Negotiating a salary increase or a job promotion is one of the hardest conversations to have at work, and it doesn't get any easier without a plan.

It's not a plan to just knock on their door, sit down with them and see where this goes. Maurice Schweitzer, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions said that people fail to achieve their goals because they fail to identify their objectives.

Schweitzer and his co-authors introduce a framework to help people have more successful conversations by understanding the motives of each participant. The model maps conversations along two axes: informational and relational. The image is below.

A partner with high informational goals seeks to share or gather information to support a decision or action, such as sharing the latest sales numbers to gain market share. A partner with high goals seeks to deepen their relationship. The person may want to have fun, have a secret, or create a favorable impression.

Schweitzer said that if we are more precise in our objectives for the conversation, it will help us prepare and plan, guide us more clearly, and ultimately yield greater success.

The April issue of Current Opinion in Psychology contains a paper titled "The Conversational Circumplex: Identifying, Prioritizing, and Pursuing Informational and Relational Motives in Conversation." Michael Yeomans is an assistant professor of strategy and organizational behavior at Imperial College Business School, and Alison Wood is an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Schweitzer said that he and his co-authors were interested in exploring what it means to have a good conversation beyond the vague notion that it went well or poorly. They realized there wasn't a clear definition of what constituted a successful conversation after reading the literature on the topic. The result can be applied to any conversation in the workplace and beyond, whether it's with a boss, co-worker, spouse, relative, child, or friend.

Schweitzer said that their goals are going to change across different partners.

Schweitzer teaches a class on negotiation, which is a type of conversation that is both informational and emotional. An employee asking for a raise wants to develop a facts-based case for a raise but also nurture the relationship with the manager who will ultimately make the decision.

The Conversational Circumplex: This framework classifies conversational goals along two key dimensions: informational and relational. This panel shows where a conversationalist might plot some of their goals on the circumplex. The placement of motives on the circumplex is subjective, and the goals depicted here represent a subset of the vast array of motives that conversationalists might have.

I tell my students that the first thing to do is get on a train to New York or a plane to Chicago.

The manager taking part in the negotiation has a responsibility to gather information, understand the motives of the employee, and give appropriate feedback. If a raise isn't possible because of budget constraints or equity concerns, are there other options or future opportunities for more money?

Schweitzer said that a company-wide meeting is an example of communication that is both informational and relational. At an all-hands meeting, the CEO wants to impart information but also build a sense of community, foster positive feelings, and motivate employees.

He said that when he is a CEO he is trying to communicate information but also a sense of identity. We are all in this together, we are all making sacrifice, we are all pitching in, and we can accomplish something transformational.

“People often fail to achieve their conversational goals because they fail to identify their objectives.” –Maurice Schweitzer

Finding common ground.

The researchers ran a large study to confirm that the points on the axes are in reality. The closer the goals are to the circumplex, the more likely they are to be achieved. Being honest and claiming credit for an idea are different things.

Schweitzer said that it is easier to have multiple goals when they are similar. It is easier to be honest. The goals are similar.

The paper identifies specific behaviors that come out of conflicting goals in a conversation, such as backhanded compliment, humble brag, and my hand hurts from signing so many. Conversationalists need to know whether or not these behaviors advance their goals.

Schweitzer encourages people to think about their objectives before having important conversations. They should think about the extent to which they achieved or failed at those objectives and then consider what they could have done differently.

Schweitzer thinks we can all learn from each other.