HR Arabia

October 4, 2007

Managing your Manager

Filed under: boss,managers,work — Khaled @ 10:26 am

In our professional lives, the term “manage” is frequently used. We have to manage our time. We have to manage a project. We have to manage information. We have to manage our workspace. We have to manage a way to get that hot temp in the short skirt down the hall to go out for a drink… You get the point. We have enough to manage at work. Yet the one part that many people complain about the most — the relationship they have with their boss — is the least “managed.” I hope to change that.

The fact of the matter is that people are not forthright enough with their managers. They’re so intent on towing the company line that they neglect to look after their own job satisfaction. This perpetuates a cycle of non-communication that ultimately does not benefit the employee, the manager or the company for that matter. The employee bottles up his opinions; the manager has a false assumption about (and false sense of rapport with) his team member; and the company loses out because of poor morale and unrealized opportunity. If only the employee knew how to manage his manager.

If you learn the art of figuring out how your boss thinks, you’ll feel in control and glide through your working life with a smile on your face. Knowing how to manage your manager is the key to a happy life. Thinking like a manager will help you understand what’s going on in your boss’s head, and any extra thinking that you’re not really paid for will only stand you in good stead for when you get to lord it over everyone else.
 To get the best out of your boss, whining (ÇáÃäíä æÇáÔßæì)is the last thing you should to. you should consider the following:
 Do you spend a lot of your time with your friends or colleagues complaining about your manager? Well, you are not alone the next time you are in a group, just bring up one story of poor management skills and you can probably expect a flood of ‘bad manager’ stories from the group.
 While it is a relief to express your frustration about your manager, it’s better to do something about it. To begin with, you need to recognize that if you were in his shoes.
 Managers today face two factors that have a great impact on their behavior:
 The work environment is fast-paced and stressful. Time to manage people is a premium and if your manager has not been trained in this area, then he probably would not know what to do with the available time he has to manage people.
 Managers want to look good. Well, so do all of us, but managers are in a fish-bowl. What they do is very visible. High visibility in an organization can be intimidating and cause people to do things they normally would not.
 The stress of work and the desire to look good can sometimes cause managers to ‘over-manage’ their staff.

These tips can help both yourself and your manager be successful at work.
 Have a ‘no surprise’ policy: Managers hate surprises even if it is good news. Surprises generally make managers feel ‘out-of-control’ and fear the possibility of ‘looking bad’.
 Proactively ask for positive and negative feedback: Managers are not good at praising (ÇáãÏÍ æÇáËäÇÁ).
 Clarify roles, responsibilities and objectives: At any workplace, ambiguity is more common than clarity. So if you are facing a project that is unclear, clarify with your manager.
 Ask what is success and failure: Every manager has an idea of what success and failure look like. Sometimes these are not communicated clearly or even at all. In this case, your job is to ask. Making assumptions about how your work will be measured is not such a good idea.
 Keep positive and be helpful: stay positive & helpful always try to keep positive and be helpful to your team members and your manager.
 Recognize that managing people is a difficult task and many people, who might include your own manager, really struggle at it. Focus on how you can help your manager, yourself and your team be successful together Ñ this will do more for your career than complaining about your manager.
 Make a nice package: How does your manager like to receive information?
 Seek help:
 Do small talk.
 Need to know.
 Ask: what’s the problem?
 Have regular meetings.
 Toot your own horn.
 Know when to bail.
 Ask: what’s the problem?
 Have regular meetings.
 Make a nice package: How does your manager like to receive information?
 Plant the seed: “When it comes to a good idea, make your manager think that they’d thought of it”.
 Consider Captain Mainwaring: “Do you think that’s wise, sir?
 Do small talk
 Need to know: Only tell your manager that you’re pregnant when you absolutely have to.
 Begin the relationship on the right foot. Have a meeting with your boss where you discuss such fundamental issues as job responsibilities, performance expectations and objectives, your company and manager’s guiding values, and preferred work processes or “best practices.”
 Try to understand your boss. By observing and asking questions,
 Communicate effectively. Figure out the best way to communicate with your manager, some managers prefer face-to-face contact throughout the day and others prefer e-mail or voicemail updates or questions. Also, ask if your supervisor prefers a quick overview with bullet points or a detailed report.
 Tell your boss what you need. Once you’ve found the best way to communicate with your manager, be proactive in telling him or him or her what resources you need to get your job done (don’t hope your boss will guess).
 Get your manager involved

