The Negotiation Conversation: Managing Team Requests

The Negotiation Conversation: Managing Team Requests

The world has changed dramatically in recent years. Opportunities are everywhere and being able to navigate requests can make the difference in losing valuable team members. Now before we go any further, I am categorically not saying that all requests should be met or that all team members have the same value. There are just some simple ways to create an environment of openness and have productive communications without being fearful.

Leaders are constantly challenged by many contradictions and gone are the days of the workforce drudging in and simply doing as they were told and doffing their cap on the way out in humble gratitude. Thank goddess we have moved on! Or have we?

Two male colleagues talking together in meeting room

Top-down management structure and old patriarchal control can still be found permeating the world of employment while being mixed with new employee rights and the concept of being liked.

We are told to have clear boundaries and expectations while remaining flexible to team members' life situations and circumstances. Be the boss yet retain a human approach. Calculate the worth of your team yet focus on the value of your team.

The Communication Balance

As a business owner you need to be professional at all times and yet still offer a sympathetic shoulder when needed. It can sometimes be a fine line before it feels scales have tipped too far and you are left feeling resentful of team members' constant demands. That you are being taken advantage of, that you will go bankrupt or live in fear of team members leaving. Maybe they have already created a nasty working environment where you are the one feeling intimidated. It can feel like you are unable to win.

Attentive female manager listening to colleague.

Dealing with Tricky Conversations

There can be many tricky conversations when managing a team and some will require some professional HR advice. If in doubt about the legality, always check. However, most situations can come to amicable solutions with a little conversation strategy. We need to acknowledge not only our business operations but many of these challenging conversations are a simple trigger of our basic psychological emotions including fear of rejection or confrontation, being made to feel bad or simply disconnected.

So, let's take a step back when running a team to believe that it is possible to be humanitarian and yet not feel pressured or manipulated.

Before you engage, buy yourself some time to reflect. By asking the team member to write down a proposal it will allow them to also explore the request, what are their justifications for the request, how do they see it working. You don't have to have all the answers. Then schedule a meeting at a convenient time. This will help prevent knee jerk reactions.

Senior male manager looking pensively into distance.

What if I do, what if I don't. The ‘what if’ question is a great question to explore more than our initial reaction.

● If I do, what are the practicalities of the request, is it even a possibility?

● If I do, how will it make me feel? If I don't, how will it make me feel?

● If I do, what else do I need to consider? If I don't, what else do I need to consider?

Caution though, I hear so many times leaders going down the rabbit hole and trying to solve issues that haven't even occurred at this point, know when to say we will deal with that if it comes up.

Steer Away from’ What If’ Scenarios

Remember to stay close to the original request and don't ask ‘what if’ from scenarios that have not yet happened. You may need to simply come to the conclusion that if ‘this’ happens then we will have another conversation or that if ‘that’ happens it is a different issue to the original request and we will address that separately. Sometimes these questions are enough to see if the request is perfectly reasonable, totally possible and can be granted. Happy days.

It's Ok to say ‘No’

Sometimes you will need to say no, that's ok.

Hear that again, it's ok to say no.

Male manager explaining details to male colleague

Remember to see these conversations for what they really are, it's a request. It's not a SAS selection interrogation where one team member winning means the other side has to lose. The team member may not be party to the full picture or be meeting the required criteria. I remember being in a job I absolutely loved. During my time with the company, my role had nearly doubled and I had not had a review in over two years yet took over six months to ask for a small raise, terrified that they would fire me.

Your team members may be just as fearful regardless of how nice you are, they have been equally brain conditioned over the years. If they understand why this isn't possible right now or the specific criteria that need to happen to have a review in a few weeks then this doesn't mean they don’t love other aspects of the role, want to leave or are about to become a total diva. In circumstances however where you feel you need to say yes solely to prevent them leaving or becoming a total diva, trust me it is never the right approach. If they are going to hold you to ransom on this occasion you are probably right that they will do it again.

Fear-based decisions will always leave a mark on the working relationship which is hard to erase. If they have outgrown the role that's absolutely fine. If the role hasn't expanded that's absolutely fine too. There is always someone waiting out there for your role to be advertised as you need it and they are just perfect for your team.

Happy smiling male colleagues shaking hands.

Finding a Compromise

On most occasions, the solution is simply there are grounds for compromise. Recently a client had a request from the newest team member for a significant pay rise. The coaching workings looked something like this:

1) Assessing the situation, identifying the initial reaction response of ‘absolutely no way’.

2) Question why absolutely no way? The amount in question felt was unreasonable, there were emotional triggers of betrayal as they had been super clear during recruitment and they were not to blame for them now not being happy or doing their personal calculations incorrectly.

3) Removal of blame and threats, evaluation of team members performance (great with the role, quick learner, doesn’t really want to lose them) So what could we do to help?

4) Reframe into a more positive statement of it has been a year, circumstances have changed for the individual so she is asking for help so she can remain with the company, overall performance is good with a couple of skills that need developing and it the normal review process would only be in 6 months’ time anyway.

5) Being clear that the initial request is not going to be reached and offering a counter-proposal, allowing the team member to enter into the conversation without pushing for the impossible.

6) Boundaries in place - If we solve this, is everything else working, if this offer isn’t acceptable how do you see it working out?

Happy female manager talking to colleague

By allowing the team member to either accept their current situation or inform you that they are looking for a position that gives more than this role hence no personal rejection and everyone can move forward. The business owner did not have to have all the answers for the ‘what if’ as it was straying too far from the original request.

By having the team member demonstrate the value they bring and by the business owner explaining the normal process they were able to offer a figure in the middle with boundaries in place. In this case, these included no further raise at the 6-month meeting as it had been brought forward, specific training to increase value within the team and clarity that everyone was happy with the resolution.

The emotional and strategic planning meant that the meeting lasted less than 15 minutes and more importantly both parties were delighted with the outcome, winner!


Want to keep learning? Find more articles from Wendy O'Brien - Northern Star Mentoring: