Talent Support Bookshelf: The Art of Negotiation

Hi all out there. The talent team has been thinking of ways that we can try to diversify our resources and interactions with users on the platform, and with that in mind, I’m going to try out a virtual bookshelf of sorts. I’ll be posting some quotes and takeaways from articles and books that might be relevant to your job search, and if you have input, it’d be great to hear it in the comments.

The first book I’ve jumped into is The Art of Negotiation by Michael Wheeler. It came recommended by a number of colleagues, and while I’m relatively early in, a number of themes seem promising. One main idea that was introduced quickly, is that in a negotiation process you must embrace chaos. Chaos being shifting interests, needs, expectations, etc. A central premise to the chaos is that many (if not all) negotiators do not know what they want until they actually begin negotiating. I thought this a bit presumptuous at first, but thinking back to candidates on Triplebyte who I had helped develop their own negotiation strategies, I realized it wasn’t all wrong. A lot of candidates wouldn’t know what exactly they wanted to negotiate about until we started having a discussion around strategy. While we weren’t actually negotiating, developing a strategy seemed to flex that muscle and help people focus in on their criteria. Though even more to the author’s point, many candidates would end up negotiating entirely different terms than what had been planned. I think that comes down to another negotiation observation from Wheeler. In reference to deals being derailed by unforeseen factors, he says “the only way to protect yourself one hundred percent against this situation is to assume there is something you don’t know.” Going into negotiations, you’ll often have an idea of what you want, and what you expect the possible outcomes to be. But once you’re actually in discussions, you’ll never know what other benefits (or slice of the pie, per Wheeler,) the other party might actually offer, or what concessions they might request.

For all the great thematic context to come out of the early section of the book, I do worry a bit about the case studies moving forward. Obviously I’m more focused on a small scale of negotiation, typically just between employee and potential (or current) employer. In this early section, Wheeler hints at many cases involving multimillion dollar deals, peace settlements halfway across the world, mergers, acquisitions, and more scenarios that boggle the mind. I hope that as I progress further into the book, these kind of cases are not the only examples put forward. Though if they are, I’d hope they at least dive into the minutiae so some more practical strategies can be found.

On the whole, this seems like a really compelling book. I don’t know yet if I would recommend the whole thing for someone interested in making the most of their next job switch or performance review, but there are some good early takeaways. In reference to the chaos mentioned above, the strategy of learn, adapt, and influence is posited as the solution. An active process where the order is not fixed between the three. Because of the chaos, you have to engage with those concepts in real time during the negotiation, certainly a difficult skill. If any of you have had that kind of experience (or the opposite) in negotiating, I’d love to hear more perspectives. Feel free to leave your stories/comments on this post, and if you’ve got any questions for me, please throw them in too!

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I haven’t read that book so I might check it out. I am too young in my career to have “practical” experience but I don’t think that means people should discount or dismiss academic/theoretical knowledge.

One of the last courses I took in my undergraduate Economics curriculum was Negotiations taught by Gary Charness, a top researcher in behavioral & experimental economics who got his Ph.D. at 46. The course is an unorthodox one that isn’t normally offered in any other University for an undergrad in Economics.

I truly learned a lot, from academic/theoretical readings to experimental papers, simulating case studies in class, and from conversations with him. His lessons and learnings from his 20 years of experience prior to his Ph.D. in various jobs/stints (even played pro poker) served as great material. I wish I could summarize them in an article, maybe in the future.

I would definitely recommend even checking out introductory papers like;

  1. Essentials of Negotiations - James Sebenius
  2. Two Psychological Traps in Negotiation - George Wu
  3. Sources of Joint Gains in Negotiation - Richard Shell
  4. Reputations in Negotiation - Steven Glick (more long-term thinking and prevalent in the real world than in a class)

Case Studies for Employer/Employee situations are great too. I can’t remember the one we used in my class but reading through that case study, enacting it with people, and understanding all the variables involved for both parties is critical.

Daniel Kahneman also has some great writings about Negotiations.

A great overview with references to topics and resources for additional reading.