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Workplace warfare: How to win negotiation battles

Conflict. Tension. Tactical moves. Power plays. Ammunition. Bluffing. Naturally I am talking about the workplace. Whether we are fighting for additional resources, fighting for a salary increase, a higher bonus, fighting a decision or fighting to save your job, planning a battle at work requires level-headed precision.

You cannot stage a battle by using ultimatums, tantrums, or half-hearted attempts at resigning as a way of forcing someone’s hand. You need to plan this well.

Ready. Aim. Fire:  Below are some tips to assure you of ultimate victory:


Forget the organisation chart. The ones who keep a company ticking are the ground staff; the receptionists, the administrators, the guys on the field. Ensure they know your name and you know theirs. A smile and a “good morning” greeting will go a long way. You will be surprised how difficult your days can become if you are bogged down in transactional headaches and administrative roadblocks. You must ensure as smooth a road as possible when planning your battle.

Your team

Your team are your soldiers. Be good to them. Many a leader has come undone by a knife in their back. And that knife, at such close proximity, can only be at the hand of a trusted soldier. Do not allow grudges to fester. Ensure that you do not foster an environment of grumbling discontent thereby creating a team ready for mutiny. Treat them with respect; with courtesy. Give them the tools for success. Bind them to you with loyalty, not fear.

Rally your troops

The preparation for battle must include a phase in which you rally the troops around you to begin their own preparations; almost ‘psyching’ them. “For the number of billable hours we are charging, we should be getting a higher package.” “If they expect us to deliver this project in this timeframe then we need at least two more support staff.” This is an important step because the battle may turn on its head and you will need more people to step up and start shooting ammunition by your side.

Be prepared to lose some

You cannot fight for the sake of fighting, that’s just plain unprofessional. You have to be prepared to let some battles slide. Lose some of them, and lose some high profile ones if need be. If you are fighting to gain additional resources, then be prepared to accept a lower bonus. Next year you will recoup your losses if the additional headcount increases your profitability margins.

Solid ground

The ground you walk on in the workplace must be as solid as possible. I have seen directors of companies come crashing down because they were placed in an executive position based on their contacts rather than their employment history. They hadn’t worked their way up the ladder and as soon as they were up against the wall, their ground collapsed. Earn your way. Stand proud knowing that you have earned your stripes. When you are waging your battle, they will face the task of moving the unmovable!

Bullets of knowledge

Know everything. Spend as much time you can on understanding everything there is to know about the company. Understand the relationship between national admin and the accounts team, the software systems that the technicians use, the immigration lawyers turnaround times, the server requests made by IT, the scope of the HR department, the trading hours of the Call Centre, the preferred methodology of the Project Managers, everything! Not only will you understand the sweet spot to push, but in the middle of the battle, if everything is going against you, you can pull out this knowledge and start firing bullets of information.

Have a happy battle!

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Anna Sarelas

Anna Sarelas

A human resources manager by day and a third generation activist through DNA, Anna Sarelas studied Post Graduate Writing at University of Technology Sydneyand wrote her first novel, Paint Stop Boom, to deal with her feelings of alienation in the face of other’s apathy to a changing world. Sarelas lives in Sydney, Australia.

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