Overcoming Your Fear Of Negotiating At Work

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Justin, 42, was growing increasingly concerned: he felt like he’d reached a plateau at his company, and wondered if he’d ever enter its senior executive ranks. In eight years of working for a rapidly expanding healthcare provider he’d been promoted only once, to Vice President, and each year received only minimal bonuses and salary increases. Justin had never received stock option awards, either, as had others at his level. His performance reviews were generally positive, but that didn’t seem to help.

His frustration was this: Why didn’t his good performance yield more promotions and better compensation? Justin’s belief in the motto “If you achieve, you will receive” – was surely waning. His quandary was this: What, if anything, could he do to make things better? Justin decided to speak with a career counselor about possibly changing careers. Believing that career change was not a cure to Justin’s problem, his career counselor referred him to us.

After his initial consultation, the source of Justin’s difficulties seemed clear: he simply never engaged in any form of workplace negotiation on his own behalf. Instead of planning his elevation to greater authority and compensation, Justin was waiting for it to come to him. While his colleagues developed the knowledge, skills, and relations the company would likely need, and engaged in a degree of “self-promotion,” Justin seemed frozen in fear whenever we raised the notion of trying such an approach.

When we “peeled back the proverbial onion,” we found these to be Justin’s fears: (a) being viewed as too aggressive; (b) being unsuccessful in his negotiating attempts, (c) upsetting his boss; (d) looking selfish and greedy; (e) not knowing how to go about it, and therefore making a fool of himself; and (f) somehow, possibly, worst case scenario, even losing his job as a result.

In his work, Justin was creative, proactive, assertive and perseverant. He just wasn’t that way on his own behalf. Changing that was his greatest difficulty, and challenge. Confronting those things that were holding him back was his next “job.”

LESSON TO LEARN: The fear of negotiating at work is very, very common. What underlies the fear of negotiating at work? Usually it’s an understandable concern that (a) you will not know what to do, and thus, you will stumble and look foolish to others, (b) you will upset or alienate your boss, and (c) you will, in any event, fail in trying. Each of those fears emanate from a lack of understanding the process.

If you bear in mind that, done with care, forethought, and common sense, negotiating on your own behalf with integrity, respect, a sense of what is reasonable, and with good reasoning, there is little if any downside. While there’s never any guarantee that you will achieve all you want in workplace negotiating, you are nearly guaranteed that your refraining from office negotiating on your own behalf will result only in your frustration, de-motivation and becoming dispirited over time.

All employers will admit each of the four following truths, if only to themselves: (a) they want the best employees (so you should take every opportunity to make and show yourself to be that employee), (b) they want the best employees to remain a long time (so you should show yourself to be someone who is a long-term thinker, and deserving of long-term investment), (c) they don’t want their best employees to leave to a competitor (so you should ask for what it will take to keep you, without threatening to leave), and (d) they want their best employee to stay enthusiastic (which they know requires continual motivation and reward). Good office negotiating is a process to achieve what your employer wants, and what you want, too.

Negotiating at work is good for both you and your employer, because its very purpose is to achieve a fairness in the exchange of the employee’s effort for the employer’s compensation. A comfortable balance of the two – in a range of “mutual fairness” – is in the interests of both employee and employer. If you don’t negotiate on your own behalf, chances are no one else will. If you don’t negotiate for yourself at work, it’s likely you will not receive your just reward, and you will be more distracted, less motivated to push yourself to greater achievement.

If you can come to appreciate that workplace negotiating is a healthy and wise endeavor, and if you become comfortable with the process, it will likely lead to your greater fulfillment and reward at work, and to your greater achievement, too. And isn’t that what you and your employer both want?

The greatest impediment to workplace negotiation is fear. The best antidote to that fear is a better understanding of the negotiation process, and in trying it, and seeing that it can work for you.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you fear negotiating on your own behalf at work – as most people do – consider these ten pointers, each a step toward reducing that fear:

1. Consider that your fears of negotiating may be considerably overblown. Sure, demanding, threatening, or even extorting are foolish things to do, and will likely backfire. But those things aren’t negotiating, at least not the productive kind. Instead, negotiation is a process of motivation by creating, showing and “selling” your value. Negotiation is practiced by every person and organization, and is how we achieve progress through cooperation. Fears of alienating your boss, or being fired, are far overblown, and are likely holding you back more than you think.