Difficult Boss Types
o Tyrant: controlling evil genius which must have its own way; knows everything and nasty with it; unpleasant to everybody including itself
o Ogre: tries to be nasty all the time but without the success of the tyrant; may lapse into pleasantry outside its lair
o Weasel: transfixes victim with stare before moving in for x-x-/; family at home needs feeding with nutritious juniors
o Volcano: magma beneath the surface occasionally erupts; outwardly quiescent but seething Ghost: not really there except for manifestations, malign influences in mysterious ways
o Snake: subtle, slithering, hissing, dissembling, and poisonous
o Ruler: an authoritarian; keen on rules, status, and rigmarole
o Joker: relentless witticisms and even practical jokes, avoidance of all serious issues, possibly a sad clown avoiding the real world
o Alien: lives on a different planet; speaks a strange language; does not understand human ways; beams down occasionally
o Statue: admired but inert; does not say much
o Cuckoo: sounds good, but places a lot of work in your nest

Dealing with Difficult Bosses.
 The Micro-Manager (controlling, overly involved)
o Remedy: Your boss needs to develop more confidence in you. Begin by asking for complete responsibility on smaller tasks and then work your way up to bigger tasks. Be sure to deliver consistently excellent work or you may lose that trust quickly.
 The Non-Manager (indecisive, hesitant, vague)
o Remedy: Instead of asking open-ended questions, give him a few choices and one clear recommendation. Counteract vagueness by asking for clarification. Avoid procrastination on your boss’s part by communicating your deadlines and following up on what you need.
 The Unreasonable Manager (crushes you with work)
o Remedy: Schedule a meeting to discuss priorities and options for what you can and cannot handle. Suggest bringing in a contractor to help during peak periods.

How To Deal With A Difficult Boss
Bosses and supervisors aren’t from another planet, but sometimes they seem to be. If you deal with the boss from hell you know. Conflict between a difficult boss and an employee can be daunting and intimidating. Here are some tips to help you deal with difficult bosses and supervisors.
Most people at some point in their lives have to deal with a difficult boss. Difficult supervisors vary in personality from being a little pushy or rude, all the way to being downright abusive. Many people feel that an abusive boss has control of their personal life outside of work by lowering their self-esteem and making them live in constant fear. The role of a supervisor sometimes attracts certain controlling-type personalities because they crave the power it gives them and because they lack such control in their own personal lives. A supervisor has complete control over your most basic human needs—your ability to put food on the table and a roof over your head. These are powerful motivating factors that allow a difficult supervisor to control people out of fear of losing these basic needs. We may not be able to always correct their behavior, but we should never have to live in fear and let our difficult boss control our lives.

