Voice and Influence Program, session 5: Negotiation

 In the fifth instalment of the Voice and Influence training we discussed negotiation. The session began with a video in which Professor Margaret Neale gave her best tips for negotiating successfully. The purpose of this video is to propose a new way of thinking about negotiation: most people view negotiation as an adversarial process, but Professor Neale wants to change the frame of thinking. Negotiation is problem solving, and problem solving is collaborative! A summary of the talk is given below.


Professor Margaret Neale’s Advice on Negotiation.

Suppose you have just been offered a new job, and the contracts have been sent over. Now you have to ask yourself the following question: do you negotiate, or not?

You might first want to ask yourself what the goal of any negotiation would be. Obviously, you want to get a good deal for yourself, but how do you go about doing that? Professor Neale suggests the need to separate good and bad deals by asking yourself:

  • What’s the alternative?
  • What is my reservation price?
  • What is an optimistic assessment of what can be achieved within this negotiation?

Asking yourself these four questions before commencing a negotiation allows you to go in with a good baseline. These questions fit into the four steps to a successful negotiation proposed by Professor Neale. These are:

  1. Assess: Ask yourself, is it possible to change the outcome through negotiation? Weigh benefits vs costs.
  1. Prepare: Understand what it is that you want to achieve. Understand the interests of your counterparts, what do they want to achieve?
  1. Ask: Engage with your counterpart – disputes are opportunities for negotiation!
  1. Package: Don’t negotiate issue by issue. Negotiate issues in packages, this allows you to create opportunities to trade issues. Use if/then language: “If I give you this then I get that”


Unique Challenges for Women

In 2006, the US Open introduced new technology into their tournament: video referees. This technology allows players to challenge the calls of the umpires (a limited number of times) each game. Throughout the tournament, 1/3rd of challenged calls were given to the player. However, men challenged 78 calls to the 23 of their female counterparts.

This is almost three times as many challenges made by men than by women. Professor Neale asks us: are women uncomfortable with negotiating?

We are then shown the research. The crux of it is that:

  • women perform poorly when told that they will do so, and perform better when told that they will do so: expectations drive behaviour.
  • Women are much more successful at negotiating when being ‘concerned with the other’ that is, when negotiating on behalf of a group, women outperform men. However, when negotiating on behalf of themselves, men outperform women.
  • Women negotiate less than men.

This paints a rather worrying picture for the state of gender bias in society. However, Professor Neale does end on a positive note, giving three final tips for how to negotiate successfully:

If you’re going to negotiate, then be strategic in how you ask.

  • Be honest with yourself, how much are you willing to pay to avoid the discomfort of negotiation?
  • Every bad deal you have gotten, you have agreed to. Learn to say no – it could put you in a stronger position.

Come along to our next session on the 28th March, 4-5pm in Founder’s Large Boardroom. Everyone is welcome!

Ben Curtis, PhD student.