Negotiating: Bring Your Home Court Advantage With You

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled, “Negotiate Where You Want to Get What You Want.” Its premise? That where you negotiate your next raise is as important as what you say, so plan to negotiate it in your office or in a neutral space such as a restaurant.

While this is a nice idea, I don’t think it’s realistic. The majority of the time, you will be having this conversation in your boss’s office for this very reason– he or she might not know about the study, but they will know it’s where they feel most comfortable and confident.

Given this, what can you do to bring your own zone of comfort with you when you go in to negotiate? (Note: I am taking it as a given that you will have sat down with him or her six months earlier to discuss goals; that you are ready to back up your request with facts and figures, not feelings; that you have thought through every possible question/concern/objection your boss might have and are ready to verbally counter it.)

Optimize the Calendar:

First and foremost, don’t try to tack this conversation onto any other conversation. Your boss will feel ambushed. Plan to make a formal appointment to discuss your review/have a compensation conversation.

Be mindful about the date: Some weeks are better than others. If your review is meant to occur on a week when you know your boss has a lot going on at the office, or a lot going on at home (anniversary, kid’s birthdays mother-in-law visiting) be sensitive to that and see if you can reschedule.

In addition to the day, consider the time. By now you know your boss’s rhythms. For example, he or she may be hell on wheels when they arrive at 8 a.m. but far mellower after lunch—or vice versa. With this in mind, pick the time when you’ve found they are in the most receptive/mentoring kind of mood.

Look Good Feel Good:

We all know we should be dressing for the job we want, not the job we have, and today is no exception. If anything, it has never been more important. Dress as you would on a day when you have an important meeting—because you do.

That said don’t load up on the jewelry/brand name accessories. As unfair as it may seem, wearing your newest batch of bling/unscrewing your Mont Blanc pen may be very off-putting to your boss as you ask for your raise. It’s harder for them to feel like a hero when you don’t appear to be in need. (Again, I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m saying it’s so.)

And that said, if you have a piece of jewelry or accessory that has significance for you—a pin from your grandmother, a pen from your grandfather—by all means bring it along. Talismans of this kind can do a lot to boost confidence in the moment.

Take a Tip from the Stars: Temperature, Scent, and Talismans

If you’ve spent any time reading magazines dealing with musicians, actors, athletes, and the like, you know that many of them are very particular about the way their green rooms/locker rooms/tour buses are decorated and stocked while they are on tour, as this gives them a feeling of home when they’re on the road. The following few suggestions live in this land:

Some bosses have strong feelings about the “correct” temperature for the office. If you know you’re always cold or hot when you go in to speak to your boss, today’s not the day to irritate them by looking like you’re on your way to a polar expedition, or ready to drop from heat exhaustion. Double up on layers if know you’re likely to be cold. Go sleeveless (ladies) or wear your lightest jacket (gentlemen) if you’re likely to be hot (and bear in mind this may be a sweaty conversation for you…)

Sniff Your Way to Success: I’m not talking about bursting into tears to get what you want. I’m talking about utilizing your least engaged– despite the fact that it’s the most powerful—sense: your sense of smell. With this in mind, it may be worth giving yourself a whiff of something that motivates or strengthens you just before your meeting. (And no, I’m not talking about Scotch) I recommend 21 Drops’ blend #3 for strength and blend # 19 for will power. (If you’re skeptical, it’s $29—I imagine your raise will offset the expenditure.

The items your boss has on the desk are likely there for a reason: pictures of a spouse/child/pet/themselves on vacation or doing an extreme sport, etc. If you have a similar picture that motivates/cheers/inspires you, you might slip it into your notepad or folder and take a look while you consider an answer.

As you can see, incorporating some or all of the above will give you as much physical and mental control of the situation as you can have in the situation—offering you the home court advantage your boss has, even when you’re playing an away game.

Frances Cole Jones