how to “push back” with vendors, partners, and other external contacts

A reader writes:

You’ve given a lot a great advice about how people can communicate better with their coworkers, subordinates, bosses, so I was hoping you could help me with this “communication” problem I have with external contacts. One of my areas for improvement is that I need to “push back,” “negotiate more” or simply “try harder” to get a partner organization/vendor/consultant to do something our way, to get a better price, get a portion of a project delivered to us faster, etc. (And terminating the partnership is rarely possible, nor would I have the authority to do that.)

I’m still in the early part of my career (out of college for 3 years), and my early part-time jobs (cashier, barista, customer service), internships (fundraising), and first full-time position (admin-type assistant) all were the types of jobs that required me to be really nice to people. I’m great at being nice to people–even when they aren’t so nice to me! So it was a bit of a shock the first time my boss said that she essentially wanted me to argue with a project partner. I’m not really sure how to go about “pushing back” against these people. Sometimes they are considerably more advanced than I am, and in general I am not used to arguing with people who are helping me or providing me with a service. I’m sure my boss was NOT asking me to be rude to them; she (hopefully) wanted me to maintain professional decorum. So how do I professionally argue with people?

In case you need specific examples, here goes:

(1) We were working with another organization on a research project that included a report and two meetings. The other organization wanted to have a “kick-off” meeting in February before starting any work, but my boss thinks that’s too soon and wants to finalize more aspects of the project before holding the first meeting. How do I get the other organization to agree to delay the first meeting?

(2) For a different project, we are a subgrantee/partner with a large and very bureaucratic organization. It takes forever for this organization to approve things (everything from a $300K contract to a simple thank-you letter takes weeks to get signed), and I need to work out something so that we can keep things going faster. They keep insisting that they need to follow their procedures. How do I get them to speed things up? When does following up further become rude?

(3) We are hosting a small symposium at a hotel, and I have already negotiated a discounted room rate and a few other concessions. However, the A/V charges are very high and my first request to have them lowered was met with a “we don’t control these cost, our A/V vendor does.” I’ve gotten to the point where I feel bad about negotiating for more discounts, since we have asked for so many already. At what point am I being terribly rude by continuing to negotiate? What do I do when I feel like I’m just asking them to do us more and more favors without us giving them much in return?

I’m seeking advice on how to negotiate or push back, I’m not looking for solutions to the actual problem. And for the record, while still not amazing at it, I have become much better about negotiating price/concessions with vendors since starting in this position….it’s more getting things done our way and/or working with other non-vendor organizations that gives me trouble.

“Pushing back” often just means stating what you want and waiting for the other person’s response. Sometimes more than once. And you’re not arguing; you’re advocating for what you’d like, and there’s a difference. For instance:

You: We’d actually like to wait until April before we hold the kick-off meeting, so that we have more pieces of the project finalized first.

Other organization: If we do it in February, we can time it to coincide with National Teapots Week.

You: That’s true, but we’re more concerned about making sure that we’ve nailed down the teapot experts who will be working with us and that our new researcher has started, since she’ll be playing a big role in the project. So we’d really like to do April. Is there a date in there that would work well on your end?

Now, you won’t always get your way when you push back — but often you will. And often it doesn’t take anything more than the above. People are generally willing to be accommodating when they can. And when they can’t or won’t, they’ll usually explain why. Then you can use that information to figure out if there’s a workable compromise.

But sometimes someone won’t budge. When that happens, it’s fine to go back to your boss and explain that you pushed back, that you pointed out X and Y, but that the other side wouldn’t agree because of Z.

And the more experience you get, the more you’ll get a sense of where you’re likely to be able to get concessions and where you won’t be. For instance, that large and bureaucratic organization that you want to move faster? Probably not going to happen — because changing the entire culture and operating practices of a large organization is a mammoth feat, one that often fails even when the organization itself tries. That said, you can certainly ask them for what you want, explaining your reasoning for why it would help. And if that doesn’t work, you can try things like this:   “When do you think we can get this back by?  … Hmmm, is there any way to speed that up? We need to have it to the printer a week earlier than that … What if we draft the text for you and you just need to approve it?”  Again, you might not be able to win this one, but this is a good-faith attempt that might be worth a try. (But in cases like this, know who you’re dealing with; the price of working with this organization might be accepting that they move verrrryyy slowly.)

