Negotiation 101 for Bedside Leaders/Nurses

By Sylvain “Syl” Trepanier, DNP, RN, CENP

I am willing to bet that most bedside leaders/nurses spend countless of hours negotiating. They negotiate with nurse colleagues, co-workers, other members of the health care team, patients, family members, vendors, etc. Yet, very few of them have received formal training to master the skills required to obtain a successful negotiation.

There are plenty of resources to help nurses develop the right skills, and I would argue that the work of Patterson, et. al. (2011), offers a great foundation to us all. It is not uncommon for nurses to have to negotiate within a very difficult conversation, otherwise known as a “crucial conversation.” Below are the steps to remember in order to effectively communicate:

  • Start with the heart
  • Learn to look
  • Make it safe
  • Master your story
  • State your path
  • Explore others’ path
  • Move to action

Simply put, focus on what you want for yourself, for others, and the relationship. Be sure to look for the moment the conversation turns crucial, which means that you have to learn how to recognize your own signs of stress and when others don’t appear to feel safe. Remember to apologize when appropriate. I find that a deliberate and meaningful apology goes a long way. Always be in touch with your own behavior and feelings in the moment. Share the facts as you know them, which will lead you to your story, and then be sure to ask for others’ path and story. Ask questions and express an interest in the other person’s view. Finally, always end with a clear vision of what will occur, who will do what, when, and where, and be sure to set follow-up time.

Furthermore, I really like the work of Collatrella & Picchioni (2006) who offer great tips on the art of negotiation. Remember the following:

  • Never rush to accept anything
  • Never split the difference until you know it is a good deal
  • Try to get the others to offer something (ask questions)
  • When at an impasse – set them aside and pursue other issues
  • When in a deadlock situation – apologize if it is caused by emotions, seriously consider small concessions; if someone leaves the table; you should always ensure that the door is open
  • When threatened by an ultimatum, assess if it is real or not. If the party is unlikely to carry out the threat, simply acknowledge it and move on with the negotiations. If, however, the threat is real, be sure to remove the emotions, do not threaten back, reframe the initial threat, and test it!
  • Whenever possible, do not negotiate on the phone or via email. Ideally, negotiation should be done in person, or via a video conference as the second best option
  • If phone negotiation is the only option, consider the following:
    • Be the caller
    • Call back if you are not ready when receiving a call
    • Always prepare before the call
    • Resist the temptation to talk too much
    • Silence is powerful
    • Save the hardest issue for last

Negotiation is not easy and can be learned. The best way to excel at it is to ensure that you practice and prepare at every opportunity. Remember that it is not uncommon for you to find yourself in the moment and having to think on your feet. Therefore, your best defense is being skilled at negotiation, which comes with time and practice.

 <<Back to Premier Nursing News

Source: Sylvain “Syl” Trepanier, DNP, RN, CENP, Vice President & System Chief Nursing Officer

Content Updated: March 25, 2015

facebook googleplus flickr youtube
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation.  Click to verify.

This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.