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  • Writer's pictureAdrien Le Clef

Negotiations Escalating to Management? Here's How to Stop It

Updated: Jan 30

Negotiations play a crucial role in any business or organization, but when multiple parties with different interests are involved, negotiations can quickly be escalated to higher ups. It is important for managers to find ways to prevent negotiations from escalating to their level (at all or too quickly). Why? Well team members should be in a position to conclude negotiations themselves otherwise they may get used to escalating to management to resolve negotiations when things get tough. The risk of escalating too quickly is that in the future the counterparty will expect to always negotiate with the manager, and managers usually have higher mandates which runs the risk of managers giving away too much to get the negotiation over with. In this blog, we'll explore 5 ways that managers can prevent negotiations from escalating to their level.

1. Objective Setting: To ensure that negotiations are successful, managers should work with their team to set clear and specific negotiation objectives. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives should be established for each negotiation. By establishing clear objectives, managers can help their team stay focused and avoid misunderstandings during negotiations.

2. Preparation: Preparation is crucial in any negotiation, and managers should require their team to properly prepare for negotiations by creating detailed negotiation plans. This includes researching the key issues, gathering relevant data and information, and establishing the team's bargaining position. By reviewing the negotiation plan together, managers can help their team stay organized and focused.

3. Confidence: Negotiations can be stressful, and it's important for managers to help their team build confidence in their negotiation skills. This can be done through training and development programs, as well as by preparing for negotiations together. For example, managers could encourage their team to practice their negotiation skills in mock negotiations or through role-playing exercises. By building confidence, managers can help their team handle challenging negotiations effectively.

4. Process: Establishing clear escalation guidelines is key to preventing negotiations from escalating to the manager's level. Managers should establish a clear escalation process, which includes timelines, that provides clarity to the team of what is expected of them. By having a clear process in place, managers can help their team handle negotiations in a structured and organized manner.

5. Empower: Trusting your team is essential in preventing negotiations from escalating to the manager's level. Managers should empower their team to handle negotiations by providing support and resources. For example, if the negotiations become tense, the manager could offer to step in as an active listener and provide support, but not take over the negotiation conversation. By empowering their team, managers can help their team reach a successful agreement and build trust.

Now I already hear you thinking: that’s all great in theory but in practice as a senior manager I keep on getting involved into deals, so how do I prevent that? Let’s discuss a 2 different scenarios: SCENARIO 1: the other party keeps on calling me directly to escalate to me. Option 1: Don’t pick up the phone, let it go to voicemail and consider sending a polite text message back saying: “I saw you called, I am busy right now but I’ll make sure my colleague (involved directly with the negotiation) calls you back asap”. Option 2: Pick up the phone and say: “this is isn’t a good time, can you very shortly describe what it’s about and I’ll make sure my colleague calls you back” SCENARIO 2: The counterpart I am negotiating with will not speak to my lead negotiator unless I am there. Option 1: If time permits it, don’t hesitate to stand your ground and avoid getting involved in order to keep your lead negotiator empowered. This means passing on messages to your lead negotiator that you will not join the meetings and that is that. Option 2: Consider pro-actively escalating yourself to tell the other party your lead negotiator has the mandate to negotiate and that you will not get involved. Here it’s important that no other topics are discussed other than a brief call to state the empowerment of your colleague. The main reason both of these scenarios are occurring is probably because the other party has been successful escalating in the past, setting a precedence which makes it difficult to turn around. Now is as good as any to change this habit. Another reason may be a lack of details escalation plan in place with limited buy-in from the lead negotiator. Additionally, it could be attributed to a lack of confidence in the lead negotiator’s ability to execute the deal personally. Either way, both these scenario’s need to come up during the preparation phase.

Lastly, If for some reason, you have done all the steps mentioned above, exhausted your options and the other party still insists on escalating, make sure you do the following: - When escalating to a certain level, make sure you escalate as well. Hierarchy levels need to matched - Bring your lead negotiator and let him lead the conversation. Avoid falling into the trap of getting involved. This will only signal/reward the other party for having escalated to you. - Conclude the meeting by re-iterating your lead negotiator’s mandate to negotiate on behalf of your organization. In conclusion, negotiations can be complex and challenging, but by following these 5 steps, managers can prevent negotiations from escalating to their level. By setting clear objectives, preparing effectively, building confidence, establishing a clear process, and empowering their team, managers can help their team handle negotiations successfully and avoid conflict.


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