How To Negotiate With An Employee

There are a lot of articles and books on how to negotiate with one's boss or supervisor. The challenge to bosses is how to negotiate with an employee in a fashion that advances the company's interests and yet maintains a healthy relationship between boss and employee.

In this era of 'win/win' negotiations the reality is that someone loses in most situations. This is especially true when there are more than two vying interests involved in the outcome.

Persuasion Techniques

There are also several relationships that might be jeopardized by a negotiation-gone-wrong in the work environment. When trying to understand how to negotiate with an employee it is important to appreciate the dynamics of these relationships. There is the employee - boss work relationship; the employee - boss personal relationship; the employee - company relationship; and the boss - company relationship. But there may be more. There may be employee - boss's boss relationship and many others that are not so obvious. So internal company negotiations are like a three legged stool. Stable as long as one steps in the right area!

Define Your Objective
Bosses who sit down to negotiate with an employee have an agenda or reason for meeting. To maximize the time spent it is smart to define clearly what you need to achieve in the meeting. This may be to discuss the employee's job performance (good or bad) or to redirect the efforts of the employee based on a changing business climate for the company. But this is not your primary objective, it is the reason for the meeting. The objective is to motivate the employee to do something you want him or her to do.

Be Clear And Precise
For the employee to understand what you are asking he or she needs to understand what you are asking. Don't sugarcoat the message hoping to keep things calm. This leads to misunderstanding. Don't blame the need for change on others as that diminishes your position and authority.

Watch Your Body Language
Be conscious of the manner in which you are speaking and the type of language and communication you are using to deliver your message. The employee will sense a lack on commitment, sincerely or authority, Be direct, concise and professional. Do not interrupt the employee when he or she is speaking. You shouldn't just be trying to come up with your comeback as you might miss an important point being made as to why what you, AKA the company, are asking. Often the floor level employees have a better grasp on the operational tasks and can offer good feedback that benefit a company; if the feedback is heard. Just because you are the boss does not mean you know everything that is going on below you.

Make Time
We are all rushed with too much to do and too little time; especially during these downsizing times. If you have an important discussion to hold with an employee make sure you clear enough time on your calendar to conduct a proper interview. The first thing to appreciate about how to negotiate with an employee is that there is nothing worse in a tense meeting too look at your watch frequently (shows a lack of respect for the employee or topic) and have your secretary pop into the meeting telling you of another, more pressing commitment (also shows disrespect). And do not schedule the meeting late in the day to make sure the employee wants to leave quickly. This may be a good negotiating strategy but not an effective managerial style. Your role is to motivate change; not demoralize the employee.


Managing people is not easy. That is why you get paid a little more and get extra benefits. It also means you have to try harder to motivate and direct people. Like herding cats, people typically do not take well to being redirected or told their performance is not adequate. They will try to excuse their performance, blame others or generally deflect your comments. This is a natural and to-be-expected defense mechanism. Your job as a boss is to realize that this reaction tends to inhibit clear communications and try t put the employee at ease and help them to hear what you are saying.

You are the manager, after all, and it is your job in this situation to manage the process. Understanding how to negotiate with an employee will make your job as a manager/boss a lot easier. More important, it will make you more productive and increase your potential for advancement.