In an earlier blog post, I explained that there are options beyond a simple “yes” or “no” for responding to a request for your time. I briefly described the strategies of “Commit to Commit” and “Counter-Offer,” and I hope you’ve found those principles helpful! In this post I’d like to expand on the idea of the Counter-Offer.
To review quickly, the Counter-Offer strategy allows you to negotiate the terms of a request that you want to say no to, but that could be doable under new conditions. The new condition you offer might be an extended timeline for completion, or delegating the task to someone else and collaborating with that person. Regardless of the specifics, the real point of the Counter-Offer is to slow things down and allow you to create the circumstances in which you feel comfortable saying “yes.” Sometimes the benefit of this slowdown is that the person making the request will find a way to take care of it themselves, giving you an out without having to say “no”! Either way, this strategy can help you find a solution that works best for both of you.
The problem sometimes is that you may be scared to make certain requests as part of a counter-offer that’s viable for you. Imagine that you’ve been asked to take the lead on a new task that will require a lot of your team’s time and resources. However, you know that there’s a software tool that could make the task easier and remove a significant amount of strain from you and your team. Asking for a new software acquisition seems like a reasonable counter-offer for taking on the task, but you might hesitate to ask your boss to spend more money.
Making a request like this doesn’t need to feel daunting if you’re prepared. In this type of scenario, combining the Counter-Offer strategy with a preliminary Commit to Commit can buy the time you’ll need to prepare. You could say, “This sounds like something my team might be able to take on. Can I get back to you in two days so I can talk with them and make sure we have the resources to do it well?” Now you have the time to think, identify solutions, and prepare a pitch for why your counter-offer is reasonable. When you talk with the request maker again, you’ll be able to explain how this additional expense is going to help your organization in the long run. Be prepared to demonstrate how the software is going to increase the quality or accuracy of your task, or how it will ensure things are completed on time. The bottom line in a pitch like this is always money—how will this effectively save money for the company, or provide the potential to increase income?
Another example that might seem more difficult: asking for a raise or bonus as part of your counter-offer. It might be harder to show how paying you more could be good for the company’s bottom line. The main thing you’ll need to demonstrate is the value you add to your organization. Your skills, experience, and past accomplishments make you an asset, one that’s worth spending money to keep on hand. Preparing this pitch requires research. Could you make more money somewhere else? Find out. Be prepared to demonstrate to your organization that you are a valuable employee, and that it would be better to pay a little more money each year to retain you than to go through the trouble and expense of finding your replacement.
Be prepared to back up everything you say with data. This is important not only to convince your superiors that you’re making a valid case, but also to keep the negotiation from feeling like a threat. Threats are emotional and personal. But when you offer data reasonably, the negotiation presents natural consequences, which are quite different from a threat. A consequence is simply information about what may happen as the result of a choice. Keep emotion out of the negotiation and your superior will be grateful for new information and a new perspective on what you contribute. They’ll understand why it’s worth it to retain you with better compensation in exchange for your increased efforts.
Finally, be prepared to follow through on any consequences that you bring up, or they will be meaningless, and you will have less negotiating power the next time you want to make a counter-offer.
Have you ever made a counter-offer so you could better handle a new task or role? How did it play out? What did you request and what did you receive?