How to improve your workplace negotiation skills

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How to improve your workplace negotiation skills

Negotiation happens all the time within the workplace, whether in explicit and formal negotiation set-ups, or in more relaxed and ambiguous settings. Negotiation can be a means of managing conflict, securing deals and making plans. Knowing how to navigate these situations and how to get the most out of them can be very helpful.



  • Prepare: Don’t go into a negotiation blind – learn as much as you can about the other parties, through both your own research and speaking to others who have more direct knowledge than you.
  • Clarify your goals: Make sure that you know – in detail – what you actually want to get out of the negotiation. Also take the time to consider what the other parties may want.
  • Identify each parties’ BATNA: A BATNA is a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, a concept introduced by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Essentially, it is the best alternative one party can hope to get if the other party refuses to negotiate. Conflict resolution site, MBI, states:

“If you are offered a used car for $7,500, but there’s an even better one at another dealer for $6,500–the $6,500 car is your BATNA.  Another term for the same thing is your “walk away point.” If the seller doesn’t drop her price below $6,500, you will WALK AWAY and buy the other car….In the simplest terms, if the proposed agreement is better than your BATNA, then you should accept it. If the agreement is not better than your BATNA, then you should reopen negotiations.”



  • Find tradeoffs: Determine the issues your counterpart may be more concerned about than you and use this information to make concessions to them in exchange for a tradeoff in your favour.
  • Don’t get stuck on the anchoring bias: The anchoring bias is the influence that the first number mentioned in a negotiation exerts on the discussion that follows. Research has indicated that the first number floated (not matter how arbitrary that number may be) will colour the expectations and behaviour of the parties for the rest of the negotiation. You can combat this by being aware of the bias and keeping your clear goals in mind, or by making the first offer yourself.
  • Use multiple equivalent offers simultaneously (MESOs): Identify a range of offers you are willing to make. They should all be worth roughly the same to you, but each comprise different tradeoffs. This approach encourages creativity and can reduce the likelihood of your offer being rejected.
  • Be willing to concede: identify the point at which you will walk away and make sure you adhere to it.

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