It's Okay To Negotiate - REALLY!
Negotiating ethically but firmly will enhance your relationships and earn you respect.
Michael Schatzki, Mpa, Csp
Sarah is a young woman who attended one of my sales negotiation training programs shortly after taking a new job. When I asked her how she did with her salary negotiation, she replied, "Well, I didn't negotiate. I was offered $44,000 and I took it. "Why didn't you negotiate?" I asked. "Because I didn't want to start off my new job on the wrong foot" she replied.
Donald works for a small weekly newspaper. He likes his job and his employer, Jeanne. He doesn't get paid much, but he likes his work. His only problem is that he's being asked to shoulder an increasingly large share of the responsibilities around the office. If there's a late-breaking story that has to be covered or a page that has to be laid out again, the job always seems to fall in Donald's lap. He feels he is being taken advantage of; everyone knows they can rely on "good old Donald." But he's afraid that if he speaks his mind, he may jeopardize the cordial relationship he enjoys with Jeanne. So he bites the bullet and never broaches the subject. "There are a lot worse jobs out there," he rationalizes.
Bill, a participant in one of my negotiation training seminars, told us of an old, rust-eaten vehicle that he had advertised for $1,300, never dreaming he'd get it. A young man (we'll call him Paul) came to see the car, and he and Bill immediately established a good rapport. They talked about sports and hobbies and the atmosphere could hardly have been more cordial. When the discussion turned to the car, Bill readied himself for a negotiation. Instead, Paul just said, "Well, you're a nice guy so I guess I can buy it for $1,300."
What is going on here? Why are so many people reluctant to negotiate? Fear. But what are they afraid of? It's not a fear of losing. By not negotiating they have already lost all they can. So what is it that so many people are afraid of?
Sarah is afraid of making a bad impression. Donald is afraid of upsetting the applecart. Paul is afraid of looking like a bad guy.
When You Negotiate You Don't Make a Bad Impression, You Earn Respect
Tough bargaining actually earns respect. A friend of mine is an manager who interviews and hires a lot of people. He told me a story once about a woman he was about to hire for a middle-level management position. He was fairly certain she was his top choice but he said that he couldn't be certain until he had discussed salary with her. "Why?" I asked.
"Because I want to see how she handles the salary negotiation. I'll have serious doubts about her if she just takes what I offer. If she doesn't think enough of herself to push me at least a little, she probably isn't the best person for the job."
"So you don't get annoyed when people negotiate salary with you?" "Not at all. On the contrary, it indicates a self-assurance and confidence that I value very highly in our employees."
There we have it, right from the mouth of someone who hires lots of people. Whether we're negotiating with an employer, a landlord, or anyone else, we've been brainwashed into believing that if we stand up and bargain for ourselves we'll make enemies, make a bad impression and ruin any chance of getting along.
Well, all those awful things will not come to pass. It simply isn't true that we'll make enemies by negotiating. As my friend the manager showed us, negotiating for ourselves doesn't reflect badly on us in the least. All it reflects is a sense of self-worth and a positive approach toward life.
Also keep this in mind: First impressions die hard. Once we've been tagged as patsies, it can be awfully hard to shake the label. The more firmly entrenched we get in the role of a patsy, the harder it becomes for us to break out and stand up for ourselves.
Negotiating Ethically But Firmly Will Not Injure A Relationship
Donald at the newspaper stopped himself from negotiating with Jeanne because he was afraid of upsetting the applecart. He had a good rapport with his boss, and he was afraid he'd really disrupt it if he suddenly changed his style and began asserting his own needs. For her part, Jeanne probably reinforced his fear by continuously talking about "team effort" and how wonderful it was that "we're just one big happy family."
If you find yourself in a like predicament, try to step back and put it all in perspective. Are you really out to wreck this person's world? No. Do you really want to upset the whole applecart? No. All you want are the apples you deserve. The other person, of course, may try to "guilt-peddle" you into thinking that you are upsetting the whole applecart, hoping to make you retreat from your position. Don't pay any mind. Stand firm. Once you clearly establish that you're not backing off, the other person will have to negotiate with you. The nature of your relationship may change as they realize you're no longer a pushover, but the change will be a positive one. The end result will be a relationship based on mutual respect, not one-sided manipulation.
Fear of Being The Bad Guy
If Paul could've brought himself to say, "That's a little more than I was looking to pay for a car," Bill surely would've come down from $1,300. Why did Paul leave himself no chance of shaving some bucks off the price? He was afraid of switching hats, that is, of exchanging the nice white hat of friendly banter for what he saw as the black hat of give-and-take bargaining.
Nonsense. Bill was expecting a negotiation. Of course, it is a really good idea to build a positive relationship at the start of any negotiation. Once that is done, however, it is normal to move into hard bargaining. Hard bargaining can and should be conducted in a friendly manner but it is still hard bargaining and it is fully appropriate.
So Lets Negotiate - Only Good Things Will Happen If You Do
When we play a game like tennis or chess, we play to win, and if we succeed, we don't make an enemy in the process. The same is true of negotiation. We're out to meet our needs and we give it all we've got, but when it's over, that's it. As long as we keep it friendly and don't pull out any dirty tricks, there's no reason in the world that a negotiation should engender any bad feelings or result in any ongoing enmity. So go for it. You're merely attempting to fulfill your own legitimate needs.
Copyright © 2005. Michael Schatzki. All rights reserved.