Enjoying Your Work
In negotiations, have your ducks lined up
After two years as middle managers at the same food-processing plant, Ken Johnson and Mike Yang felt that they should schedule a meeting with their boss to discuss adjustments to their salaries.
Their supervisor was Kathy Inaba, who had been with the company for 15 years and who was known as a skilled negotiator. Executives often asked her to travel to the home offices of various suppliers to represent the organization in negotiations for the purchase of various supplies.
Ken and Mike had scheduled meetings with Kathy that would take place on a Wednesday. Ken was to meet Kathy during the morning, Mike during the afternoon.
On a Friday, five days before their meetings, Ken asked Mike if he would like to have a drink at about 5 p.m. Mike replied that he would be working late that evening to prepare for his meeting with Kathy. Ken responded, "I don't know why you need so much time to prepare. Kathy knows our work. We just go in there and tell her what we think we are worth."
Ken may find that he is underprepared for his meeting. Negotiations are not one-way communi- cations during which one person makes demands or requests and the other person listens. Negotiations involve the give and take of suggestions and proposals.
Mike is spending extra time preparing himself. Good preparation includes knowing what Kathy's positions are on a variety of company issues. How much money does she have in her budget for salary raises? What are new initiatives she thinks the company should undertake? How can her subordinates contribute to these initiatives? What has been Kathy's own salary history in the company? At what points over her 15 years did she receive raises?
If Mike knows the answers to these and other questions, he is in a much better position to negotiate with Kathy. He will be prepared to answer any queries that Kathy poses.
If Kathy makes appeals to her limited budget, Mike can point to the possibility of shifting from other budget items that are of lower priority, given her plans for future initiatives. Kathy may argue that Mike is requesting a very large raise for someone who has been with the company for only two years. If well prepared, however, Mike can counter with statistics showing that he is requesting a raise that is consistent with that given to other productive employees who have worked for the company for a comparable number of years. He then has to back this claim up with a summary of his contributions to the company.
The wisdom of knowing what others are thinking and knowing what they desire is useful in all sorts of negotiations. When buying a car, customers can negotiate a price with the salesman and with the sales supervisor.
Customers should make a list of what features they want in a car. After deciding on two or three possibilities, they should find out how much dealers paid for the cars. They should know what dealers can charge as a reasonable markup. Customers should be aware of features such as extended warranties that salespeople will propose and will claim are essential. With this information, customers will be prepared to agree upon a reasonable price. They will also have reason to walk away from the negotiations if they feel that their well-prepared proposal for a price is not accepted by the car dealership.
Returning to the example of salary negotiations, Mike is likely to reap additional benefits, given his careful preparation. Kathy may appreciate his efforts and may be more likely to grant the raise.
She may say to herself, "I think it's fine that Mike was well prepared and that he 'lined up his ducks.' He can bring this same talent for knowing the desires of others to his work in attracting new customers and clients to our company."
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 email@example.com