More than one negotiation that I’ve been involved in I’ve found myself pushed into a corner. There were a lot of different reasons for how this had happened: I was dealing with a sole supplier, I was operating under a very tight deadline, they were better at using negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, etc. I can remember the feeling of helplessness that I felt in each of these situations. What I needed at that moment in time was some help. Could it be that my company’s big book of policies may have held the answer that I was looking for?
Why Negotiators Generally Don’t Like Company Polices
When it comes to admitting that you dislike all of the various polices that your company has in place, I would probably have to be at the front of that line. I view a company’s policies more often than not as being a big list of the things that I am not permitted to do. As a professional negotiator, I really don’t like it when someone tells me what I can’t do.
I guess one of my biggest challenges with company policies is that there are often so many of them that they can be very hard to keep straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in a difficult negotiation in which I was finally able to reach an agreement with the other side that we were both going to be able to live with. However, after I came back to my company with the proposed deal in hand, this is when someone whose job it was to know all of the company’s policies told me that I somewhere in my agreement I had violated a company policy.
I can appreciate that there is a reason that the company policies that have been put into place were created in the first place. However, a big issue that I have is that things change. The reasons that the company policy was originally created and put into place may no longer exist. However, since the policies are still on the books, I find myself still being limited by them.
How Company Polices Can Come To The Aid Of A Negotiator
The way that I feel about my company’s policies has been known to change. Once such specific case happens when during a heated negotiation I discover myself fenced into a corner. There are a lot of different ways that I can end up here. One is when I’m negotiating with a sole supplier. Another is when I’ve been thrown into a negotiation that my company needs to complete very quickly.
This is where the power of your company’s policies can come into play. When the other side has you forced into a corner, they are going to be feeling pretty good about what they have been able to accomplish. When it looks like you really have no other options but to give into what they are asking for, this is when you can surprise them. Tell the other side “… that’s our company policy…”. This can bring this line of argument to a dead end.
There is something almost magical about company policies. When you bring one up during a negotiation, it will seem like a much higher power stated that this is the way that things are going to be. The good news for you is that the other side often won’t even think of questioning the policy. Everyone knows that company polices are set in stone and can’t be changed. Congratulations – company policies saved you in your negotiation.
What All Of This Means For You
Negotiations can be rough-and-tumble events. It is entirely possible that during your next principled negotiation, at some time you may find yourself in a position where you start to feel as though all of your options have run out. If this happens, perhaps you are going to need to bring in your company’s polices.
As a rule, negotiators generally don’t really like company policies. The reason for this is that they are seen as being limiting documents that go to great lengths to tell us what we are not permitted to do. All too often we’ll negotiate a deal only to have someone within the company come up to us afterwards and point out to us which set of company polices our new agreement violates. However, if we find ourselves in a tight spot during a negotiation, we can always tell the other side that company policy prohibits us from doing what they are pressuring us to do. In most cases, that will be the end of the discussion. Nobody ever really seems to question company policy nor attempt to see if it can be changed.
I like to think of my company policy excuse as being my big red button. During a negotiation it is always there for me to use if I have a need for it. I’ll always try to avoid using it because it is such a “nuclear option”; however, when things get tight, it’s always a comfort knowing that it’s there waiting for me to use it.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: If you cite company policy what should you do if they ask to see a copy of the policy?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
The simple life is not what negotiators have going for them. Instead, the world in which we find ourselves living in is a complicated place filled with many negotiation styles and negotiating techniques along with different things that can trip us up at any moment. It is this world that we need to come up with ways to not only survive, but to also thrive. What this means is that we need to learn how to take calculated risks.