Also, the more experience you get, the more you’ll hone your sense of how far you can push negotiations for discounts. For instance, that discounted room rate for your symposium? It’s probably pretty standard for events held there, so not a major concession on their part, which means there’s room for you to ask for other price breaks. But that’s the kind of thing you’ll get a feel for over time, as you do more of these.

Some tips that apply to these sorts of situations:

* Cite your budget. (“I’ve gone over budget and am looking for places to cut. Is there anywhere we can bring the price down?”)

* Cite your boss. (“My boss is really pushing me to find a better deal on this. Is there anything you can do?” Use this sparingly, but it can help when you’re on your second or third round of pushing back on something.)

* Be really nice. Thank people profusely when they help you. Write notes to their manager about how awesome they were to work with. Be someone they like to work with.

* When you’re negotiating with businesses, remember that you’re not asking for “favors,” exactly — you’re giving them the opportunity to earn your business, now and in the future. Businesses don’t generally give discounts to be nice; they do it because it makes financial sense for them to provide incentives to customers.

And most importantly, remember that you’re not arguing. You’re explaining what you want and helping move everyone toward an agreement.

What other tips do people have?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    Two books that helped me *a ton* in my early career with stuff like this: Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities (by Mark Gerzon) and Crucial Confrontations (by Kerry Patterson, etc).

    Also for me, it took realizing that when you’re on the phone negotiating something, YOU’RE not negotiating, your COMPANY is negotiating. At that point, you (the funny, happy gal with a bunch of friends and a poodle named Charlie) cease to exist and Your Company Mouthpiece takes over. Once I tapped into that I got a LOT more confident in negotiating because I realized that if it went sour or if I didn’t get what the company wanted or if the other party didn’t budge, hey, no skin off my nose as long as I tried as hard as I could within the confines of my responsibility as The Company Mouthpiece.

      1. class factotum*

        I loved that book! Almost 20 years after the negotiating class in grad school, I still remember that book and the point of interests vs positions and the example of the two women who were fighting over the orange.

        1. JT*

          _Getting to Yes_ is so good.

          I just designed a paper by my organization’s founder in which she cites Mark Gerzon a lot – I need to read some of his stuff.

  2. Jamie*

    It can be a hurdle when first beginning to negotiate, but the most important thing to keep in mind that while not everything is negotiable, most are. The hotel example – the expect you to negotiate every cost – it’s not rude to try to cut your costs just as it isn’t rude for them not not go below their margins.

    The bureaucracy – that may be a losing battle for most things so I would focus on getting information on the ‘whys’ where they are unbudgeable – so you can explain to your boss why you hit the wall. You can’t be expected to do the impossible, but at least explain why it was impossible.

    For timelines, just like Alison pointed out, ask what you can do to facilitate things. I personally use, “what do you need from me to make X happen?” Sometimes I can give it to them, sometimes not, but that’s what the negotiation dance is.

    If I could give one tip it would be to not see this as personal. These are business negotiations and as long as you are professional and polite there is nothing rude is holding firm to your own criteria (budget, parameters, whathaveyou) and they will do the same. You aren’t asking them to go out of pocket personally, nor are you asking them to bend ethically…all you’re doing is maintaining your ends while trying to figure out where there hard parameters lie so you can cut the best possible deal.

    Priding yourself on being nice is great, but there is nothing ‘not nice’ about being a savvy negotiator. In fact, in areas where it’s expected (vendors for example) if you don’t push back you can harm your own reputation for being nice at the expense of doing your job properly.

    No one selling you a new car expects you to willingly pay sticker without a haggle – and the same is true in business.

    1. Jamie*

      Too many typos…but for the record I do know the difference between “there” and “their.”

      “where their hard parameters lie”

        1. Jamie*

          Ha – I have made piece with my casual style of typing when unproofed, but I couldn’t live with confusion of whether it was my typing or my word usage.

          My mild ocd makes me better at some parts of my job, but can really lead me down the rabbit hole other times :).

          1. Jamie*

            *%@!# – “made PEACE.”

            Seriously, muphry’s law at it’s finest.

            I’m backing away from the keyboard and walking away…

            1. Meghan*

              Not sure if this last typo was intentional or not, but it plays well with the thread. ;)

                1. Jamie*

                  Yep – that’s what I was going for. I heard about that here in fact and I love that there’s a name for that weird phenomenon.

