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From Pressure to Power in salary discussion - Deflect hardball tactics in negotiation

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

Hardball tactics in negotiation aim to pressurize, intimidate, or manipulate the other party. Salary negotiations are no exception. Recognizing these tactics and knowing how to deflect them is important in extracting the value you deserve in any salary negotiation. There are may different types of tactics but for this article, let's dig deeper into three prevalent hardball tactics in negotiation and explore the strategies to counteract them.


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Hardball tactics

Hardball Tactics in Negotiation - The undercut


One of the most frequent hardball tactics in negotiation is belittling your alternatives or what I call the undercut strategy. The other party might attempt to undermine your options outside the negotiation, implying that their offer is the best you'll get.


How to deflect these hardball tactics in negotiation:

  • Stay Informed: Know your worth and the current market rates for your role. Being informed equips you to challenge any false assertions with confidence.

  • Reaffirm Your Value: Instead of defending your alternatives, shift the focus back to your accomplishments, skills, and value you bring to the table.

  • Seek Third-Party Validation: Having an external mentor, recruiter, or industry expert to back up your claims can further discredit attempts to belittle your alternatives.

Example: During a salary negotiation, the hiring manager says, "Given the current job market, I doubt you'll find another company willing to offer you more than what we've put on the table."


How to Deflect: Response: "I appreciate your perspective. However, based on my research and discussions with industry peers, the value I bring aligns with a slightly higher range. Considering my skills in [specific skill] and the revenue I generated in my previous role, I believe an adjustment would reflect the market rate and my contributions."


Hardball Tactics in Negotiation - the Distraction


"The distraction" involves creating emotional turbulence, aiming to make you lose focus or feel unsettled. It might include personal insults delivered in a subtle way.


How to deflect these hardball tactics in negotiation:

  • Stay Calm: Recognize the tactic for what it is—a distraction. Maintain composure and stay grounded in the facts.

  • Ask Clarifying Questions: If someone tries to steer the conversation away or introduces irrelevant points, bring the focus back by asking clarifying questions related to the negotiation at hand.

  • Take a Break: If you feel emotions are running too high, suggest a short break. This allows both parties to regroup and approach the negotiation with a clear mind.

Example: While discussing a promotion, your supervisor brings up a minor mistake you made months ago, which is unrelated to the overall performance discussion.


How to Deflect: Response: "I understand that the incident you mentioned was a learning opportunity, and I have taken measures to ensure it doesn't recur. Can we refocus our discussion on the overall contributions and results I've delivered this year and how they align with the new role?"


Hardball Tactics in Negotiation - Threats and Warnings


Threats and warnings are blatant hardball tactics in negotiation. They can range from subtle hints of potential repercussions if you don't agree to overt threats of job loss or missed opportunities.


How to deflect these hardball tactics in negotiation:

  • Seek Clarification: Before reacting, ask them to elaborate on their statement. This move can sometimes make the other party backtrack or provide you with more information to challenge the threat.

  • Show Willingness to Walk Away: If you're in a position to do so, showing that you're not afraid to explore other options can neutralize threats.

  • Focus on Mutual Benefits: Remind them of the mutual benefits of a fair agreement. This can shift the conversation from confrontation to collaboration.

Example: During a negotiation for remote working days, your team lead says, "If you're not in the office as often as the rest, you might miss out on some big project opportunities."


How to Deflect: Response: "I value being present and contributing to major projects. My request for remote days is based on [productivity benefits] because of the time I spend on my daily commute. I believe with proper communication and the tools we have, I can remain just as effective and involved. Let's discuss how we can make this work for both the team and my personal circumstances."


Recognizing and deflecting hardball tactics in negotiation is essential for achieving a balanced outcome. By being informed, calm, and focused on mutual benefits, you can navigate the negotiation minefield with grace and confidence.


Final point on hardball tactics in negotiation


Such recurring tactics may be indicative of a deeper cultural issue within the organization or at the organization you are applying at. Instead of merely navigating these tactics, take a moment to refelct: Is this the kind of workplace culture you want to be a part of? Does it align with your values, goals, and desired work environment? Continuously facing such strategies can be mentally exhausting and may not foster the growth and well-being you seek in the long run. It's always beneficial to weigh the immediate gains against the long-term implications of being in an environment that might not be conducive to your personal and professional growth. If you are frequently seeing these types of tactics, you might consider what your BATNA is and ask yourself the question if this particular culture is the right one for you.


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