Negotiating with management can be a scary prospect. Asking for ‘more’ or ‘better’ is a vital part of trade union activity but it often makes people feel awkward or as if they are making trouble. On top of that, management generally have more power – including the power to say ‘no’ to your demands – and are often experienced negotiators.
But, as any trade unionist worth her salt knows; if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
I have been National Chair of the JNC (representing all unionised TUC employees) for just over a year now, so I’ve had a few chances to exercise my negotiation muscles. Here are some useful tips for negotiating with success.
Do your research. If you are negotiating to change or introduce a workplace policy, look around - what do similar organisations use? Ask friends and family – what do their policies look like? Talk to colleagues – what do they really want from a new policy? ACAS often have best-practice policies to use as guidance and, of course, the Wales TUC Cymru have a range of great policies and toolkits. Review as many as you can and figure out what’ll be a good fit for your workplace.
Research isn’t just about getting the most you can out of a negotiation – it’s also the best way to make sure you never settle for less than accepted guidance and recommendations.
Agree what you want ahead of time. Whatever you are negotiating on – whether it’s facility time, pay or a new policy – It’s important to decide what you will accept before you go in. If possible, agree with your colleagues three positions:
Your starting point – e.g. a pay increase of 4% (remember, management will never go up from here)
What you’d like and consider to be reasonable – e.g. a pay increase of 3%
The minimum you are prepared to settle for – say, 2.5%
Try not to feel intimidated. Management have joined you around the table because they are prepared to discuss the issue or issues, so that’s already a great start.
If you are negotiating alongside other reps or colleagues, never disagree amongst yourselves in front of management. Feel free to ask for a “time out” to step out of the room for a moment if you need to – but disagreeing in front of management makes you look unprepared and shows weakness.
Negotiate, don’t argue. It’s not about getting each other’s backs up and you’ll never win anyone over by shouting. Listen carefully, respond calmly, and try to find areas of common ground.
Think about your language. Try using more constructive language, like:
Now you know how to negotiate, you’re ready to change your workplace – visit our campaign page to see what trade unions are campaigning for.