Negotiation, defined by businessdictionary.com 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!
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!