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How to negotiate with a Trump-like colleague

It was a landmark week in Canadian-U.S. relations as U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met for the first time. Pundits seemed to agree that Mr. Trudeau managed the meeting with the occasionally erratic world leader well, evidenced by the fact that it remained boring and devoid of a bizarre handshake.

Mr. Trudeau's performance should act as a lesson to many women navigating the work force in the Trump era. While arguably the effects of Mr. Trump's style of leadership may not have penetrated the ethos of the work force so quickly, there are valid concerns that his personality traits will have a trickle-down impact on male leaders over time, particularly those nostalgic for the days of old, when men were men and women "dressed like women."

So how does one negotiate with a Trump-like figure at work, who might be pliable with facts and quick to make a decision?

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Get things in writing and come prepared, advised Carrie Gallant, a negotiation and leadership coach and strategist in Vancouver.

"Preparation is No. 1 in any negotiation and arguably even more critical when it comes to negotiating with someone like [Mr.] Trump," she said.

"It may seem as though Mr. Trump himself is totally unpredictable when it comes to the facts and what he will base his decisions on. However, that is what is predictable about negotiators like him. [They are] predictably unpredictable and so you prepare accordingly," Ms. Gallant added.

Another suggestion when managing a personality type that includes a big ego, especially about his negotiation skills, is to not buy into the hype. Mr. Trump, observed Ms. Gallant, created a mythology that his superior negotiating skills could "make America great again." She disagrees with the theory that he's a great negotiator and warns women when they are negotiating to avoid being intimidated into giving into the demands of your opponent.

Another way to manage someone's ego is to come prepared with many questions, explained Fotini Iconomopoulos, co-chair of sponsorship for the Network of Executive Women (NEW) Toronto Chapter and a negotiation consultant based in Toronto.

"People with huge egos don't like to be told they're wrong, so asking questions is a less combative way to point out the facts," said Ms. Iconomopoulos, who on March 8, International Women's Day, will be speaking to NEW in Toronto on "Breaking through the Glass Ceiling with Effective Negotiation."

"Egomaniacs love to hear the sound of their own voices and they want to look like they know everything so they're more likely to start talking, but if you're asking the questions, you're the one directing the conversation and getting all the information you need," she added.

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Additionally, Ms. Iconomopoulos suggested that women not be afraid to "set a trap" by asking a question they know the answer to. This tactic gives the person directing the questions the space to think. At the same time, it offers their opponent the time to dig himself or herself into a hole. If they respond with a statement you don't like, be sure to maintain your composure and probe with another question.

"These people are predictable, and that knowledge is power, so use that your advantage and prepare for a cerebral battle," Ms. Iconomopoulos encouraged.

Perhaps a more challenging trait in terms of negotiating with someone such as Mr. Trump is the underlying fear that he doesn't respect women. Overcoming that presents a sizable challenge.

Ms. Iconomopoulos, who has worked in male-dominated industries such as energy and alcohol, and in very patriarchal countries, said the easiest way to get a boost when dealing with men who would prefer to deal with men is to have someone else set the stage.

"Whether it was someone in their own group giving me some praise before my arrival, or even someone from my own team telling them that I was the best person for the assignment, it had a notable effect on piquing their curiosity. If you can get an advocate who they like better [meaning any male] to say a quick word about you, it opens a door," she said.

While this advice should come in handy with the one-off Trump emulators you are bound to meet, there is no imminent fear that the progress women have made in the work force will be rolled back overnight.

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Citing the record number of women who showed up to march after Mr. Trump's inauguration, Ms. Gallant observed that the tendency to connect with allies and build communities in response to negative behaviour is increasingly ingrained in our culture.

"If male leadership reverts to older views and treatment of women, women will react differently than in the eighties and nineties," Ms. Gallant insisted.

Leah Eichler (@LeahEichler) writes about workplace trends.

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