In the current bounce-back economy and tight labor market, you are in a great position now more than ever to negotiate your next job offer or promotion. While many of us are hesitant to haggle over an exciting new position, remember you should not be fearful of asking for what you want.
Before we jump into the tips to remember when negotiating your next job offer, it is important to understand why we are afraid of negotiating. In a recent study from Salary.com, 48 percent of people said they are always apprehensive about the negotiation process. Another study from Payscale shows the trend may be more prevalent among women, with 31 percent saying they are uncomfortable negotiating salary, compared to 23 percent of men. Whether we realize it or not, negotiating is a common activity in our lives. Many people fear the negotiation process for a variety of reasons — lack of preparation, not understanding the negotiation process, not knowing strategies and tactics that can be employed during negotiation, or when or why to use particular strategies or tactics. First and foremost, we are afraid to lose and/or get taken advantage of.
Think about a time you or someone you know went to a dealership to buy a car and was worried about getting a good deal and/or the salesman taking advantage of them. You hear stories on how people were able to get incredible deals but it feels like you might not be so lucky. And, even worse than not feeling great about the outcome is having a negative experience, which further develops the fear and/or discomfort of negotiating. In order to combat this feeling and obtain an optimal result, before you head into your next negotiation, establish a highest goal, how you’re going to back it up, and walk-away – the minimum you will take.
Preparation is the most common reason why many of us dread negotiations. We simply aren’t prepared to have the conversation. We didn’t expect negotiation to occur or we just simply didn’t prepare for it as much as we should have and feel caught off guard. Feeling unprepared or blindsided doesn’t feel good, so we fear it occurring again, even if we have some control over it – by just preparing! Ultimately preparing isn’t fun and we are all very busy, but, if you have a process to prepare you can do it quickly, which increases your chances you’ll do it in the first place, and in turn your chances of a successful outcome.
Another reason we fear negotiation is being afraid of the unknown or how it will play out. We don’t know what the other side is thinking or what they are going to do or say. We can’t predict the outcome and the uncertainty can be scary. And we naturally don’t enjoy uncertainty and as a result, try to avoid it. The best way to deal with this fear? By preparing, thinking through different outcomes in advance, and coming to terms with some uncertainty. It is about understanding that we can’t remove the uncertainty but we can reduce its impact. Just like we cannot remove our emotion, we can only learn to manage it and learn not to do or say something in the heat of the moment that we will regret.
The final common fear around negotiation is that we are afraid we push too hard. Often, we are concerned with how our counterpart will see us, especially when negotiating with people we know, including friends, or people who will continue to be in our lives. We are afraid that if we push to get what we want, we may damage the relationship. For example, we ask our bosses for a raise, and they think we are pushy, greedy, or ungrateful. This could potentially damage what was a good relationship and you have to continue working with him/her. To avoid this, you need to be able to justify your ask, you need to approach it empathically, and you need to have clarity around your objective in advance.
So, how do you combat your fear of negotiation and still be able to get what you want?
Always prepare your argument ahead of time. Write down what you want to say, how you will respond to their expected objections or comments, and how you want to open and close the meeting. Include examples to help support your argument. Then, have someone else with context read it and/or take some time away (sleep on it). Return to your argument with a fresh mind, then edit it. Practice is at least once out loud or in your head to get comfortable, and then you are ready to deliver it with confidence. Often, negotiation conversations are tied to emotions, especially when you’re arguing for something in your favor. Being emotional can make or break their decision. This is why you must script out different scenarios and prepare your responses to avoid any rash decisions or responses.
Next, follow the PAID process:
Think, has this happened before? If so, what can you learn from those situations and/or how can you use those situations to help persuade the other side.
Employing alternatives gives you the power of options. Not only do alternatives create leverage, asking for several aspects at once allows you to work through various alternatives together, which moves the negotiation from fixed sum (I want this, you want the opposite) to collaborative (let’s work through this together to get to a solution that works for both parties).
We cannot overstate the importance of asking questions. Asking thoughtful questions helps to gather information and develop a relationship with the other side. If you follow it up with active listening, it demonstrates to the other party that you care about them and their priorities. Additionally, all too often we are not specific enough with our own interests and objectives. For example, do you want to get a $5,000 raise at all costs and will leave if you do not receive it? Do you want a raise between $2,500 – $5,000? Or, are you hoping for a raise and if you get it, you’ll be thrilled because you didn’t have to ask? These are very different interests and should therefore translate into very different approaches.
Finally, work backwards starting from a deadline, through a timeline to keep momentum in a conversation. By setting a timeline that both parties agree to upfront, you make it less likely you will avoid the dreaded stalling that can occur when other priorities creep up or perhaps one of the parties wants to avoid the negotiation.