a bargain, making a deal, or - some of my personal favorites - haggling, higgling and argle-bargling. But the skill of negotiation comes in handy when arranging your salary or the terms of employment.
Job-related negotiations are unique when compared to, say, dickering over the purchase of a used three-legged armchair. You can be successful by knowing the strategies that will help you land on top of the heap.
Fight with fire
The tools and tactics used to get ahead are sometimes complicated. But they don't have to be. The simple truths in achieving power in your negotiations sometimes work best. With the following 10 tips, you will be well on your way to being successful in your bargaining endeavors.
- Like the Boy Scouts, itís best to be prepared. In fact, preparation can be critical. Gather as much knowledge about a company's hiring practices before interviewing with them. Youíll be yards ahead of the game, and less likely to offend, if you know the companyís past behaviors and how far they will go in negotiations.
- If you want to persuade someone to change his/her mind, then shut-it-up. Listen to what the other person really cares about. Sure, go ahead and ask questions about their motivations, but actively listen to their answers, too. Step into their penny loafers, cowboy boots, or Birkenstock sandals for a moment.
- Have some alternatives? After better understanding what your company-to-be values, try developing some interesting ideas that will be mutually beneficial. Be creative. For instance, if the employer-to-be is willing to kick in eye care coverage, youíll not only be able to see the computer screen better, but you may also be willing to look at it for longer periods of time. Define those times specifically and get some contacts. Or take less money for more flextime and vacation. In the end, just be sure the company agrees to the elements of the deal that are most important to you. Know your priorities before dropping alternatives on the table.
- Be prepared to commit. Donít ask for something, get it, and then declare with a snicker, ďjust kidding.Ē Itís not so funny to your employer-to-be.
- Play fair. Commonly, if the negotiators feel the process is just, they are more likely to commit - and less likely to walk right out those double doors. So if they need proof that the average salary for a certified systems engineers isnít minimum wage, then be prepared with evidence from several expert resources.
- The truth or the consequences. Steer clear of lying or your credibility will die faster than a modem hit by lightening. Naturally, it is to your advantage to use the truth to your benefit. Use your good judgment and stellar moral character to determine how much or how little to delve into your background and achievements.
- Donít tell a prospective employer, ďWe donít need to write that down. I trust you.Ē Or, just as careless: ďIíll sign now and we can hash out the details later.Ē Is your name Ms. Ima Pushover, or what?
- Remember to steer clear of asking for the world, unless youíre in a good position to do so. In other words, are you skills in demand? Have they even made you an offer yet? If not, put yourself on pause and wait until the opportunity arises. Youíll need leverage first.
- Know when to cut it out. Letís step back here: Are you looking greedy and possibly a speck unreasonable? When youíve hit the point in bargaining where youíve got all you can get, just say thank you, and accept or decline the position graciously and effusively. If you donít recognize the point at which to stop the negotiations, you run the risk of alienating yourself from the company. Otherwise, theyíll surely wish they never started this deal and will begin looking for ways to cut it off, pronto.
- While you can look at a few diagrams with captions to learn how to install a new hard drive, this just isnít so with learning to negotiate. Itís a soft skill, and there isnít necessarily just one correct way to do things. You will need to roll with the unpredictability of human interactions. Modify your tactics as needed - and when needed.
Though this article is relating to initial career negotiations, itís easy to overlap its usefulness into many mediation situations.
Employment is an ongoing relationship anyway. Therefore, keep your newly acquired haggling skills handy. Acquire too little at the onset and youíre behind the times. And resentful. On the other side, however, being too aggressive may damage the relationship for good.
Get a handle on your negotiation tactics in order to obtain what you deserve, as well as set a positive tone for your long and successful career. Who knows, you may turn out to be a hugely powerful negotiator whoís just waiting for an opportunity to come out of the wire closet.