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Practical Negotiating: Tools, Tactics & Techniques by Tom Gosselin

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Hallway Negotiations

Internal negotiations involve some special characteristics, and we are often unaware that we’re involved in a negotiation. In hallway negotiations,[4] two conditions must be met: (1) The request by one party creates a conflict for the other (e.g., schedule, staffing, priorities), and (2) neither of the parties has authority over the other—or chooses not to use it. Consider the following common situations:

  • A colleague wants to exchange a vacation week with you.

  • You ask a fellow manager for the loan of a staff person for a few hours or a few days.

  • Your boss wants you to take her place at a steering committee meeting.

Any one of these situations could create a conflict if you have a full schedule, deadlines, and demands. So, how do you operate in this environment? Persuading with facts and logic doesn’t seem to work. The other side has just as many reasons not to do it. Consider what the other person is asking for. What’s the underlying need? Can you provide it in some other way? With some other resource? At some other time? If you are not sure of what to say, disengage until you can assess the impact on your workload and priorities. Think about what your needs are and see if the other party can provide you a currency to meet your needs. Here’s an example:

JOHN:

Mary, I need a favor.

MARY:

What’s that?

JOHN:

Could you cover for me at the executive committee next week? It will take most of the morning on Thursday.

MARY:

Next week! That’s when my team is putting together ...

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