    2. Charles*

      “If I could give one tip it would be to not see this as personal.”

      ditto! Many years ago (well, okay, it was decades ago) a friend and I used to negotiate each other’s teaching/training contracts. The reason we did this was because we found that we would negotiate better when it wasn’t for our own work – there was a lack of personal involvment that allowed us to be more business-minded, rather than taking a counter offer as a personal slight. We used to joke that neither of us minded pushing the limits as we didn’t care if we lost a job since it wasn’t “my” job!

      Also, OP, I would add don’t be afraid to say “that doesn’t work for us,” and be ready to state why and what will work.

  3. Janet*

    I think the “be really nice” point is a good one. I think a lot of people confuse being firm with being nasty. I’ve overheard people on the phone with vendors and I cringe at how rude they’re being and there’s just no need for that. Those folks are doing their job just as you’re doing yours. You can be polite but firm and civil without being a pushover.

    1. Jamie*

      This. I can honestly say I’ve never been rude to a vendor – I just know what I need out of the contract and in my experience both sides can be perfectly amiable while hammering out the details.

      I wasn’t even rude to a vendor who called me ‘cupcake’ and demanded to talk to ‘one of the big boys who makes decisions.’ I was totally professional when speaking with him and terminating our contract. I was also professional when speaking with the owner of his company, which resulted in his being fired from a regional manager position…which goes to show you can get things done without becoming unpleasant.

  4. AMG*

    Agree, agree, agree with being nice. You really can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    Taking a ‘help me to help you’ approach is a good way to go. In my experience, if people feel like they are being support by someone who is on their side, they are more likely to accommodate.

  5. LCL*

    OP, reading your questions, I am sure you are a woman. The key difference between women and men in negotiating, is men NEVER worry that the person they are negotiating with will think they are being rude. This is a struggle for me sometimes, I worry about what the other person will think about what I am doing. The more you can stop worrying about how the other person perceives YOU, the more succesful you will be at negotiating and in the business world in general.

    1. Henning Makholm*

      “… men NEVER worry that the person they are negotiating with will think they are being rude”?

      I guess I’ve gone through life being completely mistaken about my gender, then.

      1. LCL*

        Hmm. Not mistaken. I was speaking in generally, in terms of Americans. There are exceptions I am sure, but in the US, worrying about being seen as rude is more of a woman thing.

        And then there is the cultural background, which I was trying to stay away from. Many US people are taught that trying to bargain is lower class behavior, just one step above theft and generally dishonest. This belief doesn’t make for good negotiators…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Even in the U.S., plenty of men worry about being seen as rude. (So I wouldn’t say “never.”) But in general, overall, it’s much more often a women thing.

      2. KellyK*

        Men NEVER X or women ALWAYS Y is very rarely a true statement.

        Which isn’t to say there’s not a grain of truth in LCL’s comment. As a general rule, women are taught to put more value on what others think of them/keeping people happy/being “nice” than men are.

        But I also wonder, since gender roles are a cultural thing, if “manly men negotiate bluntly and forcefully and get what they want” is more an American trope than a European one.

        1. jmkenrick*

          Agreed. There are 7 billion people in the world. Let’s just all accept that there’s some variety.

  6. ChristineH*

    You all make this sound so easy!! lol. Is this a skill that could be learned? By nature, I am very nice and firmly believe in coming to a win-win agreement (it’s the Libra in me ;) ). However, I can also be a real pushover.

    I do like the “company mouthpiece” analogy. Whenever I contacted external people, I try to remember that I’m communicating on behalf of the association/organization. I’ll also admit that I use that as a way to hide behind my nerves; that the person on the other end will respond better to a request or question from a well-known / well-respected organization than they would an individual caller.

    1. Malissa*

      If you need practice go to a flea market or garage sale hoping. Don’t pay sticker price for anything. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars over the years by negotiating on just about everything. For example: “I’d love to buy this freezer here, but X company has the same one for $50 lower and they’ll deliver it.”
      I also got 1/2 price a nice new refrigerator once when the first one I bought at the scratch and dent center didn’t work.
      Negotiating is a learned skilled that will help you out in many ways.

      1. Jamie*

        Not work related – but I share this every chance I get because I was so excited when I learned this little secret…

        Some of the scratch and dent outlets have monthly metrics where they are dinged for how many months they carry a particular item in inventory. So if you’ve priced them at full retail price and you see a lesser model priced way higher in the same condition they odds are they need to move the higher end one off the books.

        End of month is the cut-off – so go appliance shopping the last few days of a month.

        I am not giving away trade secrets since I’m not in the industry – just a consumer who once had a sales person get very chatty when I asked why a fridge that retailed for $2999.99 was $795 and one that retailed for $1299.99 was $895 and the latter had visible dents when the former had a couple in the back completely hidden by the cabinets in my kitchen.

