'Working Wounded': How to Negotiate at Work

Q U E S T I O N: I'm the kind of person who can't negotiate the best deal when I visit a swap meet; I always pay too much. I'm concerned that my lack of negotiation skills will hurt me at work. How can I better negotiate my way through my job?

A N S W E R:

Did you hear about the Canadian University students who discovered three new moons around Neptune? Just to give you some perspective on what an amazing accomplishment this is, it was the first time since 1949 someone using a telescope on Earth discovered new moons.

Of all the hundreds of people who spend their careers looking at the sky, leave it up to a couple of students to see something that everyone else missed. And it's no different in a negotiation at work: You've got to do your homework so you can find out the stuff that everyone else overlooks. I've listed some tips to do this below. For more information, check out, Everyday Negotiation by Kolb and Williams (Jossey-Bass, 2003):

Let's Make a Deal

What do they want from you?Most people begin a negotiation by letting everyone know what they want to come away with. I've been most successful when I start by focusing on what the other side wants. Yep, another case where your ears will get you further than your mouth.

Can you leave something on the table?To quote Joe Kennedy, "Only fools go for top dollar." Case closed.

Can you apply a bit of pressure on them?My daughter just hates when she wants to buy something and I suggest that she sleep on it. Recently, we were in a store and the salesperson threw in an extra discount if we bought right away. Heck, I suggested we throw out the sleep-on-it rule and buy. So leave your sticks at home and try to find all the carrots that you can.

Have you established your credibility?Credibility is the key in any negotiation. It's important to discover ways to establish yours early in the process. People don't want you to drone on about your integrity. The key is to show it to them by your knowledge of the product or service and your ability to tailor it to their needs.

Do you enlist support from strategic allies? People who you've successfully negotiated with in the past can play a role in a difficult negotiation. Having someone vouch for your product or service or your credibility can really speed up the process. Learn how to leverage past success into current sales.

Do you look to exert control over the process? I've seen a million times when an attempt to exert control seemed like a power grab. But there have been other times when asserting control was exactly what was needed to get things on track. So you've got to pick your spots carefully.

Follow these tips and your negotiation should result in your getting the moon and the stars.

Online Ballot and Contest

Here are the results from a recent workingwounded.com/ABCnews.com online ballot: Do you walk your talk?

I do what I need to do to get by, 4.9 percent No, but I try. 9.8 percent Yes, always, 21.3 percent Yes, most of the time, 63.9 percent

Winning Strategy

Our winning strategy for walking your talk comes from Bill S. in Toronto, Canada. "I cut a lot of corners early in my career. I'm embarrassed about it. I always talked about how other people's lack of integrity upset me. Man, was it hard to realize that what I hated in others was all about what I wasn't doing. It didn't really have anything to do with anyone else. I ate a big piece of humble pie and am now committed to doing the right thing by leading by example. Tough, yes. But worth it."

List of the Week

Bob Rosner is the author of the Wall Street Journal business best seller, The Boss's Survival Guide (McGraw Hill, 2001), a speaker, and founder of the award-winning workingwounded.com & RetentionEvangelist.com. E-mail him at bob@RetentionEvangelist.com.

ABCNEWS.com publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday.