In business, the negotiation process is one of the most important elements of managerial work. Organizational dialogues can be structured to promote problem-solving and the development of consensus on the basis of a full airing of the merits and interests involved. This type of dialogue ideally meets the needs of the organization. The organization can benefit from good negotiators only if negotiation is institutionalized as part of the process of management. The essential compatibility of the effective negotiation system and management process lies in the fact that effective negotiation is flexible enough to accommodate the changing bargaining needs of management.
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The definition of negotiation also contains a general formulation concerning the use of the process to attain desired objectives. Whatever the preferred operating system or approach to negotiation, there is usually a follow-on statement concerning how to process objectives are to be attained. “The process essentially involves dialogue management and control through the orchestration, exploitation, and manipulation of perceptions, uncertainty, expectations, and apprehension concerning the situation in the direction of the desired consensus” (Raiffa 2005, p. 5).
Distillable from the effective negotiation system is the following operational elements: dialogue management and control; exploitation and manipulation of perceptions, uncertainty, expectations, and apprehension; and consensus development based on friendly or pressured persuasion. Cohen defines negotiation as “a pervasive process in which people ultimately attempt to reach a joint decision on matters of common concern in situations in which there is initial disagreement” (Cohen 2007).
As negotiation is a process for developing consensus and is already in the workplace in the form of managerial bargaining, consideration should be given to institutionalizing it as an adjunct process of management. Institutionalization makes sense because the organization badly needs an operational process (Lewicki et al 2006). Also, the basic compatibility of the negotiation and management processes assures the feasibility of combining the two. The principal considerations in institutionalization are that the negotiation process must be
- understood by all managers, preferably as a result of formal trainind,
- appropriately structured to serve the interests of the organization.
In effect, institutionalization would be a reform of current managerial bargaining by limiting its use to organizational rather than personal interests (Lewicki et al 2006).
Unlike the management process, negotiation has operational techniques associated with effecting friendly or pressured persuasion. The negotiation process’s concern for continuing relationships is an important element in friendly persuasion, the preferred basis for consensus. A good workplace relationship softens the impact of pressured persuasion when friendly persuasion does not produce the desired consensus.
The pressuring possibility permits negotiation to go beyond friendly persuasion and function as a system for controlling situations and relationships. As a control system, negotiation can be a most useful tool of consensus development because of the premium it places on the maintenance of a good workplace relationship. Management process also stresses the use of relationship nurturing and maintenance to influence desired behavior (Raiffa 2005)
The basic negotiating technique is to think in terms of wants and needs and trade one’s wants for one’s needs, which usually results in a bargaining advantage. Power, information, and timing are three crucial variables that help a manager to negotiate and solve problems. Timing is important for a negotiator because more than two-thirds of the time is spent in dialogues with subordinates, peers, and supervisors.
The principal medium is oral communication in the form of daily instructions and other communications to subordinates; staffing and networking discussions with peers; and feedback and other reporting to supervisors (Lewicki et al 2006). These dialogues have an interest dimension for the managers involved because they constitute the principal means for controlling workplace relationships and activities.
Negotiators have to work and bargain for acceptance when attempting to exert their positional power and authority. Noncompliance requires the use of pressured persuasion. Perception creation and manipulation are key factors in pressuring persuasion (Cohen 1982). The approach, based on the principle that perception is reality, reflects the essence of the concept of negotiation as a mind game. Controlling and constructing perceptions through “impression management” has recently been recognized as a useful technique for influencing organizational behavior.
Management’s need for additional techniques for consensus development and its ability to borrow them from the negotiation process assures that the management process will continue on a convergent course with negotiation. The culminating result should be the institutionalization of negotiation as part of the process of management. The dialogues of management can, through friendly persuasion (based on personalization and other relationship nurturing) or pressured persuasion, be used to influence desired action or inaction.
The same is true for negotiation: there need not be a formal dialogue or a formal conclusion of the dialogue. Accordingly, it is no great stretch to treat action or behavior in support of a manager’s policy or request as the consensus result of the manager’s bargaining effort to influence or motivate the behavior of his subordinates. The absence of a formal dialogue does not change the basic nature of the bargaining process which produces compliant behavior (Lewicki et al 2006).
Information “is the heart of the matter” (Cohen 1982, p. 101). The decision-maker identifies dialogues with staff members and others involved in collecting information, analyzing issues, and recommending decisional options. The decision maker’s interest here is to assure that he is getting maximum staff support for his decision-making. There is also dialogue with those involved in implementing the decision or having the standing to contest or criticize it.
By conducting these covered dialogues, the manager, in effect, controls the input of all the organizational elements involved in the decision-making process. The result is a better decision for the decision-maker and his organization. ”The more information you have about their financial situation, priorities, deadlines, coats, real needs and organizational pressures, the better you can bargain” (Cohen, 1982, p. 104). Another aspect of the negotiation process is that it includes mediation, a form of negotiation which involves the basic parties and a third party who assists them (actively or passively) to develop consensus. Mediation is best understood as assisted negotiation. The active mediator sees to it that the parties observe all procedural deadlines and requirements, and attempts to bring them together with substantive suggestions and proposals.
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A good negotiator is a person who understands the process, who objectively analyzes the weaknesses and strengths of other parts, and who can reach the best results in the shortest period of time. Successful performance as a manager requires the acquisition of special managerial skills. The interchangeability of managers as they progress in their careers calls for their having certain technical, human, conceptual, and diagnostic skills.
Following Cohen’s negotiation skills are extremely important because ‘people may have different functions or different disciplines… They may even be in different parts of town… You need negotiation skills to obtain their help and support” (Cohen 1982, p. 19). Technical skills are defined as understanding, knowledge, and proficiency in techniques and procedures related to a specialized field. Human skills are those interpersonal techniques and abilities which enable the manager to motivate, lead, and work effectively with individuals and groups. Negotiation is based on the technical skill of the manager because of the increased importance of his role as a negotiator (Cohen 1982).
Furthermore, negotiation is a skill implied in most of his other roles and activities. It is an essential part of his ability to develop the consensus associated with authority acceptance in the organizing, controlling, and leading functions. Negotiation also provides a process for managing and controlling his workplace relationships. Also, it is possible to single out the following qualities of a good negotiator: a quick mind, patience and endurance, flexibility and impartiality, language skills (knowing how to use hyperbole and exaggeration) (Cohen 2007)
A good negotiator should have good decision making which depends on responsive and complete staff support, and managers at all levels must control the quality of this support. A distorted picture of the issues and the costs and benefits involved in a proposed policy or action, prompted by a desire to influence the decision for career or other personal interests, does not serve the organizational interest (Lewicki et al 2006). Breakdown of supervisory control at this point should carry serious consequences for those who fail to perform their duty to the organization. Again, the control process cannot eliminate informal lobbying and other forms of politicking to influence senior-level decision-makers to protect career and parochial interests (Raiffa 2005)
In sum, the negotiation process has built-in controls in the form of counterproductive effects of certain bargaining behavior and tactics. The negotiating cost these actions impose for the abuse of organizational process pressures the bargaining manager to avoid them in conducting his dialogues. Starting with dialogues to develop a commitment to the organization and ending with the proper use of mediation in conflict-resolution situations, these controls provide a discipline based on bargaining self-interest.
- Cohen, H. (1982). You Can Negotiate Anything, Bantam.
- Cohen, H. (2007). Negotiation and Selling. Web.
- Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B., Saunders, D.M. (2006). Essentials of Negotiation. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
- Raiffa, H. (2005). The Art and Science of Negotiation. Belknap Press.