Wrestling Over the Details

Aug. 1, 2001

Wrestling Over the Details

Learingin the art of negotiating for necessities and benefits will help you prosper personally and professionally.

By Michell Garetson

August 2001

Knowledge regarding the negotiating of benefits, whether it be for initial employment or in your annual review, should be as much a part of your skills set as is your knowledge of aircraft. While you didn’t learn everything there is to know about aircraft in one class, the same holds true in learning and understanding the art of negotiation with your employer for supplies, staff, salaries, or whatever will help you do your job more efficiently and effectively.
There is no knockout punch or submission hold that will help bring about the desired results, but there are some things you can do to help prepare you for those negotiating opportunities that arise. Employers will also benefit by your preparedness. They are not mind-readers and may only see fit to offer the types of benefits or tools or other amenities that they would like for themselves to employees. So remember, there are no "dumb" questions. With the jobless rate hovering around the 5 percent mark for the past few years, employers have been open to many suggestions to keep their best and brightest or to hire new talent. All your negotiating partner can do is say ’No’ . . . or ’Yes,’ so you need to be prepared for either reaction. The following will keep you in the know to help to ensure a positive outcome in your next negotiating session.

Know thyself
The self-confidence that comes with the understanding and belief in your capabilities will shine through in your negotiations. You will be less likely to be "bullied" into accepting a lesser deal or to be brushed off in a meeting. Careful consideration of one’s strengths, as well as challenges, will also serve to better frame the requests for the best possible response.

Know the company
Whether seeking employment with a new company, or negotiating for necessary items with your current employer, you need to know what the company needs in order for you to be viewed as a viable solution to a manpower shortage or to obtain the needed component to continue on your present path.
For those wishing to start fresh with a new employer, find out everything you can about that company through information available at local libraries or on the Internet. If you know someone currently working there or someone who has worked for that company in the past, talk to them. They will be able to give you the "feel" of the actual workplace and possibly some information on benefit packages. Web site data is nice, but the ability to download a real-time employee’s opinions will most likely serve you better.
Just because you work for a company, maybe have been there a few years, does not immediately grant you immunity from the research step. Things change quickly given the popular "urge to merge" business practices of the past few years. New alliances can chop down previous management trees as well as clear career paths when the papers have all been signed. Stay on course through attending company meetings, reading company newsletters, talks with your supervisors or owners, even existing vendors to gather insights necessary to help you in the bargaining process.

Know the neighborhood
What are others with your job, or the position you want, getting — locally, regionally, or nationally? You’ll appear more professional if you come to the table with accurate salary and benefit information or shop rates. (AMT’s 2001 Salary Survey results will appear in the Oct. 2001 issue, and Y2K results are currently featured on AMTonline.com). Price yourself too low, you’ll be viewed as inexperienced and unprofessional; too high, you most likely will lose the bid.

Know how low you’ll go
Always aim for the best or highest expectation, but be prepared to settle for less. You can always come down to an acceptable level, but you may not always be able to come up to one. Having a pre-set boundary that you will not cross when wrestling over the details with your negotiating partner is important.

Know it’s not a win or lose situation
If negotiations are successful, the result should not point to a clear victor. Both parties will win and lose in the bargain — you were prepared all along to come down from a lofty expectation perch to still gain an acceptable result. The employer may have had a few more dollars or perks to offer, but your prior research should have ferreted out much of that information.

Know when to walk away
Big decisions require a clear head and sometimes, more time to think about what’s being offered. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time, whether it’s a minute, an hour or a day, to be sure you’re not being too hasty to accept or reject what’s on the table. Decisions made in the heat of the battle may prove to be dangerous, if not fatal.
Likewise, know when your discussions are a lost cause. Walk away, live to fight another day. You’ll go after it again taking another tack that may prove successful at a later date, or with another negotiator.

Know that it’s more than the money
Maybe your motivation is a flex-time schedule or additional resources such as people or machinery. Maybe a special tool subsidy, tuition reimbursement, flying lessons or additional vacation days would be more exciting to you than a one or two percent pay raise. Health benefits and retirement plans always score high on employee wish lists. Giving your employer fully developed feedback and well researched requests will gain their respect, and possibly their nod of approval to your plan.

Know that you need practice
So what if you’ve never bartered for anything? If you feel you are too "green" to go into a bargaining situation, you might not receive everything you’ve asked for, but at least you tried and you’ll learn what not to do the next time. Know that there will be a next time. But, if you’ve done your homework and practiced your requests, with voice tone, facial expressions and other body language cues, then you will be taken seriously. Yes, practice. You had to practice fixing airplanes and you will have to practice your negotiating style. Successful negotiators have developed their tactics over time. They would have had to come up through the ranks, notching up little victories at first, then working up to bigger wins.

Develop a "poker face"
Managing your reactions is imperative so as not to show your hand to your negotiating partner. Developing a "poker face" will keep you from jumping up and down or acting surprised if you succeed in gaining what you’ve requested. Also, practicing this type of physical, as well as mental, restraint will help you to respond with a clear statement and not a whimper if the negotiations didn’t go as planned.

Never give up
Victories can come in all sizes and forms. To some, it may be more than just money at stake. Learning and using the art of negotiating for necessities and benefits will help you prosper personally and professionally.