OER (en): Negotiation

The Art of Negotiation – A High Stakes Balancing Act between Social Relations, Needed Benefits, and Financial Means

Deutsche Version

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Contributors: Deidree Tjokrosetio, Laura Winkens, Morris Ameyaw Yiadom, and Sofie Schuller

Feeling Like You Deserve More

Imagine you have managed to get the increase in responsibility in your job that you have wanted for quite some time. You and your supervisor have agreed on what extra tasks you will take on, but you realize that you have not discussed the increase in pay you think suits your new work. This would seem like the perfect opportunity to negotiate your salary, but how do you approach this situation? How can you make sure you will achieve the most ideal outcome? You have some experience with negotiation and one thing is clear to you: not everyone negotiates in the same way and negotiating with different people also differs. In the podcast, negotiation-expert Bibi Linssen covers some of the crucial tips for successful negotiations, including the do’s and don’ts, and which topics are negotiable and which are not. In addition to these, this article will focus more on your personal negotiation style, and how knowledge about this can be to your advantage.

Understanding Your Negotiation Style

There are various ways to classify negotiation styles, but a tool commonly used is the Thomas-Killman Instrument (TKI). Thomas and Killman identified five different styles of negotiation. Each style is a combination of how assertive a person naturally is, versus how cooperative. This means your negotiation style is characterized by an internal balance between wanting to satisfy your personal goals, and wanting to satisfy the other person’s goals. Based on how assertive and cooperative you are, the following five types of negotiation styles can be identified. Have a look at the figure below to get a feeling for the different negotiation styles!

  1. Collaborating: if someone has a collaborating negotiation style, they find both aspects important, cooperativeness and assertiveness. With this style, personal goals are pursued not at the expense of others, but in a way that everyone’s goals are met. The ideal outcome of someone with a collaborating style is a win-win situation. People with this style usually take the time to explore the roots of the disagreement at hand, and try to learn from new insights. The downside is that a win-win is often not possible.
  2. Competing: someone who has a competing negotiation style tends to put less emphasis on cooperativeness, and much emphasis on assertiveness. Priority is given to pursuing personal goals, which can sometimes be at the expense of other people’s goals. Generally, this style is power-oriented, meaning that someone using this style will likely use whatever is in their power to achieve their personal goals.
  3. Compromising: someone who can be classified as having a compromising negotiation style, values both cooperation and assertiveness the same, with no strong commitment to either. Just like the scores represent the middle of the matrix, people with this style of negotiating tend to seek out the middle ground. Issues are not avoided, but they are not explored as in depth as someone with a collaborating negotiation style would do.
  4. Accommodating: contrary to someone with a competing negotiation style, someone with an accommodating negotiation style cares a lot about cooperativeness, at the expense of assertiveness. People with this style are known to put aside their own desired goals, possibly without even bringing up their interests and point of view, in order to help someone else achieve their goals. This style allows people to have great social relations in the workplace, but others might take advantage of their agreeableness.
  5. Avoidant: if someone has an avoidant negotiation style, they tend to be neither cooperative not assertive. This style is the opposite of the collaborative negotiation style. Someone with this style is not likely pursue their own goals, nor will they actively help others in achieving their goals. Instead, people with this style will avoid any type of conflict all together and will try to avoid ending up in a negotiation style if possible. This can be useful during times when you need to focus on finding a new path.

Now that you know about the different styles, you probably want to know which ones apply to you! Here you can find an online version of the TKI.

Good to Know – But How Can You Use This?

First of all, it is important to know that you do not have one single negotiation style. The rule of thumb is that the two styles you score the highest on reflect how you naturally negotiate. There is no one ideal type, it really depends on the situation and the content of the negotiation. So how can you use the knowledge on your negotiation type?

Each of the negotiation styles comes with an inherent set of social skills that they use more intuitively. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you to make the best use of your natural talents and find tactics to balance out your weak spots. Within the work setting, negotiation situations seldom come out of the blue, giving you the advantage to prepare in advance. You can follow these steps in preparing your strategy for an upcoming negotiation:

