Negotiation & the ‘Jeremy Kyle Complex’

Negotiation, defined by as the ‘bargaining process between two or more parties seeking to discover a common ground and reach an agreement to settle a matter of mutual concern or conflict’ is a complex business issue, that regularly poses many challenges for managers and employees on a regular basis.

Negotiation within the workplace is all too often perceived and endured as a very unsettling and uneasy experience. What comes to mind when we think of negotiation? For me personally, negotiation conjures up images of belligerent bosses, manipulators, underhand tactics, bullying, power bitches and sweaty palms! What a nightmare! Although this really shouldn’t be the case. So, why is it that negotiation conjures up such negative feelings or emotions?

In my attempt to answer this question, I needed to explore where the preconceived ideas I had about negotiation came from. It wasn’t long before I realised that my opinion on negotiation had been heavily influenced by the media and its portrayal of negotiation, and then it hit me I was suffering from the ‘Jeremy Kyle Complex’.

For those of you fortunate enough to not understand that pop-culture reference, I shall elaborate. Jeremy Kyle is a UK based TV and radio personality famous for presenting his eponymous (self-titled) talk-show since 2005. Broadcasting over 1632 episodes (as of 26th March 2013), Kyle is well known for tackling domestic issues in his famously well documented shouty, self-righteous and anally retentive style, offering advice and more often than not a cold shoulder to legions of guests who have no shame in airing their dirty laundry on national television. During the course of the show, Kyle acts as a mediator between his at-odds guests, as he tries to help the negotiations.

Now, while I could write a whole post about this vacuous little man and the giant waste of space that he is, I would only be digressing from my main point, that it is this style of media perpetrated negotiation that has ruined it for us all! However, the buck doesn’t stop with just JK. There are endless examples to choose from such as; The Apprentice (where contestants are so desperate to win favour with Lord Sugar they’d climb over their own Grandma to do so), Dragons’ Den (where peasants come and beg millionaires for the crumbs off their table, before being humiliated and sent packing), Judge Judy (need I really say any more about the irrepressible Miss Judith Sheindlin) and the list goes on!

As a direct result of the above, it is my belief that negotiation is now so often approached in a harsh manner where we all assume that the key to successful negotiation is; he who can shout the loudest and dig his heels in the furthest, is by default the winner, and the most successful negotiator. This creates problems for us all. How can anyone successfully negotiate a pay-rise or enhanced benefits package if we all perceive the role we have to play in this scenario as that of a complete twit?

After a recent guest lecture by the Hampshire Constabulary (that’s police to me and you), I was informed in great detail about what actually makes a successful negotiator, and what sort of environment is conducive to successful negotiating… Surprise, surprise Kyle – it’s all about the listening, not the talking!

four steps

As illustrated in my handy home-made graph above there are four key steps to successful negotiation, and the two biggest ingredients which aid the process are active listening and emotional intelligence. Active listening, characterised by summarising, echoing, mirroring and labelling lets the other person know you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and appreciating its importance to them. Emotional intelligence is about moving up the levels and adopting the necessary behaviours to ascend the staircase, from initial contact to the final outcome of influence and persuasion.

Climbing the negotiation staircase is a lengthy process, each stage is very delicate and any slip up results in returning to step one and starting the process all over again. Though, for those who successfully manage to navigate the key steps the final stage is where it all comes together and the hard work really pays off. Being able to influence and persuade is paramount to successful negotiation and once you’ve reached this step it’s all about closing the deal and getting the best outcome.

Applied to the workplace it’s all about understanding the other parties’ key interests. For example though a pay-rise for the employee might seem like a perfectly reasonable request, paying close attention to the manager, who insists that there just aren’t the funds for it, is just as reasonable an explanation for not increasing the employees wage. Negotiation should be about coming to a mutual conclusion that aids both parties and is equally as beneficial to both.

So there you have it, negotiation isn’t about acting like a complete tool after all, and there really is no need to go in all guns blazing, well at least not in theory anyway. What are your thoughts? Is negotiation as simple as it sounds, or in this economic climate, can being brash get you what you want during these tough times?  Was I right is the Jeremy Kyle complex something you might suffer from, or have had the misfortune of experiencing? Let me know what you think and comment below!

