Enjoying Your Work
Successful negotiations require respect for others
What do the following terms have in common: Negotiation, conversation, discussion, and talk story? All involve give and take between two people or among a larger number of people.
This give and take distinguishes these behaviors from the one-way communication that is typical of a sermon or a speech during which the speaker makes a set of demands. This distinction between two-way and one-way communication is frequently forgotten during interactions with others, especially when intense emotions begin to play a role.
Let's use an example involving a manager and her subordinates:
Katie Chou supervises twelve scientists in the research-and-development department of a biotechnology company. She would like her subordinates to put more of their time into research on the treatment of genetic diseases in children.
On the one hand, she could simply send out a memo to her employees requiring that they follow her directive. But she realizes that this might not be very effective. Employees in research and development are often very well educated, intelligent and independent in their thinking. They do not react well upon being told exactly what they should be doing in their choice of research projects. They react with more enthusiasm when asked about their opinions concerning the best projects for their future endeavors.
Realizing this, Katie calls her employees together for a meeting. She lists the reasons why she feels that workers should emphasize research on genetic diseases. Given that she realizes the scientists will have strong opinions, she listens carefully to their arguments. If she does this, she is beginning the process of negotiating.
She knows that the scientists will have various concerns. They will want to know about the status of their current projects. They will want to know about start-up costs that will accompany a switch to more research on genetic diseases. They will want to examine their own education and work experience to determine if they have the expertise to make the move that Katie recommends.
They will be concerned about how research according to Katie's preferences will affect their long-term career development.
Negotiations almost always involve compromises. Katie will have to bend a little to the preferences voiced by her scientists.
For example, she may express a willingness to allow scientists to complete their current work. Or, she can fund attendance at professional conferences where the scientists can be exposed to current basic research related to genetic diseases.
The key to negotiations is to recognize that other people have positions on important issues. These others will want to see that attention has been given to their opinions, attitudes and preferences.
Good negotiators demonstrate a willingness to listen to others and to incorporate their views into final plans for changes in organizational policy.
Katie is likely to experience more success in negotiations if she does her own research and learns about employee concerns prior to calling them into a meeting. She can then address these concerns when she presents her position.
The opposite of negotiation is a podium-pounding diatribe punctuated with a statement such as, "I demand that my position becomes adopted as the company policy!" Such statements are often delivered in a harsh, unpleasant and insulting tone of voice.
If people make demands, they are ignoring a basic principle of negotiations: Realize that others have positions that must be recognized and respected.
Many times, people enter a meeting room with the goal of honest negotiations. However, this willingness changes as people share different opinions and express their disagreements. When faced with intense disagreements, many people become emotional and change their behavior from negotiation to making a set of demands.
People who develop the reputation of good negotiators over a period of many years do not "lose their cool" when challenged, and instead maintain respect for others and their disagreements.
The purpose of this column is to increase understanding of human behavior as it has an impact on the workplace. Given the amount of time people spend at work, job satisfaction should ideally be high and it should contribute to general life happiness. Enjoyment can increase as people learn more about workplace psychology, communication, and group influences.
is a professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii. He can be reached through the College Relations Office at firstname.lastname@example.org