In case you haven’t been watching the news, here’s a brief rundown of what’s been going on in Rhode Island:
In February, the entire staff was fired from Central Falls High School as part of a plan to reform the under-performing school. After months of negotiations, the Central Falls Teachers Union reached an agreement with the local school board. All 90 teachers were rehired under the additional terms and conditions that they will work longer hours, provide additional tutoring to students and complete 10 professional development days every summer. In the end, the teachers kept their jobs, and the requisite tutoring sessions and longer school days will hopefully lead to better academic performance at the school.
The road to cooperation wasn’t easy, though — The New York Times reported that, since February, the union spent close to 50 hours in talks with the school board.
This led us to start thinking about the art of compromise. Unfortunately, negotiation is rarely a walk in the park, but since it’s a fact of working life, it’s good to know the basics. The following are expert tips on negotiation, whether you’re vying for a higher salary, a longer maternity leave or the right to wear flip-flops to the office this summer.
1. Do your research
First things first, says Steve Gavatorta, author of “The Reach Out Approach” and a speaker on negotiation methods. “Be prepared and do your homework upfront. It is imperative that you gain clarity on your needs as well as those of the other person,” he says. “It is often difficult to gather insights from the other side, but the more you can glean and clarify what a ‘win’ means for the both of you, the more you can understand where there is alignment and difference, which will help you plan and succeed in the negotiation.”
Gavatorta also suggests defining what constitutes a win-win situation before entering negotiation, “so you are viewed as taking the initiative of working towards a common goal.”
2. Listen to the other side
“The best way to make your side heard is to focus on the organization’s priorities first,” says Renessa Boley, a success coach in Washington, D.C. “It’s crucial to hear the other side so that you can (1) demonstrate how the change you seek benefits the organization and aligns with their priorities and (2) so that you can proactively address any concerns your boss may have before he or she raises them. It is always better to pre-empt an objection than to respond to one,” Boley says.
3. Explain yourself
If you’re negotiating a salary or challenging a current workplace rule or contract, chances are that simply asking for what you want won’t be enough. You’ll have to back up your position with facts and reasons why you should get what you want, and how it will benefit the company or organization.
“I like to look at the negotiation as an opportunity to persuade another person to ultimately accept your points,” Gavatorta says. “If you’ve done your homework and clearly know where the alignment is [in your viewpoints] you can work towards the overarching objective of a win for both sides.”
4. Aim high
“Remember this is a negotiation and you will have give and take, so start at an aggressive point so you have plenty of room to maneuver,” Gavatorta says. “You can be assured that the other person will be aiming high, too.”
5. Know when enough is enough
Sometimes, Gavatorta says, both sides may just need to walk away for a while and think about the points that have been raised, but this doesn’t mean the conversation is finished. “If you’ve done your homework upfront and negotiated in good faith during the process, then it is not yet over,” he says.
Also, remember that a good deal can be made for everyone involved, without each side getting exactly what they want. “At some point, we need to be happy with what’s fair and accept a deal that we can live with and feel good about,” Cafasso says. “Especially when negotiating a salary, I always ask my clients if they want to work [for a certain employer] for reasons beyond the money. Will it advance their overall career goals? What will they learn? What contacts will they make?”