Negotiating Employee Satisfaction

Negotiating Employee Satisfaction

When negotiating with employees it is important to understand the employee’s interest and concerns. All to often managers assume they know the employee’s needs and wants. The only way to find out is to promote dialogue to discover their interests to ensure you are addressing employee satisfaction appropriately in a negotiation.

In The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America, there are a host of tips related employee satisfaction. Tip 166 is entitled: Find Out What Employees Want. In part the tip offers:

I used this tool as a front-line manager, and I encouraged my managers to use it too. It works. During a review with an employee you provide your employee with information on how they are doing. You should ask them to evaluate you too. Let the employee know about this prior to the review and introduce this process to the employee at the start of the review process. After providing the employee his or her annual review initiate this process by asking the employee to provide you with feedback. You want to know what you can do to help the employee improve. Ask the employee to rank the ten items below from one to ten with one being most important and ten being least important. The employee should focus his or her answer with you as his or her manager. Why did I do this? I was taught this early on and I found out it gave me a good indication on what was important to that employee. It also promoted dialog so that we could discuss employee interests. That helped me to work more effectively with that employee going forward.



Good working conditions


Feeling in on things


Tactful disciplining


Full appreciation for work done


Management loyalty to workers


Good wages


Promotion and growth with the company


Sympathetic understanding of personal problems


Job security


Interesting work



As a result of this feedback I took the table and spoke to the employee about the top 3 items to see how well these areas were being addressed. I asked the employee what actions I could take to better help him or her with these areas. I also took items 8, 9 and 10 and asked if too much emphasis was being placed on any of these items and if so how? The results of employee commentary provide me with some very good feedback and will to you as a manager.

I also asked each employee to think about and provide me feedback on three questions.

  • What can I do to help you with your job?
  • What is inhibiting you from doing your best?
  • What else can I do to help you with your career?


The feedback to the three questions above also provided me with good information to allow me to propose individual development plans for employees relative to training, and other ideas to help employees feel valued and appreciated.

This tip ties in nicely to additional research on this topic. Although the research provides overall results, my own experience over many years tells me that every individual has his or her own preferences and that by using the above table with an individual employees can provide good insights related to employee concerns. If you have this for the entire group as a front line manager the information can help you better address the concerns of the entire group.

As a matter of approach I might recommend:

  1. Determine the employees preferences using the tool or something like the tool above


  1. Make adjustments with the employees preferences in mind also considering costs (money, resources, time), implications, and what is most effective


  1. Take into account that all employees are different and consider background, culture, gender and other individual needs and perspectives.


  1. Rather than focusing on just one issue for discussion or a negotiation, consider several issues at one time. For example, start time, amount of travel, location of travel, time of year of travel, time spent on various tasks (technical, admin, planning, organizing, etc.).


Having learned of individual concerns, network with peers on approaches that may be helpful to the concerns raised by the employee. Look for ways to catch the employee doing things right from the perspective of the employee. In tip 166 in The Servant Manager I offer nearly 50 ways to reinforce what you may want to do with your team. I don’t have a corner on these ideas. Here are 25 ideas from You Earned It, 33 ideas from Snack Nation, and Dr. Bob Nelson’s low cost ideas.

For an interesting read on a related topic from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiations blog you might want to check out this article.

In summary, finding ways to engage employees to understand their needs and wants instead of simply assuming their concerns, and then negotiating with the employee to address his or her needs given the concerns of the organization, can develop approaches to enhance the interests of the employee, you as the manger and the organization. An approach was suggested here, but certainly there are other ways to find out what employees want and to facilitate dialog with employees on their concerns. These concerns should be considered to enhance employee satisfaction. Finding ways to recognize employees given their interests goes a long way towards enhancing employee satisfaction.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and his most recent book, now also available as an eBook, Peaceful Resolutions are available at this link.  On point resources are available online at and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at or call (651) 633-5311. 

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]