Oliver Bailey

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14 thoughts on “Negotiation & the ‘Jeremy Kyle Complex’

  1. Ellen says:

    First off, I really enjoyed reading this – love a pop culture reference. One of the things that I find the most prevalent issue in negotiation in the work place is self-worth. Am I good enough to ask for this? Do I deserve this? Do they think I deserve this? So before you’ve even walked in the room to negotiate you’ve begun a battle with yourself.

    • Hi Ellen,

      Thanks for the input.

      Yes, I agree this is often the way an employee could be made to feel, especially with lack of experience and understanding of negotiation.

      Do you think this could lead to people reverting to what they might have seen via the media, as suggested in my post?

  2. Lindsay Jury says:

    Oliver I completely agree, and I can’t see why Eve and Aimee are giving you such a tough time over this?
    Negotiation styles are in my opinion definitely effected by what is shown in the media, as are most things in the 21st century.
    The sorts of people we see negotiating and the sorts of characteristics they portray, is bound to have an effect because after all any person watching who sees this as a successful style is bound to pick up some mannerisms, whether consciously or subconsciously.
    I think this is prominent amongst the younger generations especially, and extends far beyond the workplace.
    Just take a look at the young people of today in schools for instance, when I attended school there wasn’t a chance you’d answer a teacher back, or have a full-blown argument in class with them. For todays group of young people that is common practice.
    In my opinion, and in some respects this is a good thing, but media representation of negotiation has empowered the younger generations to act more confidently in negotiation situations, and by this I mean in a more aggressive and authoritative manner. I really do think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one!

    • Hi Lindsay,

      It is a relief to know I’m not alone in my opinions. Thanks for joining the discussion.

      I like your points about the way young people act at school, I find myself agreeing completely.

      Is there any examples you could give of real life events, where you or someone you know have either acted in this way or seen someone act in this way, in the workplace context?

  3. Eve says:

    Have you watched Jeremy Kyle at length or simply made assumptions? I feel that Aimee and I have very similar opinions often in conflict with yours. Let’s negotiate.

  4. Aimee Todd says:

    Negotiation has always been a pleasant challenge for me in the workplace, it has never caused me stress or any negative feelings. I do admit that the first time I had to go into a meeting and use my persuasive techniques to negotiate a project I did end up getting sweaty palms! However, I always find that I win something out of the negotiation process even if things don’t go my way. It can be very furstrating when certain elements such as active listening, empathy and trust are not included in the process, but there is always something to take away from it and make it better for the next time.

    Climbing the negotiation staircase can be a lengthy process but that really depends on the parties involved. You mentioned that negotiation is now so often approached in a harsh manner where we all assume that the key to its success is conflict. I believe that is not entirely true. I personally can’t help a little smile when Jeremy stamps his feet and screams at his guests (common phenomenon!). Firstly, it is a popular tv show, which means that now and then he has to do something to entertain his viewers and give them that bit of drama that they are looking for in this kind of shows. Secondly and most important, how on earth do you expect him to communicate with the kind of people that attend his show?! Negotiation for me can only be successful when there is mutual respect, the people appearing on his show have already put him in a position of power by asking him to sort them out as they think he knows what’s best for them. If you think about it he is the middle man in an already failed negotiation process between his guests. I have to agree with Eve on the fact that, even though he comes across as aggressive and arrogant, he does try to communicate some values that his guests never seem to have heard of before in their lives!

    • Hi Aimee and thanks for your comment.

      Again, you make some interesting points, and it is good to hear you’ve had such a good experience with negotiations.

      I have to say that my post isn’t meant to feature Jeremy Kyle as the focal point, but using him as an example is meant to develop my point about the media’s contribution to the perception of negotiation – so alas my reply wont focus on Jeremy.

      While I appreciate that you and Eve have both commented suggesting that my opinion about the way in which people enter negotiations isn’t as hostile or volatile as I may have suggested, I would say look no further than any newspaper and in most cases there will be at least one case where ‘negotiations have broken down’… whether it be between two nations fighting over a strip of land, between footballers and managers of contracts, celebrities and networks or even parents dragging custody battles through the court.

