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Gaining Power in Negotiations: developing Your BATNA

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Last week we discussed strategies to safeguard your salary negotiations from taking a nose dive. Another critical way to enhance your power in negotiations is developing your BATNA. While the significance of BATNA cannot be overstated, many people find themselves unsure about how to define, improve, showcase, or even conceal it.


Understanding BATNA

BATNA or best alternative to a negotiated agreement is basically a fancy term for what you have as an alternative if the current deal doesn't work out. For it to work you should be willing and able to execute on it. If you can't, then it is simply a bluff.


Having a BATNA (or even better multiple BATNAs) gives you leverage in negotiations. When you know you have a viable alternative, you don't feel compelled to make significant concessions or settle for an unfavorable deal. You are willing and able to push the other side harder, seeking a more favorable agreement.

Conversely, if your alternatives are limited or nonexistent, the other party can exploit this knowledge to their advantage. They may make increasing demands, and you might find yourself accepting them simply because you lack better options. So, you should spend time building a BATNA prior to any negotiation.

Revealing Your BATNA

If you have a BATNA (and remember it's something you are willing and able to execute on), it's worth revealing it to the other party. Transparency in this case has the power of making them more inclined to accommodate your needs. However, if the other party believes your BATNA to be more of a bluff, this will work against you.

salary discussion - BATNA for power in Negotiations

Having another job offer can significantly increase your power in negotiation in terms of salary negotiations. But be sure to take the time to reflect on your motivations for considering both jobs honestly. Is it purely about money, or are there other factors like career progression or alignment with your values? You must understand your own motivation in order to "win" in the negotiation.

Let's consider an example where you believe that a job offer with a strong financial improvement is your BATNA (that you are willing and able to execute). However, when it's time to make the decision, you realize that you're not truly open to the change and would rather settle for something less. Clearly then, your motivation wasn't financial improvement; it was more about financial improvement + minimizing significant changes to your current circumstances.

In short, having a clear understanding of your desires and motivations is the key to understanding the strength of your BATNA.

Introducing Your BATNA Tactfully

When discussing an alternative job offer during an interview, introduce it subtly. Simply dropping it as a threat can backfire. Carefully weave your BATNA into the conversation, such as, "I am in the market for opportunities and there are few I am considering. However, the fit and synergy with this role is what I am most excited about."

Lastly, be intentional and invest time in developing your BATNA. Consider both long-term and short-term perspectives. Even if financial pressures limit your ability to focus on it in the short term, continue exploring alternative job options to develop your long-term BATNA. By having one or more BATNAs in play, you regain control and empower yourself in negotiations.

Next Steps

Want to know your negotiation style? Take this short quiz!

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