  1. Consider your negotiation type and the context: Are you more relationship-oriented or more goal-oriented? People with a more goal-oriented negotiation style are more likely to walk away as the ‘winner’, however, it is not always best to have the highest gain if it only lasts for a short while. People who are more relationship-oriented often built good rapport easily, which can be used to your advantage, but be cautious not to start comprising yourself. Consider the content of the negotiation. Are you negotiating a salary? Then it might be helpful to look into strategies of the goal-oriented styles, such as having a clear vision and being firm on one’s needs.
  2. Prepare your personal goal(s): What do you want? What is the best possible outcome to you? This can be very subjective and is connected to your personal tendency of goal vs. relationship orientation. Looking back at the example from the start, a salary negotiation, here it could be helpful to have a clear range of salary in mind. What do you need to allow you to maintain the lifestyle that you want? Is it only money that the company can offer? In the podcast, there is more on the different aspects that can be part of your salary negotiation.
  3. Determine the best possible alternative: It is likely that you will not be successful in reaching your personal goal, but to prevent yourself from walking away from the negotiation feeling defeated it can help to determine your best possible alternative. The best possible alternative can have many facet. In our salary related example the worst case would be that there is no pay rise. So is there still anything good that you can take away from this conversation? For example you could negotiate the specific circumstances under which you would be able to get a pay rise. Getting clarity of what the company expects of you in order to increase your salary allows you to work towards that, or helps you decide that you might find a better, more suitable  position somewhere else. Further, having discussed these matters can be helpful in the next negotiation with your employer as now all cards are on the table. 
  4. Make room for the other side’s perspective: By now you have determined your ideal goal and your best possible alternative. But what about the other side? It can be valuable to understand their ‘personal goal’ and prepare questions for that. These are mainly ‘why’-questions, for example, ‘why do you think I do not qualify for a pay rise at the moment?’.  Individuals with a more relationship-oriented negotiation style might find this easier as they strive for exchange of information and resolution of disagreements. Make sure that your questions come across as genuine and not as a ploy to use the information to the disadvantage of the other. Find some tips in the article on assertiveness regarding walking the line between your own and other’s interests.
  5. Think about the in-between options: This is all about exploring all the options that would fulfil your goal in the negotiation to some extent. You might think your personal goal is not very flexible. In our salary example, you have an idea about how much you would like to be paid. So either it works or it does not, right? Not quite. Financial value can be other aspects than just salary. What about benefits, commuting compensation, additional development opportunity in the company? These kinds of negotiables are often called fringe benefits. Bibi explains all kinds of negotiables in the podcast. What combination would still meet your personal goal? Having a couple of versions prepared gives you a good understanding where you and the other party could find a middle ground.

Diving into Working with Your Negotiation Style

If you have not filled in the TKI yet, go ahead and do so! You can find a link to a free online version of the test above. Do you feel the results suit you as you know yourself? Can you think of past situations of negotiation that reflect your strengths, or maybe weaknesses? Getting to know yourself is the best starting point. As with so many things, practice creates mastery. Working with your negotiation style builds on self-reflection. Maybe you want to make the first step and make a list with your negotiation strengths and weaknesses. Do you want to go deeper? Try to find examples for each of your strengths and weaknesses.

Podcast on Negotiation with Guest Expert Bibi Linssen

In this podcast, Bibi Linssen gives her expert opinion on negotiation in the workplace. This is a summary of the most important practical tips. We still highly advise to listen to the podcast to get a full picture of our expert’s insights.

Bibi starts with clarifying some ideas that young professionals have about contract negotiation. For most types of work within the EU, the pay and even possible benefits are determined by collective labour agreements or salary lists. To get a good impression of what you can expect to be paid, this should be your first source of information. Next, make use of your network. Do you know someone who knows someone who works in a position that you would like to work in? Reach out and ask if they can give you an indication of what they earn. Often people do not want to disclose their specific income, so ask for an approximation. Complementary to knowing what an employer is willing to pay is the question how do you know what you are worth? The value of your academic degree is simple to understand, so have a look at non-academic activities that you engage in. Volunteering, side-jobs, projects, and ask the people there, what they value about you. These are transferable skills that you can market to an employer. The negotiation itself will most often take place after the hiring process. Now you can negotiate your fringe benefits, such as mobility benefits, pension, additional health care, and more. At this point you should already know which benefits are important for you. Often, working hours can also be negotiated. Keep in mind, this is not a game that needs to be won, but your employer and you should find the best compromises that make you working for them a sustainable co-operation. More is not always better.

Find all of the other articles and podcasts from our series on communication for work happiness here:

About the Contributors

Deidree, Laura, Morris, and Sofie are master’s students at Maastricht University and part of the PREMIUM Honours Programme. They teamed up with happy2learn to bring you this open educational resource.

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