Have you ever had a bully for a boss?
During my stint in public health nutrition at a non-profit clinic, I once worked for an Executive Director whose very presence in the room made my stomach tighten.
I’m not exaggerating; it was a literal physical response when he entered the patient area where I was stationed. He had such an intensely intimidating demeanor that no matter what I was doing, when he was around, I felt I was doing something wrong.
The clinic was his fiefdom and he was known to threaten and yell in meetings. He made me nervous. He made some others cry. (He was eventually fired by the BOD.)
It was with this mean man that I had to negotiate the new work arrangement I wanted.
And what I wanted was an 80% workweek of 32 hours with a 0% (not a typo) reduction in pay.
(If that sounds like a gutsy request, it was, and it is. In a minute, I’ll tell you where you can check to see if you meet the four conditions which support making a similar bold request.)
So yes, my nerves were in overdrive as I made my way into that meeting. But I did something ahead of time that built my confidence and positioned me for success.
Nervous to Negotiate? Here’s the #1 Low-Anxiety Step to High Negotiation Confidence
I’m talking about research and planning, where you gather as much information as possible before the meeting to use during the actual meeting.
It’s a critical part of the negotiation process, and yet, because it happens before the meeting and when you’re not even near the other party, there’s little reason to be nervous.
This low-anxiety step has high-yielding results. It builds your confidence and it positions you to reach a successfully negotiated outcome.
Areas of preparation for any negotiation include, for example:
- determining the other party’s interests
- options to negotiate in lieu of an ideal agreement
- areas of trade-off and compromise
- timing the request
- possible responses to objections, and more.
You can see the readiness value of addressing these areas.
How I Applied the Preparation Step
In my case, where I wanted reduced hours without a cut in pay, I’d written a proposal for how my job was going to get done in a part-time arrangement. I included measurable job achievements along with excerpts from my performance review.
It’s unusual to get exactly what’s requested, so I also developed options to offer as acceptable trade-offs and compromises.
Plus—and this is crucial—I had access to far better local market salary data than when I first interviewed for the job 18 months earlier; I gathered and documented salary figures of several peers who held the same job position in other state-contracted public health clinics.
Those figures revealed room for pay negotiation and positioned me to make a solid case about the “no salary cut” piece of my request. So I was confident asking for it.
I later learned from my direct supervisor that the Executive Director was “impressed” with my documentation of those salary figures.
In fact, research shows that you can improve your negotiation results substantially when you use market information to set your goals. Third-party facts carry convincing weight.
What Happened? The Preparation Pay-Off
Even though the meeting itself was nerve-wracking, I was confident about presenting my case. And…
I got agreement for new work terms that were very close to what I asked for!
Read what happened in the meeting in this article, How to Request a Shorter Workweek Yet Keep Close to Full-time Pay. It includes the four conditions for making a similar bold request, and you can assess if you have them.
Now It’s Your Turn
Takeaway: Thorough preparation before the actual negotiation meeting is a low-anxiety step with high-yielding results. The information you gather will drive your strategy and your confidence level, forming the foundation of a successful outcome of the meeting. Even with a bully boss.