Why Negotiation Skills are Critical for Good Collaboration

Have you ever heard your boss say “just work it out”? Chances are, this is because there was a personality or project problem that cropped up and your boss just wanted you all to get on with business. Being a part of the team is fantastic when things are going well – outputs are high, morale is positive and creativity explodes. But when differences emerge or problems occur cracks start forming in the relationship dynamics and productivity decreases. So, we look to someone else to fix the problem. Usually it is your boss, but too often your boss is under pressure to deliver more with less. This all means that when problems happen, they too push back – ‘get on with it’ they say, they want us to come up with solutions.

Sure, no problem; I’ll just tell my colleague that they need to do what I tell them!

The problem is that within work places we are rarely in a position where we can just tell the other person what to do. Well, we can try, but the outcome is likely to result in more frustrations and resentment. In teams, we all have a role to play and we all want to be valued. This extends to leadership too. Gone are the days when employees will compliantly ‘just do what they are told’. In fact, trends reinforce that employees want to be engaged and given choice. Deloitte hypothesize in their reflections on workplace trends that “empowering workers with agency and choice creates more value than overly prescriptive approaches”. In workplaces, organisations and boards there is increasing recognition that collaboration leads to better results. But how do we actually do this when too often ego, differences and misunderstandings get in the way of moving forward.

The heart of good collaboration is learning how to negotiate well. Negotiating in teams isn’t about the win/lose scenario but rather how well you can influence a constructive outcome. It is about listening, sharing your ideas and facilitating a process that leaves everyone feeling heard and valued. This might mean getting what you want, but is more likely to mean collectively we have got what we need. This really is about learning how to collaborate better and recognising that the process is as important as the outcome. This approach is the responsibility we all carry, not just the boss. So why are good negotiation skills important?

  1. They reduce the risk of silo and bias decision-making
  2. They can empower team members instead of diminishing them
  3. They encourage curiosity, questions and problem solving
  4. They increase innovation through the input of different ideas
  5. They can prevent problems escalating into conflict

Effective negotiation skills can enhance the collaborative capacity of the team, which in turn increases diversity of thought, innovation and growth. However, it is crucial that the team understand what expectations are; negotiating in teams isn’t about winning the fight and being right, it is about getting the best solution. This is the role of leadership, to set the tone and clarify the objectives to which the team are working towards. The reality is that confusion, difference and conflict will emerge, we are all only human. But instead of blaming or seeing these things as bad, effective negotiation can lead to better results, better relationships and more successful collaborations. 

Sarah Blake
Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Specialist

Sarah is a conflict strategist with over 25 years of experience working across a broad spectrum of conflict from the bush to the board room. Sarah is media commentator and advisor on corporate and community conflict, international and cross-cultural conflict, HR and workplace conflict, governance leadership and its impact on communication, decision-making and leadership.

If you are interested in learning more about Sarah and her workshops on Essemy, please visit this link.

negotiation skills for the workplace