      While my post aimed to focus on negotiations in the workplace it is apparent that negotiation is a very tricky subject, but indisputably is OFTEN approached in the way I have suggested – the only problem is that there is little evidence of this as most normal negotiations between boss and employee aren’t very publicised.

      However in the authoring process of my post I not only relied on my opinion, and a brief search of the media landscape, but I also spoke to a number of friends and family about their opinions and the overwhelming response, was that indeed many of their experiences had been negatively effected for said reasons! Many stories revolved around bosses who were ignorant, aggressive, overly direct and unprepared to negotiate… so I must say I do think my points stand – although I do accept they are not universally true!

      • Aimee Todd says:

        Hi Oliver,

        I simply had to come back and negotiate 🙂

        I guess what I was trying to explain in my comment, was that you can’t compare The Jeremy Kyle Show with the negotiation that take place in the workplace. I don’t think that the first thing that pops to the viewers mind when they watch Jeremy screaming and stamping his feet is negotiation. This show is classified as a daytime tv tabloid show, there is not much negotiation going on. His guests are not there to negotiate, they are there to sort their miserable lives out. He is not negotiating the solutions to their problems, he simply tells them what they have to do. He is not there to negotiate, he is there to make a living out of people that have no more than two brain cells.

        For a post that isn’t meant to feature Jeremy Kyle as the focal point, this one pays way too much attention to him. The use of phrases such as “anally retentive style”, “vacuous little man” and “giant watse of space”, shifted my interest towards Jeremy rather than negotion in the workplace, and encouraged me to defend him.

        I can’t see how the media could portray negotiation in a way that would empower employees. Normal negotiations between boss and employee aren’t oftenly publicised because they are not breaking news. However, the negotiations taking place in a meeting for Cyprus Eurozone Bailout will be front page news.

        I agree with the fact that most employees are reluctant to talk about their working hours, salary, promotion, etc. This comes down to the employees and the negotiation abilities that they have built up over the years. I was never taught how to negotiate, I just found out how to do it along the way. As an employee you will always make mistakes and your requests are not always going to be accepted, but you just have to build up these skills over the years.

        How do you expect the media to have an input into your negotiation skills development? Apart from the relevant articles that pop up in the career sections of websites and newspapers now and then, I can’t see how normal negotiation can be portrayed through the media.

        • Hi Aimee,

          Thanks for coming back to me on this, it’s very interesting to see the way in which we both perceive this matter in very different ways, and I think this only goes to show exactly what I was suggesting in my post that perceptions of negotiation are very differing. However in my opinion and in others with whom I have spoken to on the topic the media does indeed contribute in a negative sense towards negotiation!

          Although you argue that negotiation as seen on TV etc. is not the same as negotiation that takes place in the workplace I would suggest that in fact, they are more similar than you might have originally thought. Look for example at my staircase, the same pattern/structure is used in almost all negotiation examples.

          I would also argue that Jeremy Kyle does act within a negotiation/mediation role, he does indeed negotiate with his guests results for them, negotiating things like DNA or lie detector tests, rehabilitation, counselling and often negotiates results by way of resolutions – so I have to stick to my guns on this one, and say that he is indeed a negotiator of sorts!

          Also I would argue again that the media does portray a number of relevant negotiation situations, however I only used those mentioned in my post as I knew they would be some of the most popular examples – can I direct you towards Channel 4’s The Hotel, or BBC’s Mary Queen of Shops or even Channel 4’s Undercover Boss… these are all shows which feature negotiation often between boss and employee and are usually very aggressive and volatile as suggested in my post – however I didn’t initially rely on these examples because one can never be too sure of authenticity as they are all ‘reality’ series!

          While it is not universally true that the media has had a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of negotiation, I am sure we can both agree that for some people as a direct result of what is show on TV this could potentially be the case!?

          • Aimee Todd says:

            I have been working for almost 7 years and I can tell you for sure that the negotiation we get to see on TV is hardly anything like the negotiation that takes place in the workplace (there are a few exceptions but not enough to consider them). Let’s take one of the TV shows you suggested.. Undercover Boss.. Only because I have watched every single episode. Under what circumstances would your boss send you on a complimentary trip after you have expressed the problems you are dealing with on a regular basis or even after having called him rude names? If that’s the case then this kind of TV shows would surely encourage employees to express their concerns rather than being scared to do so?!

