Ask Alignor

When should I communicate my bottom line?

The answer to this question depends on your audience. If you are talking about your negotiation strategy with internal stakeholders, such as your supervisor or team members, the best practice is to discuss at an early stage–but definitely before you enter formal negotiations–what your bottom line should be. This is necessary in order to calibrate your approach to the negotiation because you will know how much flexibility you have before you hit your bottom line. By contrast, when you are negotiating with an outside counterpart, you are better off not disclosing your bottom line until what you perceive to be the “end” of the negotiation. At that point, you can tell your counterpart something like, “This is the best I can do,” or “This is my bottom line.” When you communicate your bottom line, you should be sure that it is not a “false” bottom line since if you move your bottom line in response to pressure from your counterpart (without new information to justify the change), you are teaching your counterpart to test you repeatedly and “nibble” with additional last minute demands to see if you will cave in again.