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Negotiation Experience Essay

I’ve got a minor confession to make: I’m not very good at negotiating. I don’t like doing it and I tend to avoid it. It’s something I’m working on. I’ve started to get over it through practice and seeing negotiation more as a form of persuasion than anything else.

A great book on this topic is Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real Worldby Stuart Diamond. There are a lot books on negotiating and I’ve read some of them, but Diamond’s book feels most rooted in reality, in ordinary life situations. It’s also less about power dynamics and more about, as the title references, “achieving goals” which is something I can really get behind. So check it out.

Anyway, some of the feedback I’ve gotten from you (readers of The Art of Ass-Kicking) is that you like reading my stories. So here’s the best negotiation story to date. If I do better I’ll try to write about it if I can (without revealing important private information). I’d love to hear your experiences with negotiation in the comments!

How I Made $5,000 in a 20 minute Phone Call

The year (2008-09) was an interesting one. I had finished my bachelors degree at Stanford and was continuing through a masters in Biology and preparing to enter the job market. In the fall I had participated in the recruiting process for several management consulting firms but the combination of a terrible economy + poor thinking on the fly skills meant I got some interviews but no offers. I decided to shift gears and go after service / nonprofit positions – and got final rounds with Teach for America + a service fellowship.

The Daily position was exciting because it was a mission driven organization that was formed as a nonprofit but was run like a business – the COO is responsible for the P&L and reports to a 9 person board of directors. I decided to apply for the position after several rounds of interviews, got an offer.

I figured the next step would be to negotiate the offer. I knew I was in a good position because somehow the interviewer had let it slip that there had only been for applicants for the position and that 2 were too old (5+ years after college) to do the job. So while it didn’t do much for my ego to know that I only beat out one person, it meant they didn’t have a lot of options. So they ought to be willing to discuss… =)

I brought up the idea of negotiating the comp package to my interviewer, who was the outgoing COO. She had a very policy/bureaucratic manner and was a bit taken back and almost shocked by my suggestion of negotiating the salary. “The salary is standard, has been the same for many years and doesn’t change!”

(This response might also have been because she had spent the year doing major cost cutting to keep the organization a float). But she also wanted to make sure that there was a COO of the Daily for next year, so she passed my request on to the Chairman of the Friends of the Stanford Daily – a guy with a lot of power and one of the original founders of the Daily nonprofit.

I remember reading a book on negotiating comp packages and it said – if you couldn’t move salary, work on tangential benefits/perks. I had gotten into a summer program at Stanford’s Business School that was basically an expensive mini-MBA camp. I had hoped to win a scholarship to attend but didn’t get it. I still wanted to go but it was $10,000 and would cut into my first few weeks at the Daily.

So I got on a call with this guy, let’s call him Jeff. I told him I was interested in the position but I was looking for a higher offer than what was given ($42,000). While I knew they wanted me, I also didn’t have another offer on the table, which always makes negotiating harder.

Jeff wasn’t willing to budge on salary – the Daily was going through tough economic times and he couldn’t offer anything higher. So I bring up this mini-MBA and ask if I could start later and get the whole program paid for since it would directly add value to my ability to be COO.

He thinks about it (the guy has an MBA from Stanford himself) and offers to pay for half. But also since it cuts into my first three weeks at work, I wouldn’t get paid for that time. So I do the math – this offer means I still have to shell out 5k AND I lose out on about 2k of salary. Not a good deal.

Then in my flash of brillance, I ask – what if instead of paying $5k for the program, you put aside $5k for me to use in approved educational purchases? BINGO. He can’t refuse the number since he had already put it out there, and now I could start work on time and have the flexibility to use the money in a variety of ways.

I used the $5k over the course of the year to buy a number of business books, some sales training programs, and flights for several staff members to attend a conference on college newspapers held at Yale.  It was a win for everyone and though it may not be amazing, it’s my best negotiation story to date.

Lessons Learned

You have more leverage than you think

Negotiating is scary and asking for more comes with risk. But if you have any kind of offer or are in a discussion, the other side isn’t going to walk away because you suggest you want more. They’re there for a reason – they want what you can bring to the table – so don’t forget that.

Give reasons

When you ask for something, it’s helpful to give a reason. One reason might be – someone else is offering more, another might be – give me more and I’ll bring something else to the table, a third might be – helping me is really helping the organization. I used the 3rd reason.

Get them to throw out an offer

This isn’t always the right thing, but if you are uncomfortable asking for more, it’s helpful to get the other party to make an offer. When Jeff indicated he would pay for half of the summer MBA program, I now had a solid offer to work with.

Be flexible

In the book Getting More, Professor Diamond says to trade items of unequal value. In order to do this, you have to bring a lot more items to the table of discussion/negotiation. In my case, Jeff had to hold the line on salary but could offer discretionary funds for easier-to-justify things such as “professional development”.

I hope you enjoyed my tale! I’d love to hear of any negotiation stories you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them.

Related Posts:

Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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Reflective Essay On Negotiation

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Reflective Essay on Negotiation

Negotiation occurs on a regular basis in a daily life and individuals negotiate in business occasions or outside of the workplace. Having superior negotiation skills is critical to the success in personal life and career development. This essay will indicate my natural preferences for different influencing tactics, connections between what I learnt and preconceptions, my perceptions about the activity, an understanding of negotiation and a personal action plan. The aim is to have a thorough grasp of the influencing tactics and improve my negotiation skills.

Natural preferences for different influencing tactics

In terms of the utility of influencing tactics, I preferred rationality and emotional appeal during the activity, as well as exchange. I acted as Chris Johnson, an employee who recently switched to the department and was not eager to wear safety glasses, and had a conversation with the new manager, Dale Williams, who should impose the safety rules. According to the role description, I had planned to focus on my demand for this job and no necessity for wearing safety glasses.

When asked about the relationship with the previous manager in the first role play, I cited examples to demonstrate that I was an easy-going and reliable employee. Meanwhile, I listed my reasons point by point to explain that it was unnecessary to wear safety glasses. In the second round, I observed that the person in the manger role was patient and considerate. I enlisted sympathy from him by my experiences as a single mother, and acquired his understanding and trust. From my perspective, this was a win-win strategy because I tended to be motivated and productive with manager's support instead of mistrust. When talking about the safety issue, both of us had a favorable impression on each other, making the following negotiation more smoothly. Finally we used exchange to reach an agreement: I would wear the safety glasses and the manager would change the uncomfortable glasses into high-quality ones.

In general, I preferred rationality since it indicated the evidences in a logical way. In the meantime, I chose emotional appeal as it could positively impact the other party's attitude towards a certain idea, thus the negotiator may be more likely to obtain approval, particularly for those who are sensitive and emotional.

Connections between what I learnt and my preconceptions

Before the lecture and activity, I understood the significance of negotiation skills as numerous...

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