How to Negotiate in the Workplace

Whether you want to negotiate with your boss for flexible work hours or resolve a conflict with a colleague, mastering negotiation skills is necessary to accomplish your goals. Strengthening your negotiation skill set gives you the ability to effectively communicate your concerns with your team members, clearly define your objectives, and reach a favorable solution for all parties involved. If you want to learn how to negotiate in the workplace, it is important to not only understand the types of negotiations you are most likely to engage in, but also the steps you can take to secure the best results.

Types of Workplace Negotiations

You will likely encounter several situations during your career that will require negotiation skills. Understanding these types of negotiations and how they may occur is critical for being prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Aside from negotiating with third parties, common examples of negotiations you may conduct in your professional life include:

Employee to employee negotiations

Virtually every position involves regularly interacting with members of a team, whether you are a part of the team or responsible for managing others. This type of negotiation can consist of delegating specific tasks to various individuals in a team, creating work schedules, agreeing on project deadlines, and resolving interpersonal conflicts.

Employee to employer negotiations

offer is the first opportunity you have to negotiate your starting salary, benefits package, or other details of your employment contract. You might be hesitant to broach this topic, but research shows that taking this risk can seriously pay off. A recent survey conducted by HR company Paychex found that 60% of employees consider an employer’s openness to benefits negotiations to be extremely or very important when deciding to accept a new position. Many employers recognize this need, and 83.3% of them are willing to negotiate benefits with their team.

Of the workers who negotiated, 87% did so during the hiring process and 80.9% of them were successful in obtaining benefits. 60% of respondents conducted negotiations after being hired and 79.4% of them were successful. The most frequently requested benefits were flexible work hours, flexible time off, and 401(k) matches or contributions, but other benefits you can negotiate include commuting benefits, subsidized insurance premiums, remote work, and leaves of absence.

You can also negotiate a promotion or raise depending on the length of time you have spent with the company, your work performance, and the results you have obtained. If you pursue a promotion that involves more responsibilities, you may need to negotiate to secure sufficient compensation.

How to Negotiate in the Workplace

Take the following steps to conduct strategic workplace negotiations:

Understand the stages of negotiation and how to transition from one to the next.

Although every situation is different, there are typically five major stages in a negotiation. Understanding these stages and how to progress from one stage to the next can help you plan your negotiation and know what to expect at each point.

  1. Convening Stage – Determine whether to communicate with the entire team during a joint meeting or talk to the parties separately first before scheduling a team meeting.
  2. Opening Stage – Create a productive environment for dialogue by coaching the parties on how to use time effectively during a joint meeting.
  3. Communication Stage – Allow both parties to express the business, legal, and personal issues impacting the negotiation.
  4. Negotiation Stage – Work together to creatively solve the problem and offer flexible alternatives to meet everyone’s needs.
  5. Closure Stage – At this point, all parties have the necessary information to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement.
Choose the right time to negotiate.

Planning your negotiation for the right time allows both parties to become more comfortable with the process and sets it on a course for success. Attempting to conduct a negotiation when the other party is distracted, busy, emotionally charged, or otherwise unavailable to give their full attention to the matter is a recipe for a poor outcome. Schedule a time that works for both of you but do not delay–allowing critical issues to remain unresolved can damage the work environment in the meantime and may even cause valuable employees to resign out of frustration.

Set clear boundaries and goals for the negotiation

Determine your priorities and set clear, firm boundaries, both for what you consider to be non-negotiable and for the concessions you are willing to make to achieve your desired outcome. This gives you a goal for the negotiation, allows you to communicate your expectations for the other party, and instills a feeling of security to the negotiation process. When you set boundaries and work toward specific goals, you can structure the negotiation to protect your interests and accomplish these goals.

Come prepared with accurate, reliable information.

If you are faced with a conflict, gather as much information as possible to ensure you make the right decision. With reliable information, you can differentiate between reports of facts, inferences made based on these facts, and make judgments that evaluate the situation by casting approval or disapproval. In many situations, what is presented as a report describing tangible evidence is actually an inference—an educated guess based on experience and observation, or a hasty judgment made without full knowledge of the circumstances. When someone shares information, evaluate the source and the context to check the reliability of the information. Only when all parties come to a more comprehensive understanding of the evidence can they reach a fair solution.

Practice creative problem solving and explore alternatives.

Every negotiation involves two seemingly contradictory interests – the desire to compete and reach the best outcome for yourself, and the desire to cooperate for the benefit of the entire team. Approach the negotiation with the goal of achieving a mutually beneficial solution through clear communication and collaboration. Fostering an empathetic, cooperative environment and working together towards a shared goal often prompts creative problem solving and gives you the opportunity to explore innovative alternatives.

Know your value to the company and demonstrate it with confidence.

You were selected for your position because of the unique value you offer to your company, and this gives you bargaining power in a negotiation. Knowing your value and the specific skills you provide will give you the confidence to approach your employer to request pay raises, promotions, and other benefits and to conduct effective negotiations to obtain them. Your value as an employee is impacted by your experience, education level, leadership abilities, skills as they pertain to your job role, professional licenses or certifications in your industry, and any recognition you have received in your career.

Remain courteous, professional, and tactful.

The proverb about being able to catch more flies with honey than vinegar applies to business interactions as well as personal relationships. Framing your request in a considerate way builds a foundation of trust and respect that makes the other party much more likely to cooperate than giving them ultimatums or making demands. Remain courteous and professional during the negotiation and approach sensitive topics with tact. Use “I” statements to express yourself without casting blame on the other person or offending them.


Master Workplace Negotiations

Negotiating in the workplace can be an intimidating prospect but taking the above steps can increase your chances of achieving a win-win outcome. If you are interested in improving the negotiation skills of your team, contact Shapiro Negotiations today to schedule negotiation training. We can teach your employees how to negotiate in the workplace, both internally and externally. With our expert training and practice, your team can effectively handle every stage of negotiations and secure optimal results for your business.



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