“You don’t get the life you deserve, you get the life you negotiate.” Chris Voss, Expert Negotiator
Negotiation is an essential part of professional life, whether you’re seeking a salary increase, negotiating a contract, or making a business deal. But not all negotiations are created equal. Let’s start by defining what a negotiation is. Some negotiations involve simple requests or proposals that align with organizational norms, while others require significant deviation from the status quo.
What is a negotiation?
According to Harvard professor Deepak Malhotra, negotiation is a process where two or more parties come together to solve a problem, create value and reach an agreement. It involves communication to find common ground and compromise to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.
Types of Negotiations
In a recent study, researchers Hannah Bowles and colleagues identified three types of negotiations individuals engaged in at work.
The first type is asking, which is the most straightforward negotiation strategy. It involves individual requests or proposals for career advancement that align with accepted policy or workplace practice. For example, asking for a competitive offer or a salary increase that is within the company’s budget and policy.
The second type is bending, which involves requests or proposals for individual exceptions from organizational norms to achieve career aspirations. This type of negotiation involves some deviation from the status quo but is still relatively minor.
For example, asking for a promotion to a position that isn’t typically given to someone with your level of experience or requesting additional resources to complete a project. As well as negotiating roles and responsibilities. This is the most common type of negotiation women relied on to align their family responsibilities with their work commitments.
The third type is shaping, it’s the most complex negotiation strategy. It involves proposals for individual advancement that would alter organizational norms. This type of negotiation requires significant deviation from the status quo and can have a ripple effect throughout the organization.
For example, proposing a new reporting structure, leading a project with companywide implications, or suggesting a change in the way a department operates. The study found that men engage in shaping more frequently than women. This has serious implications for women’s ability to climb the corporate ladder. When individuals understand these three types of negotiation and how often they are using them, they can choose the most effective strategy.
Insights on Gender
All these negotiations required an element of self-advocacy. This study found that when engaging in self-advocacy at work, women face backlash when asking for higher pay similar to the one men experience when asking for flexible work accommodations. Researchers speculated that the backlash was due to managers judging the request as inconsistent with gender stereotypes, with men not seen as caretakers and women as leaders.
Skills You Need for Effective Negotiations
Skills you will need include active listening, assertiveness, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. During the negotiation process, it can be helpful to focus on finding solutions that benefit both parties rather than trying to “win” at all costs. It’s also important to recognize that negotiation is a process, not a one-time event.
In sum, If you’re negotiating a relatively straightforward issue that aligns with organizational norms, asking may be the most effective strategy. If you’re seeking an exception from organizational norms, bending may be the way to go. And if you’re proposing a significant change to the organization, shaping may be necessary. By understanding the different negotiation types and using the appropriate strategy for your situation, you can increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome.
Hannah Riley Bowles et al. 2019. Reconceptualizing what and how women negotiate for career advancement. Academy of Management.