You may not be in a position to negotiate the next Nuclear Arms Treaty, but sharpening your negotiation skills makes good sense no matter what business you’re in. Negotiating is an art and some people are a lot better at it than others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on it and practice to improve your skill.
There are numerous reasons for conflicts in the work place and often managers are put in a position to be mediators.
Employees can be upset because of:
- Misunderstandings about expectations of a job
- One employee feeling he is being overworked while others aren’t working as hard
- Differentiation in salaries for similar positions
- Difference of opinion on goals of a project
- Alternative approaches to solving a problem
- Perception of favoritism, that one employee’s opinions are more valued than another’s
- Miscommunications resulting in people going down two different paths on the same assignment
- Lack of respect between one employee and another
- Jealousy regarding promotions within a group
“So much in life is a negotiation – so even if you’re not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you.”
~ Kevin O’Leary, Canadian Businessman, Investor, Writer and TV personality
The list is boundless. Any time you get a group of individuals together, they are bound to disagree on certain things. Hopefully, most of these differences can be resolved among those involved. Often times just sitting down and talking it out works fine.
But sometimes it takes an independent mediator to call a meeting between the parties involved and hold a negotiation session.
Here are 10 steps to follow to be a successful negotiator:
1) Clarify the issue at hand.
Make sure both sides agree on what the problem really is and that they are discussing the same thing.
2) Gather the facts for both sides of the issue and understand them.
Make sure they are the facts and not hearsay or someone’s opinion.
3) Understand each party’s position and their reasons for believing the way they do.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to see the issue from their perspective.
4) Defuse the tendency for the parties to want to compete during the session.
Be sure those involved know that the desired outcome is to reach a win-win solution and that there is an expectation of compromise on everyone’s part.
5) Listen to the participants as they talk.
People are a lot more willing to compromise if they feel their position is being heard and considered.
6) Set ground rules for meeting conduct.
Make sure the meeting doesn’t become a debate. Keep the players in a discussion frame of mind. Don’t allow critiquing of others’ opinions unless it’s done in a constructive way based on factual information. No attacking allowed.
7) Watch for emotional land mines and try to avoid them.
You can do this by observing body language, tone of voice, language used, eye contact or lack thereof. Listen to what’s not being said as well as what someone is saying.
8) Continue to ask questions of both parties to clarify statements, opinions, positions, and the reasoning behind those positions.
9) Remain as neutral as possible.
Be certain you are cognizant of your own beliefs on the issue and do not let them cloud the process.
10) Once an agreement is made, lay out a plan to adhere to and schedule a follow up meeting to continue discussion on the success of the decision.
Understand that not every conflict has a win-win solution. If an agreement cannot be reached, adjourn the session, let everyone regroup and come back at a later time. If a compromise still cannot be met, then management may need to step in and resolve the issue to avoid a stalemate and the loss of valuable time.
If there is no mediator and you are one of the participants, you can still follow these 10 steps to try to keep the discussion moving forward toward a positive outcome. Remember to keep an open mind, listen to all sides, and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Conflict resolution through negotiations is a soft skill that is worth its weight in gold in every day business. It’s important to continue to practice it throughout the different aspects of your life.
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