What’s the toughest negotiation of them all? The majority of our clients tell us it’s the internal negotiations they do with the people they work with on a daily basis. They say this is because the complexity of internal politics influences the behavior of all involved, leading to unproductive and often frustrating conversations. Worse yet, it’s a hidden, multi-billion-dollar problem that plagues companies — but it doesn’t have to be.
A study by CPP Global found that 85% of employees experience some sort of workplace conflict. In the United States, employees spent, on average, 2.8 hours per week involved in a conflict. That’s the equivalent of $359B in wages paid for workplace conflict. The costs begin to skyrocket when you factor in the impact of unproductive internal negotiations, which lead to unnecessary employee turnover ($1T according to Gallup), reduction in productivity ($550B according to the Engagement Institute), or even employee lawsuits ($351M annualized according to the EEOC).
Again, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Suffice it to say, while we work with many organizations that are concerned about external negotiations, the truth is that they should be equally (if not more) concerned about how their people resolve conflicts internally. The good news is that, of those employees who receive some sort of training and tools to navigate workplace conflict positively, 95% stated that it helped resolve conflicts and resulted in mutually beneficial outcomes.
There’s an irony to all of this: The key to better internal negotiating is derived from how you negotiate externally. From my experience, an organization’s culture of negotiation does not stop at the water’s edge. Organizations that are hyper-competitive and generally follow a win-lose strategy with external parties tend to do the same internally. Likewise, organizations that are more collaborative or open to creating win-win deals with external parties tend to do the same internally.
Leaders who wish to change their internal negotiation culture should start by examining their external negotiation culture. I encourage leaders to look beyond the negotiated outcomes. Consider the following questions:
- Do negotiations take longer than you feel they should?
- Are negotiations getting more challenging?
- Is the other party becoming more demanding or less flexible?
- Are external relationships becoming more strained?
- Do you feel you have to give more to get a deal?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then there’s a good chance your team is struggling externally and internally. When leaders apply those same questions with a focus on internal negotiations, they will find similar answers. Regardless, a “yes” means it’s time to start working on your negotiation culture.
In the meantime, here are some tips you can share with your team when there’s an upcoming internal negotiation:
- Be clear on what needs to be negotiated. Lack of clarity can lead to misunderstandings, wasted time, and general animosity.
- Keep your powder dry. Assume good intentions and treat your colleagues as you would want to be treated. Walking in expecting a fight will usually lead to a fight.
- Find common ground. More often than not, internal negotiations are about shared issues. Finding commonality can help create a partnership and ground the conversation.
- Take your time. If you feel tensions rising, take a break. If you feel that it’s an unproductive conversation, take a break. Slowing things down can help keep everyone in the right frame of mind.
- Ask for help. If you feel like the negotiation is going to be contentious, bring someone with you, or ask someone to be there to step in if things go sideways.
Internal negotiations are tough, but why make them tougher than they have to be? Working on your negotiation culture will go a long way toward reducing employee conflict and the extraordinary costs associated with it. Make the change.
We Can Help You Work on Your Internal Negotiation Culture.
Are your team’s toughest negotiations those they have with the people they work with on a daily basis? The complexity of internal politics influences the behavior of all involved, leading to unproductive and often frustrating conversations. We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.