How To Negotiate Anything: Get What You Want & Need at Your Job

Published on September 14, 2021

two people sitting down to negotiate

Workplaces are fluid organizations. In fact, they’re pretty much liquid, with a steady stream of people entering and leaving their positions within an average of 4.3 years. The reasons for so much coming and going tend to be lack of opportunities, not enough value affiliation with the company or discovering a new career path.

Even in a positive (and fast-flowing) space, there can be spots of stagnancy, and it’s important to know how to advocate for yourself and negotiate in order to keep up your career development. Maybe you like your position, but are interested in more responsibility, or you want to progress up the “ladder,” or you just want a plain old raise. Where to start is with yourself, says Evan Galbraith, life and executive coach and founder of Mountain Air Coaching.

Ask the Big Questions Before You Negotiate

When contemplating approaching a supervisor or manager, first think about how you fit into your chosen space and what you want to be doing that’s different, Galbraith says, who was once a senior advisor to a City of Calgary councilor. After attending the London School of Economics and Political Science and earning a master’s in Health, Population and Society, Galbraith was asking himself where to go next. Through friends, he found the On Purpose Associate Program (also in London), which mentors people to transition into more purpose-orientated work.

“It also provided a practical way to see how social enterprises – businesses, non-profits, charities – are working to be more thoughtful in how they operate,” Galbraith says. Basically, he learned how to be a leader while also making his personal values a priority. After achieving a certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University, his company Mountain Air is out in the atmosphere

“I really feel like I’m at my best when I’m enabling other people to be at their best,” Galbraith says. He’s provided toast some helpful advice on how to get what you want at your job.

Define What You Really Want

Before you get want you want, you must know what you want, Galbraith says. Define what success is for you. Question if what you’re seeking is “more” and if that’s enough for you because society celebrates getting “more” in very limited terms such as “more” money, “more” responsibility, a “more” senior title, all in all, being “more” busy.

“It’s easy to thoughtlessly pursue those things, but they may not actually fulfill you,” Galbraith says.

He believes it’s better to look at it in terms of the difference between needs and wants. Assess what you need to live – the things that are absolutely necessary, like paying the bills, a gym or sports membership, and an annual vacation – all these things count. So does the desire to have job security, good relationships with coworkers and liking where you work.

“Wants are more like stretch goals,” Galbraith says. He suggests trying an “appreciative inquiry” to really determine what those may be. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the current situation, instead focus on what would be right, and how you can be part of the solution.

Evan Galbraith, life and executive coach and founder of Mountain Air Coaching | Photo courtesy Evan Galbraith

Know How To Present Your Value Before You Negotiate

Galbraith suggests having a toolkit ready:

1. Know the different influencing techniques in negotiation. It’s most common to start with logic, Galbraith says. “I do this much work, I have brought in this many clients, I have grown the company in these ways, so I deserve this amount of value.” But make sure to consider how other techniques, such as presenting mutual benefits and emotional appeals, will add to your proposal.

2. Have clarity about your expectations. “If you don’t have expectations for yourself, it’s impossible for someone else to meet them.” This is why having clarity about what you want is extremely helpful. You should be able to explain why you are excited about the opportunities you are presenting, rather than just why they make sense.

3. Explain rather than complain. Coming from a place of “This is why I am valuable,” rather than “that person gets everything,” is more effective. Express yourself as the vision of who you want to be as a leader, how you want to grow and what you want to achieve.

Psych Yourself Up

“Think about how you want to show up, in what mindset you are most effective, and how you cultivate that in yourself,” Galbraith says. You’ve felt what it’s like to be at your best, so consider what it will take to find that again for this conversation. Consider this an exciting opportunity, as opposed to a nervous request.

Ask for Support

Asking for support from those you trust for an important conversation can only lead to good, Galbraith says. Approach a mentor for tips on how they might approach the conversation, work with a coach on how you can truly “show up,” or let your friends and family know you could use a little extra support, as it will give you some extra energy.  

If Your Job Just Isn’t a Fit

If your values aren’t aligned with your place of work and it really does seem impossible to get what you both need and want there, then you are among the many others who are looking to make a shift in their careers. A change like this should never be thought of as failure, only learning, Galbraith says. If you didn’t try to negotiate, you wouldn’t know, and making a change is a sign of progression, not regression, especially if you know you have truly brought your best self forward. And if it feels like you didn’t? It’s a chance to learn how to bring your best self forward next time.

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The Author
Michelle Bodnar is a born-and-raised Calgarian with more than 15 years of writing and editing experience under her belt. Fun fact: When she was a kid, she read every single novel available in her elementary school library by the end of Grade 4.