Abandoning the old roads of conflict in social negotiations

There is a best way of approaching negotiations and leaving decades of conflictual relationships behind us. More and more participants in such negotiations are courageous enough to abandon the old roads of conflict: putting each other under pressure, getting upset with each other and then eventually reaching an agreement because they have no other choice. That is what I call the lose/lose scenario. In such a set up employee representatives say they never get involved correctly and management sees the process as something painful and difficult, delaying the necessary changes that need to take place.

Presently many negotiations about organizational changes and restructurings are on the drawing tables so it is timely to look into this. Company and employee representatives who do this well have the capacity to look at the bigger picture. They do not just focus on the issue at hand and try to understand why they are where they are and what needs to be done to get back on track building the longer term future for their customers, employees and shareholders. They find out how to engage in a new social contract after the present negotiation, they look at work to be done as an investment into the future, even in case of layoffs or heavy restructuring. They realize this is not just an administrative process to go through, on the contrary they know it is putting in place the foundation for their future.

You don’t necessarily need to agree on everything

Effective negotiation processes are done with parties at the table who get each other involved, who get input from all around the table, who realize that those involved do not necessarily need to agree on everything, they just need to make sure they move forward together for the benefit of all stakeholders in the process. Individuals who can put their ego’s aside and focus on the essence are key to success. They inform each other correctly and communicate openly about their issues. They also make sure they do not put the other side with the back against the wall and do not have white rabbits jumping out of hats.

Surprising each other in such negotiation exercises is really not advisable. Parties need to keep their cool and need to realize that getting out of this process together, not leaving the other one behind, is the only way forward in the long term. If one stakeholder gets it all and the other one does not get anything, it is merely a matter of time before you are back at the negotiation table.

It always takes two to tango

A well negotiated and balanced deal always gets the better long term consequences. Trying to understand each  other’s position and frame of reference is crucial. At the negotiation table there is no place for people who are dogmatic, not able to listen and not able to depart from existing views on the situation.

Employee representatives most often defend the status quo, no change and no big departure from how things are happening so far. That is obviously not very realistic with the economic damage a lot of organizations are experiencing today. Leaders on the other hand very often put plans on the table they have worked for months at and do not realize that for employee representatives it is just undoable to understand and agree with them in some meetings.

It always takes two to tango. The most ideal profile for a social negotiator is just a decent human being who is able to listen, learn, share, respect differences of opinion and looking for a solution where all parties can find themselves in. It is also a person who has a sense of urgency as most of the time the topics on the table require rather fast action. Interestingly enough this is the description for both employee and management representatives at the table, there is no distinction between parties with regard to the personal characteristics they should have.

Conducting successful social negotiations is not about putting maximum pressure on the other party by for example, getting the press involved or by disrupting the service to the customer, tactics unions often use. Nor will durable agreements be reached by forcing predefined actions down the negotiation tube on the pretext that there is no alternative. When preparing for a social negotiation, think about what you would do if you were in the shoes of the other party. And however difficult things get…never lose your calm, stay focused and always keep the door open. Decisions will be taken faster and will stand the test of time better that way.