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Crisis Negotiation Tips For Business

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Are you the chief negotiator for your business? It’s a role that many people find invigorating, and they can not wait for the next head-to-head while other people who are in the position reluctantly dread the process that they see as a confrontation.

During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of the negotiation is not for securing new orders. Your business might be downsizing, and letting staff go, or just working differently with everyone working remotely. This article has a few tips on dealing with negotiations in challenging times that alter your business forever.

The suddenness of the change in normality has caught a lot of businesses out. Remote working has everything is up for negotiation, from how often managers check in with their staff and how that’s achieved to how much staff may be paid if the business is operating at less than 70% capacity.

With workers at home, will the business cough up for utilities use, i.e. data, energy use, and wear and tear on systems like desktops, laptops, and smart devices owned and paid for by staff, not the business. There are many decisions to be made that all require negotiation, and if you’re not practised in the art, and the other person is, they are likely to get what they want at your expense.

Negotiating Online

One of the most significant challenges is negotiating online, i.e. not face to face. When you’re standing or sitting opposite someone, you can pick up on their body language cues. We all give a lot away with our facial expressions.

We get a lot of feedback from raising eyebrows, frowning, rolling of the eyes, or little eye contact, for example, and we use it to change tact in negotiations to get the upper hand. However, reading someone’s body language is not going to be as helpful now. You are conducting your talks online.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing will assist you somewhat as you do get to see the person or people you’re meeting with. However, you will need to reframe from jumping to the same conclusions as you would when you’re in a face to face meeting. Video conferencing up until recently was the tool used by innovators and early adopters, and it wasn’t going anywhere fast. Still, a lot has changed due to the pandemic so quickly forward to March 2020, and now the early majority have taken to it, and there’s no looking back.

Using video live doesn’t mean we know what we’re doing, however, as the new group of users are novices. They haven’t perfected their use of the camera or used their voice, so it is not highly reliable for studying a person’s mood or frame of mind.

If you prefer in-person meetings, insist on video conferencing for your challenging negotiations so you get some body-language feedback. A little of something that you use in your favour is better than nothing, as it will give you the confidence to go for the deal you need! But first, you need to practice and hone your use of video conferencing.

Set up practice video calls and seek feedback from trusted peers and associates before using it for dialogue with staff and customers.

Collaborative Negotiation

Desperate times call for extreme measures. Therefore, act in the same way great leaders do, and that’s with collaboration. Your negotiations are less of one winner, one loser and more of a win-win, where all parties come together to decide on the way forward to get mutually agreeable outcomes.


Havard Business Review suggests that using the BATNA method is the way forward for negotiating during a crisis. BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement i.e. the best deal you’re going to get without getting the actual negotiated agreement you want.

Tough times call for strict measures, therefore negotiate to a mutually agreeable outcome to reduce a threat to your business and keep the door open for new opportunities. Avoid seeing the collaborative spirit in the other person as a sign to double-down to get what you want, as now is not the time to have the ‘winner gets all’ mentality.

Strategic Empathy

Masterclass insights on empathy and social intelligence for decision making is that business negotiations will be more effective in a crisis and any other time when the negotiator can call on their basic understanding of social psychology for showing strategic empathy.

Strong leaders using empathy during COVID-19 include New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. She has been lauded over her response and actions during the Christchurch attack and now the COVID-19 lockdown.


Decision making and negotiations are tighter now than ever before for many business owners and managers with an unprecedented event. Stay calm, use video to for body language cues, use strategic empathy, and remember the best deal may not be the deal you initially wanted. Still, it’s the best you can get, i.e. BATNA.

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