        Yep – brand new 3k fridge for $795 with beautiful french doors. Tried it the next month when the washer went out – new front loading machine retailing for $950 I was out the door for $325. Identical model was going for $525 in another part of the store ….but that wasn’t the item # they needed off their books. Perfect condition and dents are only seen by the wall.

        I know, probably common knowledge, but I didn’t know and have saved a ton of money since finding out.

  7. JLH*

    For 2: You need to ask the organization that very question: “How do I get them to speed things up?” It sounds like you may have asked this before, but maybe you were asking someone who doesn’t know what all the options are. For something like trying to get a check cut, I would recommend contacting their A/P department. Be ready with an explanation why you need payment sooner than you’ve been getting it.
    For 3: This is one of those things where thinking-outside-the-box may help. If they’re saying their third-party A/V company charges so much, ask them about hiring your own. Or if that can’t be arranged, maybe they’d be willing to concede on something else. Or ask if you can have the contact information to the A/V vendor and maybe you can work something out directly. Or start shopping around at other hotel to get quotes to compare pricing–you may find a better deal.

    I wouldn’t recommend seeing it as “pushing back”–rather as negotiating for what’s best for your company. You may or may not get what your company wants, but you’re certainly entitled to try.

  8. fposte*

    Hey, we could be your partner on 2. We’re the slo-mo specialists.

    In a situation like that, where it’s procedure rather than price, it’s also possible that your contact on the other side knows that this is a problem and would be glad to have some ammo with the higher-ups to push for a change in procedures. And it can be helpful in such situations to think of your contact as an ally against the bureaucracy of their organization rather than the person who’s blocking you.

  9. Jubilance*

    2 things that have worked for me:

    1 – firmly stating what I want & making a case for it. Its not enough to say “we can’t have that meeting until April”, you have to include WHY so that the other party can understand your reasoning. Saying “We’d like to hold the meeting in April, that will give our team time to complete X, Y & Z for the kickoff” makes your case.

    2 – having a recommendation/idea of what you do want. If you’re negotiating prices of teapots, you should have an idea of how much you want to pay for those teapots, when you push back. Its not enough to say “That’s too much”. Throw out what you are willing to pay or do or whatever.

    Also, don’t take it personally if people don’t acquiese to your side & your push back doesn’t “work”. It’s not abt you so don’t feel bad if it happens.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I totally agree with #1. It’s not enough to say that you can’t have the meeting in February. Tell them why you can’t and why April would be better. Without telling them why, it’s very likely they will think your company is just being a pain in butt, which means the project will take longer and you’re less likely to get any leeway from them in the future.

  10. Anonymous*

    all these comments are great (as was AAM’s advice, as usual). the only thing I’d add is to think about the communication methods available to you, & choose accordingly. email is great for things you want to document, or for laying out a complicated situation that would be hard to follow over the phone unless the other person was taking notes. but calls can be really useful in negotiation–you can be more friendly, more candid, & it’s easier to convey “niceness” via your tone if things have the potential to get a bit heated.

  11. Elle*

    Book recommendations:

    Beyond Winning
    Difficult Conversations
    Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office

    Given your tendency to be “nice” you should definitely get NGDGTCO. Amazing book.

  12. CatB (Europe)*

    Very useful info! I’d add only to try assertive communication (just google it and you’ll find tons of facts and exercises). Sometimes it’s enough to hold your ground politely, state facts and bring arguments to get what you want (or something close to it, anyway).

  13. BossLady*

    Alot of good recommendations here. Just this winter I participated in a negotiation class and the message is, it can be learned! Two key points I took away:

    1) Everyone has a negotiation style that suits their personality. (And no just being nice and not asking for what you want isn’t a style.) Find the way that works for who you are naturally.

    2) Know what your own prorities and goals are, ask questions to find out what theirs are and most importantly, why! With this info you’ll usually be able to find a good solution. Give up something you don’t care much for in turn from something high on your priorities list. You can only do this when you know what their priorities are though. For example if you asked “Why do you think it is important to meet in Februrary?” you might expose that they haven’t a really good reason for it or don’t care if you meet 2 months later.

    Funny note: In our class the prof cited a study (and we did an exercise to prove it) that when people who negotiate BOTH PARTIES actually feel like they got a better outcome than those who don’t. Think about it, if at a flea market you say “I’ll give you $XX for it” and the seller agrees right away, you feel like you probably just overpaid.

