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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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4.3 Negotiation

A further skill that can help you deal with difficult situations is negotiation. This may be used either with a line manager or with the other party involved in the conflict. Formal negotiating or bargaining meetings are only one of the many means of handling conflict situations.

Being prepared and feeling confident enough to negotiate and bargain is an invaluable skill for people working in voluntary and community organisations. Not only is it necessary for handling conflicts in which you are either a party yourself or you have to act as arbitrator – it is also useful as a way to deal with situations of potential conflict before they get out of hand.

The ability to bargain and negotiate is a useful tool for advancing and advocating the interests of your organisation. Applying for funding, sorting out external contracts and dealing with inter-agency relationships all involve an element of negotiation and bargaining – sometimes quite explicitly. In other words, although the subject of negotiating is introduced here in the context of conflict, the approaches and the skills can be applied in many other contexts.

One situation when you might want to use negotiation skills is when negotiating changes to your own job. In the private sector often there is a concern to ‘enrich’ jobs that might otherwise be felt to be repetitive or boring. In the voluntary sector often the opposite is true, and many jobs have too much to them. Too many demands can in themselves be stressful. Talking to your line manager and using negotiating skills may be one way forward.