It is usually much better if you can resolve your employment problem without making a claim to employment tribunal. The problem is likely to be resolved more quickly, with more options and greater personal control than if it becomes a legal battle.
Having said that be aware that a tribunal claim may be a part of your negotiation strategy - the threat of enforcement proceedings will usually be a powerful factor in getting an employer to consider your claim realistically. The trick is to use a legal claim as a last resort rather than the first.
You must therefore consider what legal claims you have and their strength before starting to negotiate so you know whether it is a realistic option. You will also need to do that quickly as most claims to Employment Tribunals have to be made within 3 months of the date of the claim arising.
You should bear in mind the following initial steps in negotiating an employment dispute:
1. Stay calm
Many employment problems involve personal elements which provoke emotional responses. There is nothing wrong with having an emotional response but having important discussions when you are angry or under pressure will probably reduce your ability to make your case.
2. Don't put off dealing with the problem
It is far better to deal with a problem early when it might be easier to solve than put it off.
3. Concentrate on the problem not the people
Try and put your case to your employer as a problem that affects you both and that you want to jointly solve rather than blaming others for the problem. Where others are to blame this will become apparent as the problem is discussed - but it will avoid the instinctive reation for managers and others to be defensive.
4. Offer solutions to the problem - but don't make demands
Employers are more likely to have a positive reaction if you have some suggestions for how the problem might be resolved, particulary if it appears they will be easy to implement. Offer suggestions and acknowledge the decision is for the employer to make. Beware presenting a list of demands to an employer - it will be seen as a challege to their authority and provoke a defensive or even hostile reaction.
5. Prepare your alternative
To negotiate effectively you have to have the ability to achieve what you want by other means if you cannot agree with your employer - otherwise you are simply asking for a favour and you will be in a weak negotiating position. In an employment context some of your alternatives might be taking on further action, making more formal grievances, leaving employment or making a claim to employment tribunal. Be particularly clear about tribunal time limits so you can issue a claim in time if you have to - and tell the other side what you are doing so it is not a surprise.
6. Decide what you want
This may sound obvious but before you start to negotiate you need to work out what would be an acceptable outcome bearing in mind the alternatives you have.