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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

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As the negotiations begin, each side is expected to put an offer on the table. It is

especially important that you do two things: take your time before rejecting any

offer from the other side, and from a strategic standpoint, do not offer a counter-

proposal right away. A counterproposal delivered too quickly tells the other side

that you haven’t or won’t even seriously consider their offer, and looks like you are

belittling them. Waiting a respectful amount of time to counter, even if you aren’t

going to accept their offer, will make your opponent feel good about the process.

You can reject the offer and offer a counterproposal after it is obvious that you

have taken the time to consider the merits of it. Mutual respect must be part of the

negotiation process, and can help you reach your goal.

Example 1

Jasper and Rob met when they were assigned to the same dorm room their

freshman year in college. Since they didn’t know each other well, they decided

to establish “room rules” so that they would both be comfortable with the room

assignment. They agreed on which part of the room each would have; the loca-

tion of the TV, stereo, and refrigerator; and on what would be considered accept-

able “sharing” of each other’s junk food supplies. The final issue had to do with

“lights out” and quiet times for studying. Jasper studies during the day and early

evening and likes to stay up very late watching TV and visiting with friends.

Rob stays busy all day and evening with other activities, and studies late into

the night, so he wants a quiet room late at night. Here is how the last issue was

handled:

Rob: Okay, last item: I’d like it quiet in the room at night, so I can study. So

when’s a good time?

Jasper: (without hesitation) No way. This isn’t high school, you know.

Rob: Wait a minute. Let me finish.

Jasper: Finish or not, I’m not interested in a curfew.

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Rob: (Rob was about to suggest midnight on Mondays through Thursdays, but

changed his mind when he saw Jasper’s attitude.) Listen, I want a 10:30 p.m.

curfew on TV and other noise every night, and that’s not negotiable.

Jasper: (without taking a breath) At best, midnight during the week is the only thing

I’ll consider.

Rob: (there is no hesitation in this voice) No, 10:30 p.m. is all I’ll consider.

Jasper: Midnight, and that’s it.

Rob: I’m going to look for a new roommate!!

Jasper: Fine!!

Conclusion

It was clear that neither Rob nor Jasper was seriously considering the requests and

suggestions of the other person. Failure of both young men to allow one another to

have their proposal considered caused the relationship to break down. No agree-

ment was reached.

Example 2

ABC Company’s management was being restructured and compressed in order to

facilitate its new “just-in-time” manufacturing philosophy. Under ABC ‘s contract

with the union, employee grievances had to go through four levels of supervisory

review and appeal: a) verbal complaint to the non-union crew leader; b) written

complaint to a floor manager if the matter is not resolved in 5 days; c) a for-

mal “meeting” with plant manager if the matter is not resolved in 10 days; and

d) a hearing with company owner if the matter is not resolved in 20 days. Under

the restructuring, the positions of non-union crew leader and floor manager would

both be eliminated, and the union foreman would report directly to the plant man-

ager. The appeals procedure would have to be altered to reflect the restructuring.

The union contract required that management renegotiate this change in the

grievance procedure with the union. Neither side anticipates that there would be

Making Counteroffers (The “Give and Take”)

101

any objection to the change. In fact, the union arrived at the meeting prepared

to support a streamlined process that called for the employee with a grievance to

discuss it first with the union foreman. If the union foreman felt that the grievance

had merit, the employee and the foreman would meet with the plant manager

and attempt to resolve it. The union was prepared to accept the plant manager’s

position as final, rather than go on to appeal it to the company owner. After initial

pleasantries were exchanged, ABC Company’s negotiator explained the manage-

ment changes soon to be implemented, and began the negotiation session con-

cerning the grievance procedure.

Company: Here’s the new draft of the grievance procedure. We’ve simply elimi-

nated the first two steps, because those management layers are gone.

An aggrieved employee can make a request for a meeting with the plant

manager. If in 20 days he/she has not been satisfied, he/she can take the

grievance to the plant owner for a hearing.

Union:

As you know, our grievances often signal to management that there

are real problems on the shop floor. Our guys are prepared to accept a

shorter grievance procedure if we can find a way to ensure that you’ll

take our grievance issues seriously. We’ve got a couple of alternative

models for you to consider.

Company: (rather abruptly) Let’s not drag this out. The redraft is simple and straight-

forward. We just cut out two steps, and everything else stays the same.

Certainly, no one can complain about that.

Union:

Hold on. We think that this is an opportunity to eliminate some of the

adversarial aspects of the grievance procedure. We’d like you to consider

the plant manager’s role as a problem-solver, rather than as a judge on

the merits of the grievance.

Company: (no hesitating) Trust me, this redraft is a very simple change to the con-

tract, and I’m certain your members will be okay with it.

Union:

You obviously didn’t come here to negotiate, but to dictate. (Note: An

attitude change sets in.) We’re just not happy that you are proposing a

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two-step grievance procedure instead of a four-step procedure, and we’ll

strike if we have to, to prevent any change!

Company: (surprised) What? Why would you object to this? Your guys will get a

final decision in 20 days, rather than in the 35 days the current system

provides. You can’t be serious.

Union:

We’re very serious. We’ll see you on the picket line.

Conclusion

ABC Company’s failure to take adequate time to consider the union’s offer or even

act as if it was considering the offer prolonged the negotiations unnecessarily. After a

cooling off period, the two parties did meet again. This time, the company entertained

the ideas the union had tried to propose before, and actually accepted a three-step

procedure.

Making Counteroffers (The “Give and Take”)

103

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