You often think the term ‘negotiation’ is confined to striking business deals and bargaining for a higher salary. But our lives are a series of negotiations. I am sure you remember conversations around pushing bedtime for an extra hour of video games, doing some chores to get some extra pocket money, or deciding the TV remote-sharing protocols with your siblings from your childhood. No fancy business settings there, but it was still a negotiation.

Position, Interests, and Priority

Negotiation is a critical skill for both professional and personal success. But to negotiate wisely and successfully you have to be clear about your position, interest, and priorities. A position is what you want, interest is why you want it, and priorities are what you want the most.

Let’s say you are negotiating a salary for a new job. Your position is to get a certain hike on your current salary. Your interest is to make more money and progress in your career. But your priority could be a better role, even if it doesn’t come with much of a salary hike.

These factors depend on your own context and situation and they play a big role in how you set your target in a negotiation. But how does all this work during these uncertain times, when jobs are scarce and people are being laid off? How do you negotiate salaries at this time, for instance?

BATNA Or WATNA

Until now, once you had your position, interests, and priorities sorted, you then walked to the negotiation table with a clear target. And if you didn’t get an ideal deal, you often had a solid BATNA in your pocket.

BATNA stands for Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. It’s a concept formulated by Harvard negotiation experts Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in their book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

The better your BATNA, the more you can push for your actual target. It’s what you can walk out with if there is a ‘no-deal’ situation.

Under normal circumstances,  your BATNA during a salary negotiation might be a better salary offer from some other organization. But these are tough times and you might not have a solid BATNA. Most industries are going through a slowdown. Jobs are tough to find, people are facing layoffs and pay cuts, and opportunities are scarce.

This can create anxiety and insecurity within us and make it tough to approach a negotiation with confidence. And if you don’t have a BATNA to leverage, you might be tempted to minimize your losses and instead accept a WATNA—Worst Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.

It might seem like the best possible outcome, but don’t let fear and anxiety drive your decision-making. In other words, don’t let WATNA get on the driver’s set in your negotiation. Accepting an otherwise unacceptable job offer will only destroy morale and hurt your performance because of dissatisfaction and distress.

So, what should you do? This is where negotiation comes in. Try to orient the conversation towards reasonable concessions. For example, you could accept a lower salary than you expected but negotiate a six-month appraisal contingent on you doing well and the market getting better.

American author and former FBI hostage negotiator Christopher Voss says that for a successful negotiation (especially during a crisis) you should aim for people to say ‘that’s right’. If you get someone to say ‘that’s right’, it means they find your position reasonable. This can prime people to listen and be accommodative. And from an accommodative mindset, people are more likely to give you what you want.

Conclusion

Negotiation, at the end of the day, is all about working with people. And people have interests, concerns, and emotions. Be mindful of the same when negotiating with anyone—a recruiter, friend, or a client.

Keeping a balanced approach with emotions, signaling care, empathy, and trust, and being reasonable can go a long way in getting the job done. And it can help you build and nurture relationships. So don’t shy away from picking up this skill from Harappa’s Collaborate Habit.

Negotiations are tough! Even under normal circumstances. But it’s still a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected. You can always learn to Negotiate Wisely.

The economic slowdown and unemployment crisis during COVID-19 might have put people in a tough spot when negotiating salaries, work fees, or contracts. But your skill and labor have value; you must give a fair shot to getting its worth.

Crisis or not, don’t back away from the negotiation table. Make negotiating wisely a habit. Decisions can have a long-term impact and you don’t want to live with a decision you never made!

Ragini Thakur is a Specialist with the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education. She is a postgraduate in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She enjoys old Hindi songs, books meant for kids and all things food.


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