Here are some strategies on handling a difficult boss situation.
1. Always have a plan B. Most people are scared about having a discussion with their boss concerning their abusive behavior because they fear reprimand or losing their job as a result of it. Their fear is usually justified if the supervisor is a control-freak and feels that their subordinate is threatening their control. Before you deal with any type of conflict, you always need to have a plan B in case things don’t work out. A plan B is the best alternative that you can come up without having to negotiate anything with your boss. In this type of scenario, your best plan B would probably take the form of having an actual job offer in hand with another employer before you have your talk. By not having a back-up plan, you have given your abusive boss even more leverage over you because they know you have no where else to go. Having a plan B, however, empowers you with the ability to walk-away at any time should the negotiation not go right. Increase your power and have a plan B before you deal with the conflict.
2. Never react to verbal abuse or harsh criticism with emotion. This will always get you into more trouble than you started with because it will become a war between egos and chances are good that your boss has a bigger ego than you have—hence why he is difficult in the first place. When a personal attack is made on you, they are trying to bait you into reacting emotionally because once you react, you become an easy target for additional attacks. The key then is not to react, but to acknowledge and move on. By doing this, you effectively strip all of the power behind their verbal attacks away from your abusive boss, without creating conflict. If your boss happens to be an intimidator or a control freak, then the best way of dealing with their behavior is to remain calm and acknowledge their power by saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry.” By saying this, you take away any chance of them lashing back at you because you have sidestepped their verbal attack rather than meeting it head on.
3. Discuss rather than confront. When your boss criticizes you, don’t react out of emotion and become confrontational with them about it because that just breeds more conflict. Instead, use their criticism as a topic for discussion on interests, goals, and problem-solving and ask them for their advice. If they criticize your work, then that means that they have their own idea on how that work should be done, so ask them for their advice on how your work can be improved.
4. Manage the manager. A source of conflict usually occurs when a group of employees gets a new manager who demands that things run differently. These changes are usually reactionary in nature because the employees go about their regular duties until the manager comes by and criticizes the way it is being done. Instead of waiting for their criticism, take a proactive approach and be absolutely clear from the very beginning on how your boss wants things to be done so that there is no miscommunication later on. There are many ways of completing a task and having a discussion about them at the very beginning will allow you to see things from their perspective as well as sharing your own with them. Get to know their likes and dislikes inside and out so that you can avoid future criticisms.
5. Know that you can do little to change them. Being a difficult person is part of their personality and therefore it is a very difficult, if not impossible thing to change in a supervisor, so don’t think that you can change how they act. Instead, change the way that you view their behavior. Don’t label them as being a jerk–just merely label them as your boss. By avoiding derogatory labeling, you avoid making it easy on yourself to be angry with your boss.
6. Keep your professional face on. Know the difference between not liking your boss and not being professional. You don’t have to make your boss your friend or even like your boss as a person, but you do have to remain professional and get the job done and carry out their instructions dutifully as a subordinate, just as you would expect them to be professional as do their duties as a supervisor.
7. Evaluate your own performance. Before you go attacking your boss, examine your own performance and ask yourself if you are doing everything right. Get opinions from other coworkers about your performance and see if there is any warrant to the criticisms of your supervisor before you criticize their opinions.
8. Gather additional support. If others share in your concern, then you have the power of numbers behind you to give you additional persuasion power over your boss. It is often easy for a supervisor to ignore or attack one employee, but it becomes more difficult to attack all of his employees. He might be able to fire one of you, but he will look like an ****** (and probably get fired himself) if he tries to fire all of you. An interdepartment union is a good way of mustering power against an abusive employer.
9. Don’t go to up the chain of command unless it’s a last resort. Going straight up the chain of command is not an effective way of dealing with a difficult supervisor because it only increases conflict in the workplace. Your immediate supervisor will consider this a very serious backstabbing maneuver and might seek some sort of retribution in the future against you and your career. Also, other people in your workplace might brand you as a whistleblower because of your actions. Try to discuss issues with your supervisor first and only go up the chain of command as a last resort.