            I think you are paying way too much attention to TV shows that are there only to generate money and entertain. They are not there to promote negotiation techniques to mere mortals like you and me. Maybe you should spend more time focusing on the work place negotiations rather than trying to get tips from Hugh Bonneville (The Hotel) or Stephen Lamber (Undercover Boss producer). Their goal is to generate more and more series rather than give professionals tips. I am afraid that whoever would not able to tell the difference, then they wouldn’t necessarily have what it takes to negotiate.

            My question to you was: How do you expect the media to have an input into your negotiation skills development? I understand that media is not doing anything to promote negotiation in the workplace but at the same time you have to understand that it is not real anyway.

            If you believe the media portrays negotiation in a negative way, then how could they do it differently without all the drama?!

            • Hi Aimee,

              Thanks for coming back to me again on this…However, I do feel we are going round in circles slightly! If there is one thing that this unit of study has taught me, it is that sometimes it is best to accept defeat, I don’t think we’ll ever agree on this one so I think it’s only reasonable we respect each others opinions as equally valid but not necessarily true to our perceptions.

              While I did place focus on TV to prove my point, I must point out that blogs, by their very nature are personal and therefore this is all my own opinion and not something I have published as an offering of universal truth.

              Also, it is not and was never my belief that TV shows are created to promote negotiation techniques, but as a default side effect rather the characters, personalities and styles they portray have an impact on what we as viewers might think is the norm to adopt in negotiation situations – which based on the TV output would as I suggested be aggressive.

              Lastly, I never questioned the context or burdened the media with having any sort of responsibility, I’m not saying they should be accountable for what they show and therefore promote a better image of negotiation, I was just suggesting that the angle they do show is often very aggressive and that this could influence people.

              Thanks again for commenting back and developing this conversation with me, it has been of high value to my blog – but alas I don’t think it has any more gas left in it…

  5. Eve says:

    I don’t think that negotiation in the workplace has negative connotations for me. It is a method by which a person or group of people have been allowed to express their views, have been listened to and actions have been taken accordingly by those who have the final say.Obviously the final decision has to be made by someone who is ultimately responsible but perhaps I have been lucky enough to respect the person or persons in charge. If I have disagreed with decisions my only option has been to wait to see if I was right in the first place.Sometimes in a listening environment where everyone’s views are important it can take excessive time to reach a decision and this can be very frustrating and annoying. There is so much negotiation that members of the group become despondent and need leadership. The art of persuasion requires respect and of course, as we all know, respect takes time to earn. I feel that in the present economic climate there is little chance for the young, seeking employment, to be able to negotiate and no need for employers to enter into negotiation. The power always lies with those in charge.
    While Jeremy Kyle is vilified by many, he does uphold many high standards of behaviour: be honest, be faithful,don’t take drugs and don’t live off the state. He ensures that his guests talk and listen to each other which is difficult when dealing with the lowest form of humanity. There are systems in place for negotiation between the parties involved in a safe and secure environment.

    • Hi Eve,

      Thanks for your reply, it’s very insightful! I guess you’re very lucky that you’ve only experienced such positive negotiation situations!
      As a young professional who has had little experience of negotiations, I based the majority of this article on my perceptions of negotiation, the root of these perceptions and then my little amount of personal experience.
      However, while it can be argued that negotiations are in most cases not at all negative as I have suggested, I must say there are many instances both in the media and in real life where I have seen people approach the situation, especially those in the power position, in completely the wrong way – throwing their weight around and abusing their position of power!
      Also, going back to your point about young people and their helplessness in negotiation situations, I have to say I disagree, as illustrated in my four steps to negotiation, I do believe that if you present yourself properly and highlight all your skills and attributes in a clever way, you do indeed have some leverage to negotiate – there are certainly cases where some young employees can become indispensable to an organisation, which places them in prime position to negotiate.
      Lastly, as clear from my article I really couldn’t disagree any more strongly about your views on Mr. Kyle. In my honest opinion this man is an absolute disgrace and makes a mockery of his guests and belittles them on a regular basis. His programme highlights almost perfectly some of the worst negotiation skills around, with constant bully tactics I find his methods almost wholly counter-productive, and in the majority of cases exploitative.

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