Elements of competition and collaboration exist in every negotiation including those that occur in the workplace.  People bargain with one another because they want some satisfaction from the other that they believe the other may be persuaded to grant if sufficiently rewarded. Each wants to improve their level of satisfaction by influencing the other to exchange their package of contributions for benefits or considerations offered in exchange.

The conventional competitive mode of negotiation is dominant in typical buy-sell transactions.  The literature on negotiation is focused on how well you do for yourself in such bargaining.

Workplace negotiations also have competitive factors associated with the give and take process.  Each side in a workplace dispute a position they wish to favor. Internal negotiations must always be relationship-based in principle, never based on manipulation, bluffing or lying as strategies for success.

The four basic rules of competitive negotiation that follow meet the relationship-based test:

Rule #1-Fight the fear of negotiating.   Few people look forward to negotiating.  There are good reasons for this aversion. There is some risk that relationships between the parties may grow worse if agreement is not achieved. The final outcome of bargaining is never certain.  Yet, whether we like negotiation or not, it is important that each of us fight this fear of negotiating. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate for.

Rule #2-Leave some room for give and take.  Leave as much room as possible if challenged by the other side.  The danger of leaving too much room is that it can invite increased hostility. I believe that leaving bargaining space is not only necessary for effective internal negotiation but actually reduces conflict between parties. By leaving room, you create the negotiating space necessary to assure that the talks will encourage sound reasoning and argument on the part of both sides.

Rule#3-Ask for something in return when you make a concession.  One benefit of doing so is you have added value to your concession.  Also, by asking for something in return you have created negotiating space for other possibilities to be explored.

Rule#4- Give in slowly and in small increments when making concessions. Everything you do in a bargaining situation affects the other’s expectations.  Your initial demands set the stage.  Your persistence in holding firm to a position or idea you favor tells others how you feel about it.  Then, as you move toward agreement, the rate and time of compromise has an effect in raising or lowering their aspirations.

The benefits of concessions offered in small increments over an extended period of time are well-supported by research and experience.  Those who do so provide the negotiating space necessary for fair and reasonable agreements to be reached and for the parties to learn about each other and explore alternative proposals.  Small concessions, slowly given, leave each side room for testing unrealistic expectations and assumptions.  Small concessions are easier to explain and leave one’s credibility and face intact.

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