Enjoying Your Work
Successful negotiations usually involve research and compromise
The key to good negotiations is to remember that there are more than two people involved and that everyone involved has concerns that they want to see addressed.
For example, several workers may meet and agree to file a grievance about an abusive boss, a mid-level manager in the company where they are employed.
The company president, Dan Esposito, agrees to meet with the workers. The workers have clear concerns: They want their boss removed, reprimanded, or at least sent to a training program dealing with effective management and leadership.
The workers will be much more effective in their negotiations if they keep in mind that the company president will also have concerns that he will want to see addressed.
Dan will want to be seen as someone who stands behind his managers. He will not want to be seen as someone who can be pushed around by the latest gripe that workers present to him. He will also not want to be seen as having made a mistake if he played a major role in the hiring of the manager who is now the target of the workers' anger.
The workers will be much more effective if they are genuinely concerned with Dan's concerns and with making Dan look good in the eyes of all company employees.
They can start with the request that their boss be fired, realizing that this is a start to the negotiations and that it will probably not be accepted. They can then listen carefully to Dan. They should not interrupt him and instead should listen respectfully. If they have done their homework -- a step always recommended for good negotiators -- there should be few surprises during Dan's presentation of his concerns, since the workers will be familiar with them.
After listening to Dan, the workers should counter with a recommendation that clearly integrates aspects of his presentation. Negotiations can continue until a compromise agreement is reached that is satisfactory to all.
The final decision might be that Dan will meet with the manager to address the specific behaviors that the workers identified as abusive. If the manager does not improve within a month, based on reports from an already-scheduled follow-up meeting with the workers, Dan will send the manager to a training program for the development of human relations skills.
With this compromise, both Dan and the workers have addressed some of the issues that they brought to the negotiations. They didn't get everything they wanted, but that is the nature of negotiations. People give a little here, take a little there, and hammer out an agreement that is satisfactory to all.
So why don't people negotiate in this manner more often? One reason is that there is a great deal of work involved in determining the concerns of others who are part of the negotiation process. People may not be willing, or may not know how, to do the hard work of discovering the goals of others. Another reason is that it is a lot more fun to make a set of demands that take into account only the position of oneself, coworkers, and friends. It is enjoyable to make these demands in a loud voice and to engage in vigorous body movements while doing so.
After a speaker makes a set of such one-sided demands, there will usually be others who come up and offer enthusiastic congratulations and appreciation for "taking a stand against the powerholders." Speakers are congratulated far less often if they offer compromises that integrate concerns of multiple parties in a negotiation. In fact, they might become the target of boos and hisses if they are seen as "not tough enough." Realizing this, parties in a negotiation often have to answer the question, "Do we want to be popular, or do we want to be effective negotiators who can develop workable solutions to problems?"
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