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Small Business Digest


Six Ways to Negotiate With an Over-Controlling Boss

The No. 1 reason employees are stressed out or dissatisfied in their jobs is "lack of control," several national have shown - and that may be because your boss has too much.

A negotiation coach/trainer suggests ways to deal with that source of stress.

Employees may be a candidates for this advice if an over-controlling boss keeps their hands tied by refusing to listen to their great ideas, by depriving them of needed resources or processes to do their job well, or by failing to recommend them for promotions or challenging assignments lest they threaten the boss's own power.

Jim Camp,author of NO: The Only Negotiating System You Need for Work and Home (Crown), offers these negotiating techniques and tools that employees can use to get what they need on the job:

Cool your jets. Mounting frustration makes people feel as if they're ready to blow. Do the opposite. Before talking to the boss, clear your mind of all emotions - anger, anticipation, fear, etc. Don't say or do anything during the talk that betrays any emotion - the worst of which is neediness.

Identify the elephants in the room. Before the meeting, write down all the problems you foresee standing in your way. Instead of ignoring these, bring them out into the open. Example: "I realize our department's budget got slashed and salaries are on freeze."

Invite the boss to say no. This counterintuitive negotiating technique works every time. Employees can start the conversation by telling the boss that they're comfortable with a no answer and that they want the boss to be comfortable saying no. This puts anyone - especially a control freak - at ease.

Get to the heart of the boss's problem. Ask questions starting with why, what and how to get the boss revealing what he or she worries about and how the employee might be able to benefit him/her. Example: "What do you see as our department's biggest challenge in the next two years?" This gets the boss spilling the beans so the employee can present the employee and the employee's proposal as the answer to the boss's problem.

Base the mission and purpose in the boss's world. The mission and purpose for the meeting should fulfill the boss's needs, or it won't be worth his/her while. Let's say the employee wants the boss to provide the people and funding for a new project, but the boss thinks he/she can't pay for it. The employee might say, "I can demonstrate how Project X will be able to offer services our competitor can't and add value to our products. We can raise our prices, increase our customer base and generate new revenue for our company."

Focus on what can be controlled. The only thing the employee can control in the dialogue is the employee's own behavior and responses. Focus on listening carefully and on answering questions in such a way as to always keep the boss's requirements and goals in mind. Answers should reflect how the employee will enhance the boss's aims and objectives - not the employee's own.

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