Negotiate Your Way to a Better Job
(and a better life)
(page 2 of 4)
In doing your homework, attorney Elizabeth Kent offers these suggestions. As director of the Hawaii Judiciary’s Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, Kent teaches a free course on negotiation skills for state and county employees, offering help resolving workplace issues.
“Think about your ideal outcome, your realistic target and also your minimum acceptable outcome,” she says. “Understand your interests, but also your counterpart’s. You need to start off not just thinking about yourself but about the other person — what are their interests, their underlying motivation, their point of view, how you can meet their needs and whether there are any things you can do that will benefit them.
“By focusing on points where you and your counterpart agree — zones of agreement — it’s often easier to work through areas where you don’t agree.”
Even if your boss says “no,” don’t give up, advises Kent. That no could be conditional, meaning a range of possibilities including, “Not now” or “Try again in six months.” Ask if you can come back and discuss it again in the future.
Kent also has suggestions for the fine art of negotiating with a spouse or significant other, about picking up children or getting family chores finished. In these cases you can work with trade-offs.
“You can get really creative,” she says. “But, again, it’s important to understand what each one’s interest is so you can meet it, such as not being late, having more flexibility at work, maybe not driving in rush hour. So maybe if you pick up the kids, he will make dinner. Or vice versa. But remember also, in successful negotiations in any relationship, you’re trying to help everyone save face.”
While the art of negotiation may feel mysterious, it doesn’t have to be. “Negotiation underlies everything we do,” says Kent. “But sometimes if you do something a little bit differently, you might be more successful. So we want to pull a situation apart and put it back together differently to enable people to adapt.”
Attorney Tracey Wiltgen, executive director of the Mediation Center of the Pacific, says women sometimes start with a disadvantage simply because of the way they’ve been raised.
“There’s a great book called ‘Women Don’t Ask,’ ” says Wiltgen, “and the premise is that women are not good negotiators. The premise is young boys are promoted more to negotiate than young girls by the activities we do. So the first recommendation I make is to ask. And mostly, as women, we don’t.”
She gives an example: A woman applying for a job and being offered a salary of $60,000 and benefits might typically respond, ‘Wonderful, I’m so excited,’ while a man is more likely to say “What I’d really like is such-and-such. …’
“So the first tool is to not just accept what is offered. You just never know where that can lead. If you don’t ask, they’re certainly not going to offer more.”
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