2. Bear in mind that healthy employment relations are “two-way streets.” As in a friendship, a partnership, a marriage, or any other relation, it is only helpful to have positive, continual, effective “give and take,” “back and forth,” and mutual awareness of respective concerns. Workplace negotiating is not asking, demanding, threatening, or extorting, but instead a process of making yourself more valuable, involved and, in turn, fairly rewarded.

3. In office negotiating, your goals are entirely consistent with your employer’s goals. If there is a “secret” to understanding workplace negotiating, it’s that your employer is truly interested in having the most productive, loyal, motivated people. Half of workplace negotiating is a matter of being that person; the other half is a matter of asking for your just, earned, reasonable rewards for being that person.

4. Many people fear making some kind of major negotiation blunder. While there’s no single way to achieve any goal, using a path to your goal that has been found to be a wise choice for others who have achieved that goal, is a good way to start. In this way, you can take advantage of the mistakes others have made, and the lessons they have learned, to move forward with less chance of blunder. That’s precisely the value of using a time-tested process. Our seven-step Quality vs. Power™ method is one good example, as it is based on what others have found to be simple, yet powerful steps forward to the same goals you have: job security, and growth in authority, responsibility and compensation over time.

Looking for a New Job? We offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you “remember everything and not forget anything else.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

5. Your “worst case scenario” may actually result from doing nothing at all. Those who don’t engage in something of a plan to elevate their responsibilities and rewards over time are the most likely targets of periodic downsizings. That is, the greatest risk is often a result of avoiding all risks. No one is fired for simply and respectfully requesting what already has been earned. If you believe a respectful, reasonable, reasoned request is likely to cause you serious repercussions, you’re clearly working for the wrong boss and at the wrong company. Risks are relative, and everywhere; no one can avoid them all.

6. Openness and honesty are key. Remember how you may have felt when you’ve thought you were being manipulated, maneuvered or finagled: it’s not a good feeling. In every kind of negotiation, especially workplace negotiation, it’s important to be viewed as acting in good faith. You need to remain frank and honest in every workplace dealing, for the preservation of the relation is paramount. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your own thoughts, your own plan, or your own interests. Having a thoughtful approach to promoting your own interests, and an intended career path, is no crime.

7. Consider employing healthy stress reducers. There is a natural tendency to avoid engaging in any stressful activity. You are more likely to move yourself to start on a new path, and to be successful in doing so, if you take proactive steps to reduce your stress, and its effects on you. Additional degrees of exercise, prayer, sports, yoga, or any other healthy activity that calms the nerves is always helpful to negotiation. Many people find visualization – imagining yourself being successful in your upcoming endeavor, over and over again – to be a powerful stress reducer.

Resignations can be tricky – and treacherous. To help you, we offer a 100-Point Master Pre-Resignation Checklist. All you need to know and remember. To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

8. Start small. In starting your workplace negotiating, instead of asking first for a promotion, consider instead trying out your newfound negotiating skills on a request for a day to attend an offsite conference, or to acquire a new piece of software, requests that seem “smaller”
and less “expensive,” and more easily justified as “creating value” for your employer. Success and confidence come in small steps.

9. Review your plan and practice your pitch with a friend or loved one. It’s no secret that confidence dispels fear. Practicing your requests, in the nature of role-playing, and trying out the rationales you intend to use when making your requests, can only help reduce your fears. If five people tell you that your presentation is clear and powerful, you should have less trepidation in moving forward. On the other hand, as the old saying goes, “If five people tell you you’re an ass, put on a bridle.”

10. Use the extraordinary power of positive attitude. Simply put, there is nothing like the effect of a positive attitude in human interactions. That goes for interactions at work, and the way we order our workplace relations. Approaching every aspect of the workplace relation with a view to “this is good for us all” is a powerful positive attitude in action. Taking the time, attention and effort to achieve a sense of balance and fairness is what workplace negotiating should be all about.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Achieving your just rewards, and avoiding unnecessary risks to your job, your finances and your reputation, are both essential. But it takes more than luck to make that happen. It takes forethought, care and prudence, the essential ingredients in good negotiating.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “reward” and eliminate or reduce employment “risk.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Take a moment to look over our Sklover Video on Demand “Can I Really Negotiate with My Boss?” by [clicking here].

Help Us Stand Up for Employees!
To keep the “lights on” takes a lot. Join others who have
expressed their support. Consider a $5 contribution to our site by PayPal. Just [click here.]

Print Article