10. Encourage good behavior with praise. It is easy to criticize your superiors, but criticisms often lead towards resentment and hostile feelings. Everyone likes a pat on the back for good behavior, so you should strive to watch for good behaviors from your supervisor and compliment them on that. Proactive praising is much more effective than reactive criticisms.
11. Document everything. If you choose to stay with a toxic employer, then document everything. This will become your main ammunition should a complaint ever be filed down the road. Document interactions with them as well as your own activities so that you can remind them of your own achievements at performance review time.
12. Leave work at work. Get into the habit of leaving work at home and not bringing it into your personal life because that will only add to your level of stress. Keep your professional life separate from your personal life as best as you can. This also includes having friends who you don’t work with so that you can detach yourself from your work life rather than bringing it home with you.
13. Make sure you are doing everything right. The first solution is an honest analysis of your actions and behavior. How have you been handling yourself in your job? Have you always taken the high road, or have you resorted to occasional backstabbing, gossiping, or underperforming? If you’re human, it’s likely your bad boss has affected your performance, so try ignoring all these distractions and focus on your work to see if that changes anything. Find other sources of positive reinforcement for doing your job to the best of your abilities.
14. Compile a list of bad boss behaviors. The second solution is a bit more involved, but should be a cathartic experience for you. Make a list of all the things that your boss does that drive you nuts. Let the list sit for a few days and then review it again, adding or deleting activities upon further reflection. Next, rank the list from most annoying to least annoying. Pick the top two or three worst offenses and develop some suggestions for how your boss could act differently in those situations. Edit the suggestions to remove sarcasm or anger. Show the suggestions to a trusted friend who has no vested interest in the situation. Edit the suggestions again. Once you feel comfortable that your suggestions are positive and helpful, consider scheduling a meeting with your boss to discuss. Perhaps suggest meeting outside the office for breakfast or lunch. Leave your emotions at the door, but be prepared for your boss to have an emotional reaction. It’s possible that your boss is unaware of his/her actions, and this meeting could be very positive for all involved; however, it’s also possible that the meeting will end badly.
15. Keep a journal of incidents. The third solution involves documenting each bad behavior of your boss in a journal. Don’t judge or write emotional reactions; simply document the facts of the situation and how the bad behavior impacted your performance — as well as others in the department. Again, this process may be enough to relieve you of the stress so that you can cope. However, at some point in the future — perhaps as you are leaving for a new job — you might consider taking the journal to a trusted colleague in human resources or even a mentor within the company.
16. Find a mentor with the company
If you love the company but hate the boss, another solution is to develop a mentoring relationship with a boss/supervisor in another part of the company. Mentoring is a fantastic strategy that you should consider even if you have a good boss because a mentor is someone who can help you in many ways, from offering advice to suggesting you for a promotion. And in coping with a bad boss, a mentor can be a good sounding board for you, and perhaps after you have documented all the offenses, someone who has the pull and the power to do something about your bad boss.
17. Report your bad boss. A last resort is reporting the bad actions/performance of your boss to his/her supervisor — or to someone in human resources. While logic would hold that the company would not want a manager who is hurting performance or productivity, the reality is often that you become branded as a trouble-maker/whiner/complainer and your days at the company quickly become numbered.
18. Don’t sacrifice your health or self-esteem. The worst thing you can do is simply to do nothing, hoping the problems will get resolved. No job, boss, or company is worth losing your health, sanity, or self-esteem. If you can’t find a way to resolve these issues and/or your boss simply will never change his/her behavior, you should immediately start working your network and begin looking for a new job — within or outside the organization. Again, if you love the company, a transfer might be the best option — but keep in mind that your boss might be as evil as to sabotage that transfer. And try not to quit before you find a new job, but again, if work just becomes too unbearable, you may need to consider quitting to save yourself.

