Linda Netsch, a Senior Faculty Member at the Negotiation Institute and a Lecturer of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, recently moderated a panel discussing how to deal with alpha males in the workplace. By definition, an alpha male is someone who is brash, dominant and the center of attention. Because the traits of a top leader do not correlate with that of an “alpha male,” it is challenging to negotiate with them. This panel, held during the WINS Summit and sponsored by The Negotiation Institute, discussed helpful ways to negotiate effectively with the alpha male personality. Featured on the panel were successful women, each of whom has had to deal with alpha male personality types in the workplace, including Wendy Finerman, Producer, Forrest Gump and The Devil Wears Prada; Michele Masucci, Partner and Health Care Practice Group, Nixon Peabody, LLP; Katie Mehnert, Founder and CEO, Pink Petro; Jennifer Prosek, Managing Partner, Founder, and CEO, Prosek Partners; and Molly Shepard, Founder and CEO, The Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design. Here, some negotiating advice.
1. Let “alpha males” go first.When they are finished speaking, ask questions coming from an educated place, but not challenging them. You should paraphrase their discussion points. If (s)he brings up an idea that you already stated say, “thank you for bringing my idea up; I’m glad we’re on the same page.”
2. The only person you can control is yourself. You should have a balance between likeability and credibility. You can use humor; however, do not try and be someone else. Make a connection on a human level by asking questions like how (s)he got started.
3. Get analytical and think about “what’s in it for them?” Depending on how the conversation is going, you should (1) give them something they think they want, but what you really need, (2) give them just a little bit more.If you give a little more, you will get even more back in value in the long term.
4. If they try to trap you, “break up” with them because they don’t like it. Once again, it is a game to alpha males, and they like being in control. Confidently, walk away from the project/argument/deal. Alpha males will typically want you back.However, if they do not come back, sometimes you need to just walk away from a partnership that would have been negative anyway.
5. Ironically, the top leadership traits are defined as being the complete opposite of an alpha male’s characteristics. These prevailing leadership traits are: self-discipline, the balance between empathy and assertiveness, and the power in the ability to walk away (there is strength in walking away).