You work in a small technology company and are preparing for your mid-year performance review. You want to take steps toward advancing your career during this review and enroll in the company's management development program. You know you need your manager's recommendation to join and at the same time, you know you are short on some of the requirements to enter the program. You are determined to get your manager's support for this initiative and spend the remainder of the year qualifying for the program.
You are smart, and career-oriented, but you are not making a smart decision by choosing only one option for advancing your career. Yes, it may be desirable and the one that seems like the best route, but in putting all your efforts into one option you are weakening your bargaining position. Let's imagine the situation.
You express your interest in joining the management development program and your manager says no. There are different ways you can respond. You could be disappointed and feel the manager is blocking your career progression. In this state of mind you are not open to appreciating other possibilities because you have not explored any of them. You are not prepared to mutually examine other ways of accomplishing career advancement. Another reaction could be that when you hear "no" your self-doubt increases and you respond by accepting the rejection without further exploration. Again because you consider your only option as the manager saying yes or no, you are not prepared to hear past the rejection.
Before going into any negotiation it is important to take a step back and ask yourself, "What is really important to me? What do I need (not want)? What are some of the ways I can get what I need?" There is a concept known as BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). The more alternatives you have, the stronger your negotiating position. If you prioritize the management development program as the goal, then only a yes would satisfy you. Instead, if you prioritize career advancement, then you open up a world of possibilities because now other ways of advancing your career are available to you.
Other options beyond the management development program could be, for example, seeking ways to enrich your work experience to expand your skill set. These could include: working on a broader range of projects; being on teams with different colleagues and in different departments; or attending professional development training courses. Of course, there is always the option of looking beyond the present company to see what else is out there in the market.
Information is power and the more you know your options the more powerful you can be in the negotiation. This means you can take more risks and be bolder in what you are seeking if you know that if it does not work out you can always do something else. On the other hand, if you know that this is the best or only option, then you will probably want to handle the negotiation more delicately. What you do not want to do is box yourself into a corner by stating ultimatums.
Here are three ways to bring more power to your negotiation:
1. Identify What You Need
Take a step back and ask yourself what is it that is most critical to you? This activity will become more revealing if you practice it on a regular basis. Self-awareness will give you more information about yourself to work with and refine what is important to you.
2. Explore Alternatives
Once you know what is important you can look for different ways of fulfilling those needs. This is where creativity, seeing from different perspectives, and thinking outside of the box come in really handy. Be as extreme as you can and then pull it back a little to be more realistic.
3. Work in Partnership
Think of your manager as your ally and a source of valuable information. Your manager can provide you bigger picture perspectives about the company and career development in general. Building rapport and being open and receptive to ideas will encourage your manager to want to support you further.