Skip to navigationSkip to content

The simple mistakes that end up wrecking attempts to collaborate at work

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Do you give coworkers the same effort as clients?
  • Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

An important pitch to a client, potential business partner, or other outside party can prompt fits of late-night preparation and rehearsals. Internal meetings rarely get the same treatment. After all, you know these people and you’re all on the same team. How much prep work does the discussion really need?

Plenty, as it turns out. Internal negotiations at work are often harder than those with outside parties, and the stakes—be they additional resources for a project, assistance from another team, or a raise—can be just as high. Horacio Falcão, a senior affiliate professor at the international business school INSEAD, identified common mistakes that trip up in-house negotiations in a recent blog post:

Making assumptions

Previous impressions of (or second-hand rumors about) colleagues can lead to unhelpful assumptions. “Such previous direct or indirect information could be: ‘David always helps me get things done’ or ‘Jessica is always asking others for extra resources, but rarely shares her own,'” Falcão writes. “Such perceptions, grounded or not in facts, can create a rigid image of our colleagues in our minds.” These preconceptions can close us off to possible solutions or cause us to go in to a discussion with unrealistic expectations.

Which leads to the next problem:

Failing to prepare

Most conscientious employees probably wouldn’t go unprepared into a pitch with a potential new client or a negotiation with an outside party. We’re more willing to wing it in meetings with colleagues, in part because we’re relying (consciously or not) on those assumptions discussed above. But the stakes in internal negotiations can be at least as high as those in external ones, and it’s worth the time and effort to prepare the best-possible pitch for your position.

And the final pitfall:

Forgetting the (lack of) options

Within your own organization, you lack an important piece of leverage: the ability to walk away. It’s possible to land a new client or investor, but if there’s only one place to go for a particular resource within your own company, you are out of luck if they say no. “This lack of alternatives increases the internal negotiation tension and causes mini-monopolies to emerge inside a firm,” Falcão writes, referring to the cliques that can arise within a company. “Consider what could motivate your colleagues to help you find creative solutions that encompass their own interests to discourage them from resorting to the monopoly mindset.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.