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Don’t Make This Negotiating Mistake

Be Mindful of Your Body Language When Negotiating.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language When Negotiating
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via Wikimedia Commons

You just gave a solid offer to the employer on behalf of your labor union members. The employer’s lawyers are now grilling you on one of the proposal’s finer points.

While explaining a proposed contract term, you mistakenly show your hand, sending a signal to the employer that this particular term is up for grabs. In other words, you’ve just negotiated against yourself.

Here’s my advice: don’t do this. Don’t negotiate against yourself.

And If You Do Negotiate Against Yourself

If this scenario happens, and it will, call for a caucus or meeting immediately with your negotiating team and regroup. Make sure you’re all on the same page and go back out there and let the employer know that you misstated the term.

It’s best to handle these stumbles as soon as they happen so there’s no confusion where you and your union stand.

When the Employer Makes an Offer

When the employer hands you a counter offer, don’t start picking it apart at the table. Give the employer a chance to review the proposal with you and your negotiating team and use the time wisely to ask for clarification when something’s confusing.

But don’t share your opinion on any of the contract terms with the employer no matter how unacceptable a term may seem. Wait until you’ve had a chance to review carefully the counter offer in total with your union negotiating team before you accept, modify or reject a proposal.

Be mindful of your body language. A roll of the eyes can give away your position much faster than words. Watch the employer’s physical cues as well. You may learn something just by the way he carries his shoulders when he presents his offer.

You, your union negotiating team and your employer will cobble together a final proposal through a series of trade-offs. That modest wage increase might be sufficient if health care and pension remain fully funded.

Cultivate Patience When Negotiating Labor Contracts

No matter how anxious you are to get the deal done, be patient. Stand by until the employer returns with a counter offer before you and your labor union propose anything new. Allow the employer time to bargain in good faith.

Labor union negotiations will test your self-control, your endurance and your stomach. Invest in some Pepto Bismol and sit tight.

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About the Author:
FX Crowley is a Public Affairs and Labor Relations Specialist, and former 15-year Business Manager of IATSE Local 16, San Francisco. A third-generation San Franciscan, FX can break down any football game from Pop Warner to the Pros and analyze it for hours. Contact to learn more ››