Ten Things That Bad Managers Do
1. Embarrass employees in public. At some point, nearly everyone has observed someone being ridiculed in public at work. Yet, public humiliation is an old, outdated habit of the classic authoritarian management style. Unfortunately, it is still commonly used, as employees’ stories attest. Jim, a new IT engineer for a large financial services firm, recalls being chastised almost daily in front of his team members for not understanding new code instructions. Susan, a clerk at Walgreen’s left her job because her manager would yell criticisms at her in front of long lines of people at the check-out.
2. Don’t follow up on employee ideas. Employees thrive on providing ideas and feedback, but if mistrust is part of the set-up, they won’t commit to results. Joe, a manager in the advertising field, was once invited to an offsite lunch with a group of other managers by the company’s elite directors. The managers were told in advance that, at the luncheon, they would have a part in planning initiatives for the future of the company. However, once there, they discovered that the directors had already put together a list of twenty initiatives and were really just asking them to volunteer to work on them. What resulted was the assignment of initiatives to unprepared, uninterested managers. Due to lack of interest, no actions were taken and the initiatives were never mentioned again.
1. Sometimes, even the best managers fall prey to the lack of appropriate follow up. Speaker Christine Corelli tells such a story in her book, Wake up and Smell the Competition: Tim, a well-liked sales manager, would conduct extensive “Blue Skies” meetings with his field sales force. He would listen carefully during the two-day meetings, which elicited countless ideas for beating the competition. Everyone left feeling energized. However, when the CFO analyzed the funds needed to implement the ideas, they were dropped. Tim couldn’t provide the follow up needed and it took a long time for the sales force to get enthused about meetings again.
2. Withhold praise. A 1998 Gallup Study asked thousands of employees to cite indicators of a good workplace. Among the responses, one of the most frequently mentioned comments was, “I have received praise during the last seven days at work.” Giving employees sincere praise is a deceptively simple action that many managers are unable to perform.
Richard, now a VP with a security services firm, recalls a manager who had few interpersonal skills, was a stickler for rules, and reserved opinions only for other supervisors. One day, though, without plan, the manager approached him saying, “How’s it going? ” Waiting for the inevitable reprimand, Richard was surprised when he said, “I just want to let you know you’re doing a great job.” Stunned, Richard was also surprised by what followed, “They told me to say that at supervisor school.” With that comment, he left. Richard never trusted him again. Even when employees take the initiative, praise is impossible for some managers. Mary, a former Chicago television news producer, recalls, “I had a news director who refused to acknowledge my winning an Emmy. I had to confront him about it, saying, “Did you know I won an Emmy Saturday night?” His response was, “Oh, that’s nice when that happens,” and walked away.
3. Ignore professional growth needs. When employees take steps for self-development, it’s important for managers to be their biggest cheerleaders. Adult learning research repeatedly shows that management reinforcement of training is what makes it stick, yet too often trainers have heard managers’ last minute excuses to not attend a training initiative. How many of you reading this article have been denied a professional development opportunity because your own manager said that it would take too much time away from work?
4. Demand unrealistic rules of order. Managers enforce rules and regulations. Poor managers enforce unrealistic rules that cause employees to feel like children. Jennifer, a former senior editor with a national magazine, recalls working for a manager who stormed out of her office one day to proclaim that thenceforth there was to be no laughter in the office. She said it was unprofessional. Meg, a marketing director, describes a former boss in an executive search firm who was upset that employees took too long to come to his office and say, “Good morning.” He called a special staff meeting to explain that this was to be done the minute staff members walked in the door, before taking off their coats. This same boss also strongly discouraged co-workers from going to lunch together. Perhaps this boss was unaware that workplace friendships are a leading factor in keeping employees on the job.
5. Be vague and indirect. Poor managers communicate with assumptions, generalities, lack of direction, and impatience. One manager recalls a director who gave projects without clearly specifying desired outcomes. When employees attempted to turn in results, she would say, “No that’s not it. I’ll know it when I see it.” She was unwilling to tell her staff what she wanted or even what she didn’t want. Needless to say, turnover was high in her area, and nobody mourned her final departure to another department.
6. A staff development manager for a major airline, Donald shares an instance when a department director, who needed some numbers for the CEO, gave the assignment to a new hire with few instructions and a quick due date. Unfortunately, the numbers were held in a seldom-used database, and the new employee, who had never been trained in that database, was not able to get the numbers on time. He failed in the director’s eyes and, to this day, is flustered with even the simplest of inquiries.
Douglas, a former news production assistant, recalls a similar example working with a manager who wanted certain stories in a show, but gave no resource help. His response to her questions was, “Just do it.” How many employees can function well with instructions like that?
7. Show you don’t care. The bulk of horror stories reported by employees on websites that bemoan bad management describe uncaring bosses. One example is a tale from an employee who counseled his manager not to interfere with an intricate computer program during the time he would be out for nasal surgery. Unfortunately, the manager did not heed the advice, tampered with the data, and then called the employee in to fix it. The employee, still in outpatient recovery, drug-laden and eyes swollen, arrived at work to fix the program and fell asleep at his desk during the process. The manager saw this and chastised him on the spot for sleeping on the job. In another sad tale, an employee who had lost three friends to a devastating auto accident the night before found out at work the next day that a fourth had also died. Grief stricken, the employee was dumbfounded when her manager scolded her for allowing grief to interfere with her work.
8. Be all-knowing all of the time. Most managers get to where they are because they’ve demonstrated skill in their areas. Poor managers use that expertise to lord over employees and micromanage projects. Columnist Tom Shay, of Profits + Plus Coaching, writes that managers who micromanage are guilty of crimes such as:
• Never saying to a customer, “I do know a lot about this service, but one of my employees knows more than I do. Let’s ask him about it.”
• Taking every suggestion made by an employee and tweaking it so as to add a personal touch.
• Allowing employees to have the office key and thus access to thousands of dollars of company-owned information and equipment, yet not allowing them to adjust the amount of an account without approval.
• All-knowing managers are very busy managers; they have to be everywhere all the time to make sure their expertise is known.
9. Ignore individual differences. Managers are coached to be fair and consistent, but, in reality, all employees are different. Poor managers put employees in one big box with little regard for individuals. Culturally and behaviorally, people are brought up with different values and methods of operating in the world of work. Too often, managers get caught up in the habit of rewarding individuals who are most like them and punishing those who are different.
10. Never say you’re sorry or wrong. Being able to say you’re sorry or wrong is a mark of healthy self-esteem. It’s the first step to getting a problem situation back on track. In association management, which functions among volunteers, deadlines, policy changes, and member turnover, there is ample opportunity for miscommunications and frequent mistakes. There is also ample opportunity for apology and correction. Authors Kaye and Jordan-Evans, in their book, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em encourage managers to ask employees, “What keeps you here?” They assert that too many managers are afraid to ask the question for fear that they can’t give people what they really want. In reality, employees simply like being asked the question. Their research shows that 50% of work-life satisfaction is determined by the relationship a worker has with a boss. In conclusion, your workplace climate can be as de-motivating or motivating as you make it. As a manager, how will you avoid the former list of “don’ts” and reinforce this list of “must’s”? It’s up to you to make the time.

