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Negotiating Remotely

Negotiating from home

“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born”                                      Nikola Tesla

Working from home has become the norm for many millions of people over the past weeks and months. There are a great many positives, but it is often all too easy to focus on the negatives – the current climate may make it feel hard, if not impossible, to advocate for yourself.
 If there’s something you want, for example flexible hours, time off, or even a pay rise raise, it’s still possible to negotiate from home even in these unprecedented times.  For the purposes of this article, let’s consider how you might negotiate a pay rise remotely. 

Fail to plan; plan to fail

The good news is that much of your negotiation can take place long before you ‘join meeting’ – planning should be your watchword.  A lot of negotiating tips we get from the internet, well-meaning friends, or even self-help books focus on the room itself: how to start talking, what you say, and when you say it etc – this isn’t overly helpful.  I would suggest that the most important part of the negotiation takes place in the planning stage, before the meeting has been ‘joined’. The planning stage must begin with assessing the nature of the negotiation upon which you are about to embark.  Will it be transactional or collaborative; will you choose to work in your own self interest or to pursue a mutually beneficial outcome?  You must also consider who has the power in the negotiation.  The answers to these questions will allow you to better understand the environment and therefore the negotiation.  Your behaviour will then reflect the environment and your requirements.  You must also possess a detailed understanding of what you can (and are prepared to) offer the other party.  Just because you are communicating over the internet you should not loose sight of where value lies within your position and that of the other party.  In the case of a pay rise don’t just consider what you want (£), consider what you bring to the business and how working from home has made you more productive.

Set the stage

You are in control, therefore take every opportunity to influence the other party ahead of the negotiation.  This is usually referred to as positioning.  Done thoroughly, effective positioning will deliver the outcome you are seeking.  Positioning appears in many shapes and forms.  At the macro-level the UK Government might position a forthcoming tax rise by ‘leaking’ information through the media.  Farmers are very good at positioning price increases by consistently talking about the effects of the weather.  Is there ever a good year for the agricultural sector?!  When considering positioning a pay rise, you might choose to send an email (or 2) to your boss ahead of your meeting to demonstrate how productive you have been and the value you have brought to the business even though you have been working remotely.

And the $64,000 question…video or phone?

Do you do it over a video platform like Zoom, or over the phone? We would take the view that video offers certain advantages and would always be our primary mode of remote negotiation.  Video will humanise you, and it will also give you a chance to read the other party’s cues – all that we understand of non-verbal communication (NVC) is still laid bare over a video conversation, much the same as it would be if we were sharing a room. You can better advocate for yourself if you’re able to read NVC (facial cues and even body language) as you communicate.  At the end of the day, you need to pick whatever will make you a better advocate for yourself and your position.

Focus on the outcome

We find ourselves in unprecedented times, with even the best planning and positioning you may still not get the answer that you are seeking.  Your employer may say “no” or “now is not the right time”.  If this happens, remain positive and focus on getting your desired outcome over time.  You could ask to revisit the conversation – most employers will go for this option as this creates the least friction.  If this is the outcome then be specific as to when you will come back to the issue.  Put it in the diary and have the other party sign up to it.  Getting a follow up firmly in the diary is a positive outcome and does not mean that you have wasted your time.  Indeed, thorough planning will always explore contingencies for various outcomes.  You will have already anticipated this ‘possible’ outcome and by doing so you will have considered how you would mitigate a ‘no’ or ‘now is not the right time’. 

Negotiating remotely is little different to negotiating face to face.  Most of the work will be in the planning and preparation stages of your negotiation; this will be closely followed by any positioning that you choose to do.  Both of these activities are unchanged by pandemics or lockdowns…just normal daily activity for the skilled negotiator.  The differences that are found in the execution stage of the negotiation are not as great as some might suggest.  If you negotiating over the internet then you will still have access to all the NVC that face to face would give, you might just need to be a little sharper in picking ip the other party’s cues whilst protecting your own.  In many ways picking up non-verbal information is easier over the internet as the target you are focused on is a face rather than a whole body!  

Negotiating remotely presents businesses with an enormous opportunity.  Gone are the challenges of global travel and the vagaries of timezones, everyone can now be in your office at the time of your choosing just by clicking ‘join meeting’.  

“It’s easy to stand in the crowd, but it takes courage to stand alone”

Mahatma Gandhi

foresight, negotiation, planning, Preconditioning