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The main lesson that I was able to draw from this exercise is that companies do not operate in a vacuum since outside factors can have a considerable influence on internal operations. For instance, in this exercise, the points of contention involved salaries and work schedules wherein employees wanted better wages and more flexible work hours. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the company that wishes to maintain current operations since increased salaries and changes in work hours could have a negative impact on operations.
One way to resolve this conundrum is to realise that since companies do not operate in a vacuum, strategies and examples utilised by other firms could be used to influence the bargaining mix during negotiations. For this case, this came in the form of studies depicting the advantages/disadvantages of the proposed changes and how some kind of middle-ground can be achieved by both sides during the negotiation.
What this exercise taught me is that a compromise is often based on perception and how such perceptions can be influenced by information that is brought in from the outside (Fleck, Volkema, Levy, Pereira & Vaccari, 2013). Aside from this, the asynchronous text-based nature of this method was far from appealing. Yes, being able to read what was stated before was very convenient, but the sheer amount of information combined with not being able to see the person you are attempting to negotiate with detracts from the quality of the negotiation that you are trying to accomplish.
Planning preparation and performing workplace bargaining
While the goal of any negotiation is to reach an agreement, this exercise revealed to me that there are multiple ways that this can be achieved. For example, during the initial portion of the exercise, it was believed that we would be following a particular path based on our interpretation of the presented bargaining mix. However, when presented by the ideas by the other side, it became clear that alternatives may be necessary.
One saying that matches this particular situation is “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” I am not stating that negotiators should consider the other party as enemies; rather, it is better to believe that the plans you prepared and the points you initially developed may not hold as much weight as you realise. Instead, it is better to believe that negotiations are an exercise of flexibility in action (Maaravi, Pazy & Ganzach, 2014).
Both parties want to achieve the end goal of reaching an agreement but getting there often means revising what you initially believed and determining whether another path would be just as viable so that an agreement can be reached. Aside from this, the use of one-on-one video conferencing was definitely a step up from the text-based methods that were previously utilised. It really enhanced perceptions since being able to see the body language of the person you are talking to can really make a difference when it comes to realising whether they would agree or disagree to particular amendments to a contract.
The main lesson that I gained from this exercise was that flexibility and compromise are needed by both parties and not just the company. For example, if the employees wanted higher salaries, the company could have pointed out how the salaries provided for them are the same for other employees within the same industry. As such, to bring about the necessary salary increases, it would be required to terminate the available number of workers and increase working hours to compensate for the decline in personnel.
This shows how outside information and the development of a compromise as a direct result of such information is an integral aspect of any negotiating process and is a factor that all companies should take into consideration when conducting any form of negotiation (Weingart, Thompson, Bazerman & Carroll, 1987). Any party to a negotiation should not enter into it and expect all their demands to be met; rather, it is better to create a list of what you can be flexible about and what is non-negotiable.
This creates sufficient leeway for negotiations to be successful instead of them being stalled. One factor that contributed towards a successful negotiation, in this case, was the use of an online video conference for multiple parties. The lack of delay between the presentation of ideas during the negotiation made it far easier to understand the point of view that was being expressed and, as such, was conducive towards making the talks easier (Rivers & Volkema, 2013). However, the drawback of this method was the interruptions that were experienced since when one person was attempting to prove a point, another individual in the conversation would interrupt resulting in a loss in the flow of ideas.
The final exercise involving enterprise bargaining can be described as an extensive collection of actions whose primary goal was to bring about an agreement that all parties involved can agree with. What this exercise taught me was that outcomes are rarely as you imagine them to be and that preparation is key to any negotiation. For example, during the initial research stage, a considerable amount of effort was made to examine the different policies that applied to employees, the salary ranges and the different timetables that applied to a particular position. Other aspects that were examined focused on how experience translated into increased value when it came to employees.
All these factors were considered to determine the best way of approaching negotiation. A plan was developed and a strategy created to deal with the bargaining mix; however, what the group discovered was the plan was lacking in sufficient accommodation since the other side had issues that were not originally anticipated and we only assumed what would be best under the context we had to work with and not what they thought.
