One thing that continues to surprise me is the extent to which we assume that employee-employer negotiations must be zero sum. That is, whatever the employee gains, the employer loses.
This is a dated mindset in negotiation strategy in general but makes even less sense in employee-employer negotiations. You want to do well at your job. Your employer wants you to do well at your job. Fundamentally, we’re aligned on that. Anything that prevents you from providing the impact you are capable of isn’t good for you OR them. Given that backdrop, I would argue that employee-employer negotiations are particularly well suited to be integrative discussions, one in which you can set the conversation up to be an “us vs. the problem” discussion, rather than a “you vs. me” deliberation.
For example, I worked with a woman who was the only woman on her company’s leadership team. Historically, the leadership team meeting was held Monday evenings at 6pm. Given that workplaces were created for white men with a full-time partner at home, this isn’t surprising. However, it presented a particularly difficult situation for a woman with a small child at home who is typically fed and put to bed between 6 and 7:30.
She used a collaborative approach to this conversation.
“I wanted to talk about our Monday evening leadership meeting. Why is it at 6pm?”
“Hmm…. It’s been like that since I was brought onto the team 15 years ago… we need data from the Monday morning reports, but those are done by noon. To be honest, I’m really not sure… perhaps simply because it’s always been that way.”
“Given that, I wondered if we could explore moving it to Monday afternoon, say, 3pm? Our company has evolved to be much more supportive of families, and this change would be aligned with those values. What do you think?”
“That does sound reasonable. Let’s raise the topic next week to make sure there’s nothing we’re missing, and then we can try it for a month and see how it goes.”
Not shockingly, it went just fine. An added bonus, which she pointed out, is that now all the other folks who are appointed to the leadership team don’t have to push that boundary – they can tackle the next thing.
If you want dive deeper into collaborative (or integrative) negotiations, I highly recommend Getting to Yes. It’s a bit dated, but still THE book on integrative negotiations.
Have any other tips on how to negotiate collaboratively? Leave them here!