  14. Stells*

    Agree with everyone here – this was the hardest thing for me when I first started in the business world – I was a meek people-pleaser who’d prefer to avoid confrontation. I quickly learned that, often, if you’ll just explain your position and try to garner a little sympathy from the other side, it’ll pay off.

    Example: Regarding the A/V negotiations –
    “Sorry, but my boss is breathing down my neck about how high this budget has gotten. Can I contact the vendor correctly/ bring in another vendor/ etc etc?” Often if you suggest an idea, they may say no but they’ll try to find some middle ground.

    I’d check with your boss before throwing them under the bus, although when it comes to negotiating with vendors (which I have to do a lot of in my job) all of my managers have been fine with “being the bad guy”. This is especially true when you have to address failures on the part of a vendor. You need to maintain that level of professionalism, but at the same time stress how much of a problem they’ve caused. Usually a “well now the higher-ups are all looking at our team because we missed the deadline/budget/etc and do not consider [insert their excuse] a good enough reason. However, if we can talk through the issue and make some changes to our processes, they’ll be willing to let it slide this time around”

  15. jmkenrick*

    One of my favorite things I ever read was that there is a distinction between being “nice” and being “kind.”

    Niceness is more about being polite, accomodating, not rocking the boat and generally being easy for other people to deal with.

    Kindness is more about being compassionate and genuinely
    caring for the well-being of others.

    I like this perspective, because it allows me to identify with (and strive to be) a kind person, while giving me space to not have to accomodate everything in order to keep other people happy all the time. As someone who ventures into pushover territory, it’s been useful for me to think of.

    1. Jamie*

      That is an excellent rule of thumb. I’ve never heard it put so concisely before.

      1. jmkenrick*

        Yeah, it’s been useful for me. I wish I could take credit for it, but it was from some schmalzy book of advice I got for my 14th birthday. (You know, one of those little ones they sell in gift shops that have stock images and big lettering?)

        I generally think those things are cheesy, but I did get two good pieces of advice from it.

        1. jmkenrick*

          I think it’s especially useful for me because it helps with the acceptance of the fact that sometimes in order to be kind, you have to be not nice.

          Like, for example, telling an employee that they’re not meeting the bar might not be a “nice” thing to do. But it is most certainly the kind thing. You don’t want to forgo kindness in an effort to be nice & easy all the time.

        2. Nichole*

          Ok, I’ll bite, since I liked that one a lot. What was the second piece of advice?

          1. jmkenrick*

            The second piece is less “wise” and more on the pragmatic side. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but it was something like “Never leave a party where you are having a genuinely good time to go to a party where you are ‘supposed’ to have an even better time.”

            The accompanying drawing was a small group of people laughing around a coffee table, contrasted with a large group of cool, stylish but bored-looking people waiting in line at a club.

            I have interpreted this doubly as “what is fun for other people doesn’t necessarily have to be fun for you” and “Just because somewhere is the coolest place to be does not automatically make it the most fun place to be.”

            It’s served me well. I wish I could remember the name of the book right now, but I really can’t…

  16. Lore*

    I have found two books by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever close to life-changing in this regard: “Women Don’t Ask” is a more scholarly examination of gender divides in negotiation, and “Ask for It” a more pragmatic training course for negotiating. And while they focus on gender, the tips and perspectives are useful for anyone with trouble getting over the psychological hurdles. (As one example: it had literally *never occurred to me* that not only was it possible to negotiate salary before accepting a job offer for *any* job, not just super-high-power top-dog stuff, it was expected.)

    1. clobbered*

      Yeah, there are a lot of gender and cultural issues here. The thing to remember is, that this is not a social situation where a balance of give and take is required because the very presence of that balance is a strong social signal (and by the way, this is something car salesmen really exploit).

      To give you an example since the OP said s/he worked as a barista – when a customer asks for their double shot, no whip, light on the ice with sprinkles, it’s just the way they want their drink. It’s not the same as being a guest at somebody’s house, and being served coffee, and then saying “actually can I have some sugar? oh and some milk? and some extra hot water? in a larger mug? with a marshmallow?”.
      The former is a specification, the latter is an imposition.

      When you are ringing up a vendor, what you are doing is explaining to them what you want. This does not mean they can always give you want you want – but it does mean that you can go into as much detail as necessary to describe what you want. That is all it is. A lot of detail.