Ten Motivating Musts
1. Give constructive feedback in private.
2. Follow up on employee ideas.
3. Give frequent praise.
4. Support employee development.
5. Allow flexibility and realistic freedoms.
6. Communicate directly and specifically.
7. Demonstrate that you care.
8. Allow employees to share and shine.
9. Respect individual differences.
10. Admit it when you’re wrong.

Bad bosses are out there, but some conflicts can be avoided before they occur. Be careful, says Christine Wilson, of “complaining too much about your boss” to people who seem sympathetic but may not be.
 “We live in a world where what we’d like to do is blame the boss,” Wilson says, but going too far and seeming like a “malcontent” can damage your career. It’s also important to keep in mind the possibility that your boss might not simply be “bad,” but that “you haven’t figured out how the two of you click.”
 One way to prevent or minimize problems is to be absolutely clear about what your boss’s expectations are at the beginning, when you’re starting a new job or project. “I’m a great believer that a person being given a task should take notes and make sure to feedback to the boss what your understanding was.
 That gives clarity and confidence that this is what happened at that time.”
 When measures like taking notes, trying to adapt to your boss’s style and other methods aren’t enough though, it can be tempting to head out the door.
 But what if you can’t leave or if it’s not a wise career move?
 “It’s a large problem if you clash with your boss on your first job—you need that reference!” says Joyce Lain Kennedy. “So do your best to grin and bear it until you can escape, then be classy about it. Look as good going away as you did coming in.”
 “You might also be learning a great deal despite that awful boss,” says Wilson, who adds that it might just be a matter of hanging in there until you get everything that you can out of the job. For example, says Wilson, “you can just become tougher by noticing that your boss yells at everybody, not just you.”

September 11, 2007

10 Essential Negotiating Skills for HR Managers

Filed under: boss,HR,human resources,managers,negotiating,skills,work — Khaled @ 10:43 am

