Conflict Negotiation Strategies: When Do Employees Choose to Negotiate?

Use negotiation to better understand your employees needs

By on / Dispute Resolution


When do employees engage in negotiation with their employers? More broadly, how does the desire to negotiate stack up against other workplace decision-making procedures?

Negotiation seems to be the preferred decision-making mechanism when employees are seeking individually tailored solutions, such as adjustments to travel and work schedules. On the other hand, they prefer their compensation to be based on performance criteria and want company-wide policies to dictate entitlements such as vacation, sick leave, and parental leave.

Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution: Negotiate Strong Relationships at Work and at Home, from Harvard Law School.

Tactics for Improving Employee Satisfaction

Recognizing the high cost of attrition, many organizations have embarked on initiatives aimed at leveraging and managing diverse talent and, because conflicts may arise in the negotiation process, the emerging bargaining process is as much one of meeting mutual interests as it is an exercise in conflict management and dispute resolution (for a famous negotiation case study, see also Managing Difficult Employees – Like Alex Rodriguez?).

Here are five guidelines your organization might follow to achieve similar improvements in employee satisfaction:

#1. Assess Preferences

To learn more about your employees’ procedural preferences, consider including questions about this topic in job-satisfaction surveys and performance reviews. Knowledge about your employees’ preferences for particular decision-making procedures can help improve their satisfaction and acceptance of undesirable outcomes.

#2. Adjust Procedures Accordingly

Clearly, employee preferences alone cannot and should not dictate procedures; effectiveness, cost, and efficiency remain important considerations. But if you discover that most of your employees dislike the decision-making procedures your organization employees, it may be time for a change.

If your findings are similar to ours, you may want to give negotiation a more prominent role in decisions about time allocation but rely on performance-based measures when setting compensation.

#3. Consider Gender Differences

Suppose you find, as we did in our sample, that male and female employees have different procedural differences.

If most women want to negotiate how and where they spend their time, and men care less about negotiating in this domain, you’re presented with both a problem and an opportunity.

You wouldn’t want to use different rules for different sexes, yet you’ve uncovered a possible gender element in job satisfaction and attrition.

If you’ve had trouble keeping talented women within your organization, you may want to increase flexibility by allowing for more negotiation. If it’s talented men you’re losing, weigh other criteria more heavily.

Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution: Negotiate Strong Relationships at Work and at Home, from Harvard Law School.

4. Promote Integrative Negotiation (Value-Creating, Win-Win Negotiations)

As you contemplate organizational change, you’ll want to harness the full potential of negotiation to create value.

Only a multi-issue framework allows negotiators to make tradeoffs on differences in preferences and increase the size of the pie (See also, Negotiation Skills: Expanding the Pie – Integrative Bargaining versus Distributive Bargaining).

Even if an employee prefers to negotiate on a single issue, such as how many days per year you expect her to travel, you should launch an integrative negotiation that identifies underlying interests. You might come up with a package that allows her to make one-day trips occasionally, travel most frequently to favored destinations, and trade some travel commitments for other tasks.

5. Support Training

You can ensure that both genders receive the full potential of negotiation by teaching necessary skills as well as educating employees on the gender stereotypes that constrain too many of our options and decisions.

Do you use any of these tactics in the workplace? Share your story in the comments.

Related Dispute Resolution Article:  What is Dispute Resolution in Law: The Ins and Outs of Arbitration

Negotiating a Noncompete Agreement with Employers – Preserve exclusivity while creating a win-win outcome for yourself and your employer with the negotiation tactics presented in this article.

How to Ask for a Higher Salary – How to effectively advocate for a higher wage while using integrative bargaining strategies to create more value for your employer.

Handling Employee Relations – A disputes system design examination of the relationship an organization has with its employees in negotiations.

Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution: Negotiate Strong Relationships at Work and at Home, from Harvard Law School.

Originally published in 2013.

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