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Training Millennial Managers to Negotiate

Posted by Andrew Hupert on Feb 9, 2017 12:50:48 PM

Negotiating skills are key to career and leadership development, but for many millennial managers this is a challenging area.

How to train millennials to negotiateNegotiation is a process for bridging the gap between where your organization is now and where you want it to be. At its core, the negotiation skill is really a very simple equation:

 Goals – Best Alternative
= Negotiating Agenda.

All successful negotiations are built around goals and best alternative (you may know the phrase BATNA – Best Alternative to No Agreement. Same thing.)

Millennials tend to have a quirky way of viewing goals and best alternatives, and they may not align with your training and onboarding needs.



 Good goals are ambitious but possible, move the organization forward, and are SMART.
  •             Specific
  •             Measureable
  •             Actionable
  •             Realistic
  •             Timed


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Millennial goal setting oddities include:

Too ambitious and vague –  Not enough Specific or Measurements.  “I want to have an impact,” “I want more control over my own schedule,” “I want to develop my own projects”. It’s all great stuff as an introduction, but unless these generalized wishes are backed up with a plan, there’s not going to be a solution.  

Not always possible – Actionable and Realistic can also be problem areas.  “I want to work for a socially responsible organization.” It’s sometimes hard to understand the difference between long-term goals and medium-term options. Millennials would benefit from differentiating between their ultimate career destination and their next few career moves. 

Incomplete (they haven’t connected the dots) – For managers and counterparties, the Millennial habit of turning a negotiation into a planning session is very frustrating. More than other generations, Millennials want to talk through solutions. While its very democratic and intellectually engaging, it doesn’t establish a leadership position. Negotiators who walk into the room with a firm, well-considered agenda tend to throw  Millennials off guard. This is a vulnerability at the table.            

The millennial leadership paradox:
They see themselves destined
for top leadership roles,

but have neither the experience
nor the skills to lead.
(And they know it.)

Best Alternative – What’s the worst that could happen?

 Teaching millennials to negotiate batnaBest alternative is Plan B. What you’ll do if this negotiation ends with a NO.

 There are two millennial idiosyncrasies here:

 1)  Younger negotiators can be wildly optimistic about their best alternative. They tend to operate very emotionally when making judgments about what happens next. I’ve seen countless negotiations collapse – even when both sides were confident there was potential mutual advantage. One side felt the deal wasn’t fair, regardless of the advantages he would get – or the lack of certainty about an alternative.  

           Millennials are quick to pull the trigger to kill a potential deal.


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This is tied to the second funny quirk.

2)  Millennials confuse “analysis” with “action plan”. If you were considering quitting your job if you didn’t get time off, what is your best alternative?  


If you said,

“I have $3,000 in savings and $1680 in rent, loans, and life. That means I need a job in 6 weeks, at which point I’ll have to relocate - back home…”

then you are doing ANALYSIS.


 If you said,

“I’ll find a new job – one that will enable me to make a real impact and improve society, while paying me enough to get my own apartment…”

… then you are making an


 There’s nothing wrong with either, but you’ve got to do them in the right order. Start with an analysis. What is your no-deal situation? This is more of an inventory than a planning session. How much money is in the bank, how much stuff is in the warehouse, how many customers have you still got? Then look at your obligations & liabilities. The No Deal Analysis should result in one of 3 answers:

  1. No-Deal doesn’t really impact on my business at all.
  2. No-Deal will hurt, but it is manageable.   E.g. 1: We can keep the doors open another 6 months. Plenty of time to make necessary adjustments. E.g. 2: We can cover costs for 6 weeks, or we have to look at more extreme measures.
  3. No-Deal will kill us. E.g.: If I lose this job, I will be homeless.  

Once you’ve done the analysis your No Deal action plan will make a lot more sense. You also avoid the problem that often comes with talking first and then thinking about it – you stop yourself from needlessly committing to a disastrous position that you can’t take back. Too many careless negotiators damage their interests by failing to ask, “what’s the worst that could happen”?          


Millennial Plan Bs are Over-Optimistic

businessman-moving-items-in-office_SFGY67ASo-1.jpgIt’s the Zuckerberg effect. They came of age in a time of VC riches and a declining middle class. Their main image of success is the start-up, and they were raised to believe that lightening will strike for the anointed. The Millennial may be cynical in many ways, but he is a great believer that something great is just over the horizon. A new technology, a new business model, a network connection – there’s a disruption coming. Working for a company and climbing the corporate ladder – not so many great success stories.

So not only do Millennials skip the analysis part of the best alternative analysis, but they also have terrible benchmarks for their Plan B.  “I’ll quit this job with no back-up, blow what little savings I have to travel for 2 months, and then either find a new job or start my own company…”

Negotiation is a key set of business skills that has daily applications
both externally and within your organization.  
If you are responsible for a team of younger managers,
you must tailor your onboarding and coaching to this important segment.

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Topics: millennial professionals, L&D, Millennial, how to negotiate, millennial managers

Written by Andrew Hupert

Do you manage, train, or lead millennials?

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Millennials are the key professional demographic in the workforce today.  The good news is that they are talented, creative, and connected.  The bad news?  Everything you knew about L&D, training, motivating, leading, and management is obsolete.

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