Human resource managers spend enormous amounts of time helping both employees and upper management cope with everyday issues involving two or more stakeholder groups—often with conflicting interests. What you are doing day in and day out, whether you realize it or not, is negotiating. Any time you are involved in helping two or more parties come to an agreement, you are, in effect, handling a negotiation.HR professionals who hone their negotiating skills are in a tremendous position to influence company morale, improve productivity, boost the bottom line, and foster a company culture that is harmonious and competitive. In other words, being a better negotiator makes you better at managing your workforce, with all of its complexities.In human resources, you can master the same type of negotiating techniques that are used by high-powered companies to secure multimillion-dollar contracts. At the core of every negotiation are two sets of interests that need to get resolved so that the parties can move forward in a constructive way. HR professionals spend many hours of every day knocking out agreements, large and small, so that the company organism can continue to function smoothly. Competent negotiating is essential to HR.What type of everyday issues confronting HR managers could be improved with more effective negotiation skills? Here’s a short list:
• Working out labor disputes with unions and other labor groups
• Hammering out benefits packages
• Negotiating salaries and raises
• Dealing with employee conflicts
• Hiring top-notch people
• Motivating sales staff
• Managing change initiatives
• Dealing with disgruntled, litigious employees
• Making downsizing and outsourcing decisions
• Developing leadership skills among your talent pool
• Selling new strategic initiatives to department heads
• Managing post-merger cultural acclimation
• Bringing in new management
• Working out budgetary allocations

And there are many more. So ask yourself: Did you ever receive formal negotiating training? Are there areas of your work that consistently disappoint? It may be that you simply need to learn more effective ways to come to decisions with people and to problem solve. Many HR professionals are hired for their “people skills,” and you may feel that yours are adequate. But what does this really mean? Even if you have an excellent rapport with others, are you using your listening, communicating, and reasoning gifts to best advantage in your job? Do you always feel as though you’ve come to an agreement that resonates with all parties involved?

For twenty-plus years, I have been training people in a contrarian, highly effective negotiating approach called Systematic Decision-based Negotiating, a methodology designed to result in good decisions every time. At the heart of this approach is the following truth: Emotions can overwhelm you in any negotiation. In my system, you dispense with feel-good emotions and follow instead a highly structured, systematic method based on sound decisions, each decision building on the one before it. This way of negotiating may seem counterintuitive to HR professionals at first, and demands discipline and self-awareness every step of the way to learn and master. But once you learn it, you will enjoy dramatic new results in every type of workplace negotiation.

Like most HR professionals, you are probably more adept at and used to compromise-based negotiation (also known as collective bargaining or win-win negotiation). Here’s the bald truth: win-win is emotion-based, rather than decision-based. Emotion-based negotiation leads to bad decisions. The win-win books would never admit this, of course, but they can’t get around the fact that the invitation to compromise that lurks just beneath the surface of the win-win paradigm is really just an invitation to let emotions—all kinds of emotions—take over: the hope that you’re going to be the hero; the fear that you’re going to ruin your company; the desire to make everyone happy; the temptation to make a deal, any deal, and worry about the consequences later.

Is that “Taps” I hear playing in the background for our beloved apple-pie, feel-good, win-win way that embraces the all-American concept of compromise? At this point, everyone in business should know that Fortune 500 negotiators use strategies expressly designed to take advantage of win-win negotiators. In the upper echelons of the negotiating world, win-win is a joke. Yet a surprising number of business people don’t know this—until it’s too late. This is why win-win leads to bad decisions and bad deals, time after time after time. This is why win-win is, all too often, win-lose.

What is the significance, then, for HR managers? It means that going into negotiations with the idea that you will try to arrive at a compromise is going to make you an ineffective decision maker and problem solver. If you can master good decision-making skills that are not based on emotions of any kind, you have the best chance of maintaining control of the situation and achieving the most beneficial possible outcome—for everyone. That’s because agreements based on sound decisions will always be superior to those based on emotions. We often have no control over our emotions, but we can always control our actions—our decisions. Good, disciplined negotiation is all about making good, disciplined decisions.

In a simplified form, here are ten basic rules of thumb from Systematic Decision-based Negotiation that can help in any type of HR negotiations.
1. Take a dispassionate, emotionally neutral look at the issue. Never start with an assumption. When you start with any kind of assumption, such as “that employee is asking for more than we’ll give her, and she knows it,” then every decision that follows in the dialogue will be based on your initial assumption. You cannot know what is on the other person’s mind until she tells you. Assumptions, biases, and fears are all emotion-based states, and decisions based on emotions are not sound decisions. Begin, instead, by clearing your mind of any preconceptions—and asking team members on your side of the table to do the same. Throughout the negotiation, try to stay focused on what is being said, not what you think.

