Winning at Workplace

Winning at Workplace

In the final part of this sub-series on negotiation, Devashish Chakravarty suggests ways to deal with the boss, peers and juniors while maintaining a cordial relationship.

Do you find it more difficult to negotiate with people at the workplace than with clients or strangers? It's perfectly normal. After all, we spend a large portion of our waking hours with colleagues and this makes the dealings complex.

Interestingly, most of our negotiations also take place in the same space. In this concluding part of the sub-series, we look at deliberations at our workplace. Remember that the basics of a negotiation remain the same.

The Boss: Let's consider the toughest of these-dealing with the boss. What makes it difficult is the power vested in him as he can make a difference to your financial and administrative needs at work. You may also want to talk about where you are staffed and with how much authority.

Remember that prevention works best at the workplace, so start steering before you hit a speed-breaker. The difference in negotiating power is contextual and not absolute. Build this up by increasing your contribution to the organisation. If you are unable to get a fair deal, benchmark the outcome only against your best back-up option to determine the next action. Don't shy away from asking your boss for help.

Such a request often brings out the best in people and you are likely to get a good deal. Stick to fair principles, standards and procedures while arguing your case. This will increase the legitimacy of what you are demanding and will help you avoid unfair pressure. Do your homework and refer to precedence at the workplace. Opt for a meeting rather than a telephone call. When you reach an agreement, send a thank-you note, recording the commitment that was made.

The Peers: When it comes to peers, neither party has the advantage of authority over the other. The issues here are often related to resource usage, teamwork, information requests, power tussles and may extend to communication and personal friendships.

When you quote facts to strengthen your case, remember that with peers, the truth is merely another argument. When you speak to them, you will be effective if your arguments are consistent with their value systems. A colleague from finance may be more receptive to cost-benefit analysis rather than client satisfaction as a persuasive argument.

Be flexible about power and control to reduce resentment since there will be other occasions to negotiate. Look to the future while seeking an agreement and avoid dwelling on the past. Don't assign a fixed role as, often, peers are able to create more value through what they can do for the other party. While approaching a tricky issue, ask questions and then wait for the other party to respond and move towards an agreement.

In case you perceive an unfair or personal attack, identify the tactic and raise the issue or simply offer no response. Work towards a consistent public image for yourself since your reputation works for you during negotiations. Bring in a facilitator in challenging situations and operate in a neutral space. Remember that in a telephonic negotiation the caller has the advantage.

Take notes and follow up with an e-mail for implementation of the agreement.

The Subordinates: Working out an agreement with subordinates may appear to be simple at first glance, but it is easy to make a mistake. The best results are often obtained by treating the other person with respect and empathy.

In the Indian social context, it is difficult for a subordinate to be overtly disrespectful, so listen carefully for a 'may be' that means 'no'. Give enough space for the subordinate to speak his mind if you want a sustainable solution. Choose your words carefully since a superior's words resonate for a long time.

Apply rules and behaviour uniformly across people. This will give you a reputation for fairness and increase acceptance for your requests. Rely on written messages since they convey consistency and make it convenient for your subordinate to implement an agreement.

Isolate and deal with an individual instead of a group when the issue is emotional and leave room for the individual to give in without losing face. Never react to an emotional outburst.

While implementing deadlines and outcomes, do not be averse to using your power of reward and punishment. Use measurable, recorded data in your discussions so that your statements are not perceived to be biased. Finally, do not offer quick decisions to tricky requests.

At the workplace, where a vital relationship matters more than the issue, avoid empty threats and ultimatums, and consider if you can change your position. Losing an argument can help gain in the relationship.

Note that more than half of all new jobs and sales opportunities comes from former colleagues and bosses. Make sure that both parties leave the negotiation table with a feeling that the deal has been fair. Most damage to workplace relationships is caused by resentment arising from an inequitable agreement.

The writer is CEO, Quetzal, a human resource solutions company started by four IIM-A graduates.


Do Unto Others...
Most people like to return a favour. So, if you go out of your way when a colleague or boss requires help, it is more likely you will be offered a helping hand when you face a problem, or your boss could consider your request for extended leave more favourably.

A Man is as Good...
... as his word. People tend to be consistent with their commitments even if the circumstances change. So, it's wise to obtain commitments in writing or, at least, verbally at the workplace. While persuading your boss or peer, it pays to remind them what they had committed to in the past.

Follow the Herd
Your boss will find it easier to approve of something when he sees that others are doing the same. For instance, the data on average market salaries for your position is a valid and persuasive argument for a raise.

From the Horse's Mouth
Enrol the support of an expert or a senior to increase your ability to persuade at the workplace. People prefer to suspend judgement and take action when asked by someone who represents authority. This could be the result of expertise in a domain or due to the position and power granted by the organisation structure.