When we think about our negotiation skills we tend to focus on negotiating externally with clients, suppliers and partners. However, one of the most challenging types of negotiation we face in the workplace is when we have to negotiate with our boss. This can be anything from a formal salary negotiation through to requesting extended annual leave or flexible working hours or renegotiating a deadline. The relationship with your manager is probably the most important professional relationship you have and the way in which you influence and negotiate with them can have a lasting impact on your career.
First of all, get your timing right. Approach your boss when you know the time is right for them but also try to ensure that your conversation coincides with a successful project that you have completed or a recent situation where you have gone the extra mile.
Be prepared and make sure you have done your research before you start negotiating. If you are negotiating a salary increase then have examples of what people in similar roles are earning and of what other organisations pay for your expertise.
Keep control of your emotions – be as neutral as possible and stick to the issues themselves rather than your reactions or feelings. Try not to show how much it matters to you as this could potentially weaken your position.
Support your arguments with concrete facts and examples – rather than talking in general terms about your experience, expertise or longevity with the company quote specific examples of where you have added value or delivered success.
Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and try to demonstrate how your expectations could be mutually beneficial. For example, if you are asking for flexible working you can explain how you will be able to give extra time to the business and work more effectively. Show that you have something valuable to give and that by accommodating your request your boss will also be in a better position.
Be clear on your bottom line – Before you start your conversation you should be clear in your own mind how far you are prepared to compromise and what you need to achieve. Know your BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement). This is your fallback position if you fail to reach an agreement. So for example, if your boss refuses the salary increase you request, your BATNA might be that you need to have an enhanced commission scheme or that you are given training in the skills you require for your next promotion.
Make sure you have a summary of what has been agreed. Either ask your boss to send an email confirming the outcomes of your conversation or send an email yourself outlining your request and the agreed response or time lines to respond.
As with all types of communication, preparation, clarity and empathy are crucial to ensure that negotiation brings about positive outcomes. Negotiating can be a particularly challenging form of communication as it potentially leads to conflict and when you are negotiating with your boss there is an obvious power gap before you even start. However, influencing and negotiating are essential skills for growing your career and improve your opportunities.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2013