This particular situation is similar to the principle of the “prisoner’s dilemma” wherein a lack of information and insight from both parties leads to an initial disagreement over the desired outcome or even a lack of trust. What this taught me is that no matter how much planning you will do, there is always the very likely possibility that there are facets to it that the other party will not agree with (Banai, Stefanidis, Shetach, & Özbek, 2014).
Through this exercise, I realised that while planning is the key to a negotiation, it is also important to know how much leeway you are willing to give. Negotiations cannot be “absolute” in the sense that one party is unwilling to accommodate so that they can “win”. There is no “winning” when one party refuses to accommodate the other; the most likely result is that negotiations will break down, and no agreement can be reached (Seung Hwan, 2016). From what I learned during the exercise and the conversations I took part in, a compromise can be described as both parties not getting what they want but getting a sufficient semblance of it that they can agree to honour it.
While there are instances where entering into a negotiation can result in you getting exactly what you want, these are few and far between. It is more accurate to assume that you will be able to reach a halfway point and be able to build upon the specifics of the arrangement from there. Through this realisation and the steps taken during the negotiation, I realised that there is one aspect of the planning session that was not covered in the class lessons, and this was to create lists of what are acceptable and what are not when it comes to the negotiations.
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Under the concept of being flexible, parties who enter into a negotiation should realise that there are aspects in a bargaining mix that can and cannot be addressed. I noticed this during the exercise wherein certain aspects of the negotiations involving employee experience and proper financial restitution can be dealt with while others remained firmly unacceptable. The apparent “trick” to a successful negotiation with another party is to sufficiently allow certain provisions while stating that others cannot be given up. This strategy allows the other party to realise that while you are firm in certain matters, there are factors that can be negotiated upon (Stefanidis, Banai & Richter, 2013).
Such a method creates a better back-and-forth conversation rather than appearing to be obstinate and unwilling to cooperate. Another lesson that I learned from this exercise was that open-mindedness is key to any successful negotiation. Throughout the engagement, I noted that some of the ideas that were presented by the other party went against our original plan or were somewhat inapplicable to what we had in mind. There were two choices in this matter; we could have simply ploughed straight ahead and enforced what we wanted, or we could have taken the ideas into consideration and formulated a new outcome based on them.
For example, during the negotiation process, it was clearly shown that employees should receive wages that are commensurate with their developed skills and expertise. While it may seem obvious now, the fact remains that there were other factors at work that prevented this realisation such as the cost of such as step and whether it would even be necessary. What this shows is that open-mindedness allows both parties to realise the potential problems with their positions and adjust accordingly.
I realised that negotiation is not just presenting what you want, it also involves helping the other party understand that their position has several mistakes that can be addressed. By focusing on this aspect, the process of negotiation becomes more than simply a presentation of desires; rather, it becomes a way for those involved to inform and help them evaluate what they believe. Sometimes, some people miss the most obvious elements of a problem since they are on the “other side of the table” so to speak (Hatfield, Agoglia, & Sanchez, 2008).
It is at times necessary to bring to light issues that are not apparent to them which can lead to better negotiations since the other party will understand where you are coming from when it comes to the problems that you have brought to the table. Overall, it can be concluded that being open-minded and flexible when it comes to negotiations can lead to better outcomes for all the parties involved. The worst possible outcome would be if no resolution to the issue is developed and that is why the parties who are part of the process are jointly responsible for creating a result that they can agree upon.
Towards the end of this exercise, another important lesson I learned is that nothing can truly beat a face-to-face conversation when it comes to negotiations. When I compared the interactions via online asynchronous text and a face-to-face conversation, I noticed that people are more willing to accommodate each other when talking directly rather than when they are speaking impersonally over a digitally created message.
This difference could be attributed to the back and forth interaction between the parties involved that is a lot smoother when done face-to-face rather than through emails. I realised that the problem with using impersonal methods is that this leads to indifferent actions that are based more on logical thinking rather than having an undercurrent of mutual understanding (Yiu, Cheung & Siu, 2012). When people respond to a digital message for a negotiation, they do so from a position that lacks sufficient empathy.
They are focused more on their wants and needs rather than attempting to accommodate the other individual. This is why face-to-face interactions can be considered as being superior since both parties can communicate with both logic and emotion. The result is a greater likelihood of them acquiescing to particular requests. As such, I have come to the conclusion that face-to-face negotiations are a much better method as compared to the others that were utilised in the other exercises.
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