  17. Karl Sakas*

    AaM and other commenters have great advice about feeling more comfortable — I acknowledge that may take a lot of time, effort, and acceptance. I enjoy negotiating when I’m the client (less so when I’m the vendor) so I’m not the best person to help you solve your feeling uncomfortable about the process.

    After you sort that the emotional aspect, here are some thoughts on making it all work, for these and any other negotiating situation:

    1) Consider your bargaining position. If your company already signed a contract with the hotel, you have much less bargaining power on A/V costs than if you haven’t committed to a particular venue and date. If you’re doing a massive conference, the hotel is more likely to press their A/V vendor for you than if you’re renting one conference room.

    2) Think about everyone’s incentives. For instance, with the kickoff scheduling mismatch, figure out what’s important to the other organization. What’s the benefit to them on shifting the meeting? Beyond the organizational aspect, what does each key individual get (or lose) with the different options? For instance, one of my clients is totally overloaded with other projects, so I keep my updates short and to the point. As a result, I now get faster responses from her.

    3) Think about potential compromises. For instance, there may be an overall project benefit to convincing your boss to find a middle-ground compromise (e.g., maybe not as early as February, but perhaps not as late as April). Prior planning is important, but most projects shift significantly once they get underway… so the sooner you start, the sooner you can adjust properly. As others noted, the hotel seems to be opening the door to your negotiating directly with the A/V vendor.

    4) Help the other party brainstorm alternatives. Maybe the hotel doesn’t want to bend on the A/V fees because they’re a hard cost to them (and they’ll lose cash if they discount them), but maybe they can be flexible on something else. For instance, after a check-in snafu, I once got a “resort credit” of $75, which I used for room service. The vendors may be able to budge on something else that still results in your employer saving cash. For instance, if they’re confident they won’t hit 100% capacity during the conference period, they might be willing to comp a few rooms for your company’s execs, since they can do so at a relatively low marginal cost (e.g., a few extra rooms for housekeeping to clean, a few extra sets of sheets to wash, etc.).

    5) Be fair, be nice, and don’t take it personally. When I have an opportunity to help a client, I’d much rather help the one who makes generally reasonable requests. I don’t understand

    6) Be sparing in your use of “nuclear option” approaches. Especially for long-term relationships, it’s dangerous to say you’re going to take your business elsewhere, threaten to get your boss involved at the first pushback, promising future business that you have no way of guaranteeing, etc. If the vendor won’t back down, you either have to walk or lose your credibility.

    Good luck!

    1. Karl Sakas*

      To finish item #5 — I don’t understand it when people yell at the gate agent at the airport. The gate agent isn’t responsible for what went wrong, and they’re now probably the best person to help you find a solution. Why would they want to help you if you’re being rude to them?

  18. Ponies!*

    You know one of the most important things you need to be able to push back effectively? A manager that supports you pushing back. And it sounds like you definitely have that.

    I’ve had one manager (who I absolutely loved in all other respects) who was a total wimp about this stuff. My current manager is completely supportive, and in fact encouraging, when it comes to pushing back. My push-back situations are pretty different from yours, but it adds up to the same thing.

    I’ll also add that it boils down to explaining (nicely) why you need things done by a certain time, in a certain way or at a certain price. Often times you may be working with someone who’s acting on orders from his or her higher up, like you are, and they just need to be able to give their boss a good reason for giving in to your request.

    Depending on your relationship with the person you’re pushing back on, it can help to let them know they’re essentially doing you a favor, “I’m so sorry to ask this since I know it’s probably more work for you/outside of your process/not in your normal scope, but this would really help accomplish both of our goals more quickly/effectively.”

  19. Steve G*

    I love this post! I sent it to my coworker and she laughed – by boss is always telling me to “push back” our regulator, even though there isn’t always someone on the opposite end of my “pushing back” – our regulator is either understaffed to handle certain forms of “push back,” and doesn’t want to invest resources in other forms of “push back.” So when I get told “push back,” me and my coworkers always roll our eyes at eachother.

  20. Patti*

    It is tough for someone who is generally customer-oriented to learn the right ways to “push back”. We all learn the right way to deal with customers by being “nice”, and it becomes part of your nature. Keep in mind, dealing with a vendor, YOU (or your company) are the customer. Negotiation does not equal “rude”. It isn’t an insult, and there is no “limit” to what you can ask for. Both parties are (presumably) professional and mature, and both parties have the freedom to voice their limitations. If they can’t give you any more, then they will say so.

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