8 Essential Tips for Negotiating Internally

8 Essential Tips for Negotiating Internally

When you think of negotiation, you probably think about external negotiations – those that take place between your company and your customers, suppliers, business partners, and other outside firms.

It can be easy to forget that a majority of negotiations take place internally. Your group may have to negotiate with management about the budget for the coming fiscal year. Cross-departmental negotiations happen all the time. Negotiating is how business gets done.

When negotiations take place within the organization, a win-win approach is especially vital. The issues being discussed aren’t the only things at stake. If a negotiation sours a working relationship, it can lead to grudges, backbiting and strained internal politics that can come back to haunt you.

8 Principles for Internal Win-Win Negotiations

When negotiating with colleagues and management in your organization, keep in mind that you are all really on the same team. Follow these eight principles when the person on the other side of the negotiating table is a coworker:

  1. Don’t Get Emotional – Feelings and emotions should never be brought to the negotiating table. It can be tempting to take an internal negotiation personally, and make a mental “blacklist” of those who make your life difficult. Don’t go there. Even if a past relationship has been less than cordial, by focusing on the issues and hand and looking to come to terms amicably, you stand a greater chance of success. Given that you are likely to pass this person in the halls on a regular basis, dealing with them in a principled manner is much more likely to pay dividends. It may even heal previously strained relationships.
  1. Whenever Possible, Meet in Person – Meeting in person is the best way to get a negotiation started on the right foot. Rather than dealing with your colleagues in an impersonal manner via e-mail or telephone, try to arrange a personal meeting first. Of course, in some cases, distance may make face-to-face meetings impractical. Even the most difficult negotiations can be “softened” when handled personally.
  1. Do Your Homework – This is no different than what we advise with external negotiations. Take the time to understand the other party’s needs and concerns as well as how you may be able to meet those needs during a negotiation. Simply because you’re dealing with a colleague does not negate the need to practice basic negotiation principles.
  1. Avoid Killer Assumptions – Leave preconceived notions or assumptions about the other party away from the negotiating table. Test assumptions and try to uncover motivations behind particular requests or issues. Failing to test assumptions can leave to dangerous misunderstandings and lack of agreement.
  1. Don’t Exert Too Much Pressure – One of the most dangerous things you can do to your colleagues is to place them behind the eight ball by negotiating too aggressively. Even when deadlines are an issue, placing undue pressure on a colleague can be damaging to relationships. Give the other party time to respond to particular requests or potential areas of agreement.
  1. Include Stakeholders – If other people will be affected by the outcome of your negotiation, it may be a good idea to involve them in a negotiation. This generally applies to key individuals, not necessarily all parties. For example, if you are negotiating with another department to receive additional personnel for an internal project, it may be wise to include your project manager as well as a team leader to represent the personnel required.
  1. Play Fair – We recommend that all negotiations take place in an ethical manner. This is even more important internally. Unethical tactics and dirty tricks can leave you out on the street. Double-crossing your colleagues is like playing with fire… chances are you’ll get burned, and burned badly.
  1. Consider the Long-Term – Obviously, this advice is the most crucial of all. Whatever you do, think about the long-term implications. Will your unreasonable yet “victorious” negotiation alienate the other party? Will your good-faith effort enable you to make additional requests down the road? Focus on the long term, not just the here and now.