Negotiating? Know your BATNA

Working Women Wednesdays gives you tips, tricks, and information about being a successful working mom in corporate America. Today’s post is about negotiation.

Negotiations. Many of us hate them. But we all have to do them once in a while. A new car. A raise. A new project, or job. Negotiating successfully is a key part to success in work and in life. This time of year is a good time to start thinking about negotiations. After all, your year end review is coming soon. Old projects at work are ending, and new ones are starting. Perhaps your raises are being decided-in corporate America, they’re usually decided months before they tell you what it is. This is the time to position yourself for success, and improving your negotiation skills is a key part of that strategy.

Negotiating Negotiation
Negotiating – Know your BATNA

What makes your negotiating position stronger? Knowing your BATNA – your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. What does this mean? When you go into a negotiation, you need to know what alternatives you have available. That helps you objectively evaluate the point where the negotiated agreement doesn’t make sense for you, and you should walk away/decline.

What does that look like? Let’s use an example of someone negotiating for a raise.

Jane has been working hard all year – achieving and exceeding her goals, hitting it out of the park on stretch assignments, made her management look good, and all her teammates love working with her. It’s time for her yearly evaluation and raise discussion.

In past years, Jane has been happy with the raise she was given. But this year she knows she’s done an exceptional job and deserves an exceptional raise. Typically her company provides a 3% raise, but she wants at least double that-6%.

How does she figure out her best alternative to a negotiated agreement on her raise?

  • One alternative is that she accepts whatever raise is given to her-3%, go home, and feel angry and resentful that her hard work wasn’t recognized
  • Another alternative is she accepts the smaller raise in exchange for a promotion track project, with a promise of a promotion evaluation the next annual cycle
  • She could research what other positions in the area are paying. Say that leaving for the competition would net her a 10% raise-not atypical. This is her best alternative to a negotiated agreement-an alternative she knows is in her back pocket, so she can feel confident in her negotiation

Why does this make your negotiation stronger? If you have no alternatives, you’re more likely to just accept what the other person offers. Or if they refuse to negotiate, you have no other options. This is a very weak position to be in, and your arguments won’t be as strong as they could otherwise be. Without being confident in your alternative options, you can’t objectively tell if what you’re being offered is a good deal

How to find your BATNA? Ask yourself some questions

Here’s some questions you should ask yourself, and write down the answers, to figure out your BATNA:

  1. What am I negotiating for? Making sure you’re clear on what your negotiation is for is a key first step
  2. What options are available within this negotiation that I want to explore? Like Jane with her raise, she has other things she could use in her negotiation should the raise not pan out. Perhaps she would agree to that promotion track project, accept more vacation time, or reimbursement for a key certification
  3. What alternative options do I have to this negotiation? Be creative here, and write down all the alternative options-good and bad
  4. Which of those alternatives is the best one? Circle the best option you have available
  5. How would I make that alternative happen? You want to make sure your alternative is realistic, and not just a pie in the sky dream, and that you have a plan to act on it. In Jane’s case, if she decided the other job was her best alternative, she should do some more research to make sure the 10% raise figure is correct. She should also polish up her resume and talk with her network outside the company, to be ready to act should the negotiation fall through. This will help increase your confidence in your alternative options, because you know it’s not just a wish or a dream, but a viable alternative.

Other Negotiation Tips

Here’s an excellent article from Forbes on six surprising negotiation tactics

Muse has an article on five things most people don’t know about negotiating

Looking for a new job? Harvard Business Review has 15 rules for negotiating your job offer

Watch this TED talk from William Ury on “The Walk from ‘No’ to ‘Yes'”

Looking for a book? Don’t forget about “Getting to Yes”, a classic and excellent book on negotiating (note – this is an affiliate link. if you buy the book I’ll get a few quarters).


Once you’ve done your research, know your BATNA, and have brushed up on your technique, you’ll go into the negotiation with much more confidence. You’ll know what you’re negotiating for, what options within that negotiation you wish to explore, what your best alternative is, and how you’ll achieve that alternative should the negotiations prove unsuccessful.

What was your best negotiations? Do you love or hate to negotiate? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Negotiating? Know your BATNA”

  1. I have to admit I hate negotiating. I hate the back and forth along with the drama. I know it’s a weakness of mine as I take it personal when it’s only business. I am working on it and even took a couple of courses during my MBA to get better at negotiating but I know there is always room for improvement. I think I need to continue practicing and then one day I’ll be as good as the guy’s on Pawn Stars 🙂

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