2. Find out the real, not the assumed, needs of every stakeholder group. Before you begin labor union talks, financial meetings, negotiations with IT firms, or discussions with key department heads, you should have a deep understanding of each stakeholder’s interests and current situation. Again, never base decisions on assumptions. Do your homework and come prepared. Conduct intensive fact-finding sessions with each group to find out where they currently stand on a variety of issues. Coming to a negotiation well informed trumps your “people skills” any day.

3. Deal with the real power holders. Let’s say your tech people are having trouble communicating and cooperating with your financial people. Think carefully about who the true decision makers in this scenario are. Whom you negotiate with will depend on the problem, but make certain that you are negotiating with the real power brokers and not with blockers—people who try to keep you from the real decision makers. These people may even consider “blocking” part of their job description. Do show blockers respect, however, as you find a way to get around them. It is a waste of everyone’s time to negotiate with blockers.

4. Identify all problems you see holding back a successful arrangement. Before you go into a negotiation, you should have a clear idea of what might stop or keep you from a successful solution. State those problems clearly at the outset of your talks and ask the stakeholder how these problems might be solved. Get stakeholders talking, while you listen. Their answers to these questions will provide critical information that will be of strategic importance to you as you proceed.

5. Keep your mouth shut. Every step of the way, it’s critical to be fully present in the moment, almost a zenlike state. Remain open to innuendos, the other party’s emotions, and listen carefully to everything that is said. Each time you ask a question, it should be built on facts that have been disclosed, never on opinions, needs, or hunches. Keep quiet as much as possible and take thorough notes. You will be amazed at how much better you listen when you record rather than speak.

6. Clarify all questions with interrogative-led questions. When an upper-level executive asks you which departments you believe might prove resistant to his new initiative, respond with your own question, and be sure to compliment him in the process. Ask interrogative-led questions—who, what, when, where, why, and how—to get him talking and revealing more facts to you. For example, you might say, “That’s a great question, Bill. What types of obstacles do you feel are most problematic to our people as they decide whether to come on-board with your proposal?” In one fell swoop, you’ve put the executive at ease, you’re directed the dialogue, and you’ve gotten him to fill in much needed details that will help you explore the issues more thoroughly.

7. Have a valid M&P. Never enter into a negotiation with any of your stakeholder groups without a valid mission and purpose, an M&P that is set in the stakeholder’s world, one that’s based on the stakeholder’s needs, requirements, hopes, fears, and plans. Because every decision you make along the way has to fulfill this M&P, it will handle any contingency that comes up during the negotiation, and will not fail to give you a good outcome. For example, your M&P might be: to create a prosperous and secure future for the stakeholder by keeping the company competitive.

8. Never begin negotiations by offering a compromise. Also, never ask your respected colleague to say yes. If you start with a “yes” agreement, there’s nowhere to go from there. Instead, start by inviting them to say no. Tell them you are comfortable with a no answer and you want them to be comfortable to say no. Tell them that you will take no as an honest decision that can be discussed and perhaps reversed during the course of your talks. If your opponent asks you to tell him or her what you want, resist the urge to answer. You need to get the other party talking and revealing and spilling the beans.

9. Do not try to be friends. The stakeholders involved in daily HR negotiations are not your friends; they are respected colleagues. Trying to be friends is one of the ways we let neediness slip into the process. Neediness is an emotion; keep emotions out of the equation. The purpose of this negotiation is to reach a respectful and fair solution that accomplishes your mission and purpose, which will be in your respected opponents’ interest as well.

10. Never think about closing. Whether it’s budget reallocations for the next fiscal year or a new labor contract, do not think about, hope for, or plan for the outcome of the deal. Focus instead on what you can control: your behavior and activity during the negotiation. The second you focus on closing, the deal is dead because you’ve let your emotions into the negotiation.

Jim Camp is an internationally sought negotiation coach and trainer, and author of NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home (Crown), the revised and updated version of his critically acclaimed business book, Start with No. As president and founder of The Camp Group, he has coached individuals, companies, and governments worldwide through hundreds of negotiations worth billions. Learn more about Camp and his team of coaches at


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