Do you negotiate in the same way at work as you do at home? Many of us often forget the tactics and strategies we employ in our personal lives when we get to the office.
This was the view put forward by Susanna Mason, director general (commercial) at the Ministry of Defence, who spoke at a CIPS Fellows event in London last week on the topic of ‘Are women more effective at negotiation?’. Mason was cautious on whether women are more effective. “I don’t think it is a more or less, it is a difference,” she said. “Women use their heads differently and that is not a good or bad thing, it is a strength of a mixed team.”
Mason said people forget they have a natural style they use every day at home that they could and should draw on. "It works in our home lives and therefore all those characteristics can also work at work, but we tend to want to codify it into very fancy language," she said.
She highlighted a number of aspects that contribute to an effective negotiation, and the difference between what sometimes happens at home and in our professional lives.
• Knowing exactly what you want. When negotiating personally, you know your goal and will use any negotiation tactic to achieve it. At work, we don’t always think in that way.
• Having confidence in what you can concede. “At home we are very clear what we are prepared to concede, you always know what your fallback strategy is. You know what concessions you are prepared to make to get your way. At work we tend to find this quite difficult, because it is a group concession, but the value of understanding that first off is equally important,” she said.
• Accepting all negotiations have some compromise.
• Accepting a win/lose strategy is not good for the long-term. Just as it can’t be sustained with friends or family over a long period, neither will it work with a supplier, she advised.
• Having the confidence to walk away. “When you naturally negotiate, you know exactly the point when you go: ‘That’s enough, I am going to walk away’,” Mason added. “For some reason in work life this gets scrambled and teams don’t sit there and decide at what point they are prepared to walk away, [believing] they’ve got to keep going and somehow find a way through.”