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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.

Devashish Chakravarty        Print Edition: December 2010

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.

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