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Negotiating With Your Boss or Someone Senior to You

Ben Byth

Your heart starts to race, palms begin to sweat and your mind suddenly goes blank... 

The stakes are high and the presence of your boss or a more senior counterpart sitting across the table shoots anxiety through your body like an electric shock. Of course, this has an incredibly detrimental effect on your negotiating ability, which is why we typically do the worst deals when we are negotiating for ourselves… such as negotiating our own salary. 

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this stressful, and in reducing the stress you are much more likely to reach a good outcome and even gain respect in the process. 


A few tips for approaching a negotiation with your boss or a senior counter-party include:


Don’t make accusations 

One of the easiest ways to increase the tension in the room is to tell someone they are wrong or how they should think. They tend to dig in and fight! Movement comes much more easily through asking coaching questions, allowing people to protect their face by choosing to move.  


Don’t tell them what to do 

It is true that most senior people don’t like being told what to do. So the way to put a proposal on the table is to define the problem and offer options. This achieves the same effect as telling them what to do by leading them down a path, but offers your counterpart a sense of control.   

You could also invite a proposal, but the risk is you may be presented with a response that you need to work on. For example: 

You – ‘what would I need to achieve for you to sign off X discount? 
Boss – ‘not possible’ 
You – ‘just suppose I could get the customer to agree to be flexible with timing, could we not be flexible with price?’ 


Go at your own pace 

Whilst you might think it shows weakness to slow things down during a negotiation, the reality is that not only is it essential to go at a pace that suits you… but if done well, it can actually demonstrate control.  

If things start getting away from you, buy thinking time by: 

  • Summarising… ‘so, you are saying the constraint is ABC?’ 
  • Asking questions  
  • Deferring decisions/opinions to someone out of the room… ‘I’d need to check with the client’. 


Happy negotiating, 


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