Your boss suddenly resigns. You think his boss should tap you for the job, but that doesn’t happen right away. He calls you into his office and says that you’d be a suitable candidate, but he wants to think it over and consider his options, maybe bring someone in from outside with more experience.
This puts you in an awkward position, because you want the job but you also want the pay raise that comes with the job. And you wouldn’t mind holding onto your current job if the promotion doesn’t come through. What do you say?
Many moons ago, I found myself in exactly this pickle. You might be surprised how I got out of it.
The Least of These
Before I tell you what I did in this case, let me tell you a negotiating secret I gleaned decades ago from author James Dobson: “He who needs the other person the least is in control of the relationship.”
This was, quite frankly, the best piece of negotiating advice I’d ever received, and I’ve put it to use in countless situations.
I’ve used it to buy things, including cars and real estate. I’ve used it to negotiate on the job or when coming into new jobs. It even works in parenting, when necessary.
The trick is to really put yourself in the position where you don’t need the other person as badly as they need you. How do you do that? Three suggestions:
1. Be Aloof at First
Never fall in love with something you are trying to acquire—at least not at first. Be a little aloof. Don’t get emotionally attached. Kick the tires. (This point was underscored for me by Robert G. Allen, author of numerous financial books.)
2. Don’t Get Too Eager
In negotiations, the first person to name a number usually loses. So let the other person go first and pace your responses to theirs. If they take 24 hours to respond, set your clock for tomorrow at this time.
3. Give Yourself Options
This is important. The more options you have, the more you will believe you don’t need any particular offer. For example, want to sell a car at the best price? Get multiple offers for it. It will change your negotiating posture and put you in a position of strength.
You may think this is manipulative or unethical, but I don’t think you can afford to ignore the very real psychology that is at work in serious negotiations. Do so to your own detriment.
And if you are committed to negotiating win-win relationships, as I surely am, you can still do so this way. You’re ensuring that the other party doesn’t win at your expense.
Now for the Rest of the Story
When my boss said he was going to take his time filling the position and might not pick me, I was disappointed. From my perspective, it was a no-brainer. I was the logical choice!
In response, I could have pouted. I could have written a memo detailing my qualifications. I could have launched a campaign asking people I knew my boss respected to recommend me.
But I didn’t do any of those things.
Instead I just smiled and said, “No problem. Take your time.”
I went back to my office, maintained a positive attitude, and worked hard. A few days later my boss called me back in, told me he’d made his decision, and offered me the promotion.
I was thrilled (though I didn’t let on right away just how thrilled).