How to negotiate when you are not there?

As soon as you talk to someone you enter a negotiation.  Even if you do not intend to negotiate with that person, you are.  Depending on the impression you make, you are more or less likely to influence that person.

In this post, I argue that even when you are not at the negotiation table, you are still negotiating.  Weird? Impossible? Consider this example:

  • Devante is a manager at Big Inc. This is the last month of the year at your company. He has worked hard for the past 2 months to create a new strategy for his team to keep up with the competition.
  • With all that great work done, Devante decides to take a few days off for the birthday of his boyfriend.  
  • The first day back in the office, he realizes that his peers have changed the strategy he worked so hard to define over the past 2 months, in just a few days.
  • On top of that, his team is now working on a different set of priorities than the ones he prioritized.
  • Devante can hardly believe it.  What happened during the few days he was away

Now 90% of you should be able to relate to this situation.  For the remaining 10% just wait a few more years and you will experience this or witness someone experiencing it.

That Devante wants it or not, a negotiation happened when he was not there.  The worst in all that is that he does not even know what happened. He was not there!  He now has 2 options:

  1. Demand explanation from the group. Pull all the work he had done, remind everyone that they were on board with the plan, etc… There are endless rationale things Devante could do in its own right.
  2. Conceal his emotions and go with the flow.  Jump on the bandwagon, congratulate the group for reading his mind and progressing in the direction that he wanted all along.  Building on the ideas raised during the meeting.

What do you feel like doing?  I am convinced that the majority of people would follow path #1.  It just makes sense. It is the only fair way to go.  Path #2 is for people without a spine, it is the essence of flipflopping.  People doing that should be ashamed!

What do you think will produce the best result?  I am not talking about what will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  This is a business.  The best result, in my opinion, is the one where you maintain a chance to push our agenda, make progress and eventually make the biggest impact for Big inc.  I argue, that you are more likely to get that best result by embracing the opinion of your peers for the following reasons:

  • You are in a situation where you do not have all the information.  You are driving blind. Something happened while you were away but you do not know what.  You need to buy time and figure out what happened.  It could be collusion against you, it could be an honest misunderstanding where your peers had your best interest top of mind, or it could be that there was a major announcement while you were away making your strategy obsolete.  Depending on
  • Regardless of if they have colluded together when you were away, the situation remains the same. They are all in agreement on the path forward, the chance of making change their mind, on the spot, is virtually 0.
  • There is a high potential that “exposing” your peers will result in making them defensive and not interested in hearing your thoughts during the remaining of the project.

This is business, this is not personal.  Keep the emotions out. Whatever happens when you are not at the negotiation table is just extra information that you can use later on during another negotiation.