Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I must admit that there are many things that I enjoy doing as a manager, yet negotiation is not on my list. The term always reminds me of some unpleasant associations that occurred in the past.
Do not misunderstand me; I know to negotiate. Sometimes I benefit, sometimes I loose. Like in other issues on life, we experience both. However, knowing I have to negotiate does not turn me happy.

Negotiation is a process we carry on for thousands of years, from the early days of history. We tend to relate it to commerce, however almost every discussion between two people or groups, no matter on what issue, includes some negotiation.

As this blog deals with managing people, I wish to examine the issue of negotiation through this perspective of negotiating with employees.

The first negotiation we handle as managers with the employee occurs even before s/he starts to work; we negotiate with the potential employee regarding his/her salary and terms. As I believe that negotiation turns on bad associations, not only to me, rather to many people, I believe that negotiating with the new employee to be, is not such a good idea:
If I set the employee down from his requests, even if from the correct reasons, the employee can live years with the feeling that s/he have lost.
If I accede, wishing to start the relationship with best feeling, people will hear and know, and I will find it more difficult to stand on what I think is right in the future.
Even, if after negotiation, we will compromise and reach agreement, the employee may always stay uncertain, thinking that if s/he only argued more, or maybe using other tactics, thing would end in a different manner.
As I am in the working business already several decades, not always running a business of my own, I can say that as an employee, I think I experienced all three scenarios...
Coming back to the starting point: good it is not.

What is the alternative? I try to lessen, as much as possible, situations of negotiation with employees. Negotiation outside the organization is possible, sometimes even a must, but inside the organization- less is better; less times; less powerful.

How do I manage?

With potential employees, having the issue so sensitive (salary), and having the time so sensitive (trust has not yet been established), I avoid negotiation at all. I listen to the employee, and evaluate his/her abilities, knowledge and experience in comparison to existing employees in the organization, offering a fair salary, as I understand, relative to the others. Working this way, I benefit twice: Once with the potential new employee, preventing the negotiation; in addition, towards all other employees, knowing that someone else does not earn more than they do as s/he argued better.
Do I also loose? Of course I do. It is naïve to think otherwise.

However, this was only one process in the lifetime of many processes and many situations. As much as I may wish to avoid negotiation at all, I know it is both wrong and impossible. Every person has his/her opinions, interests and ways in which s/he understands life. Negotiation is necessary.

A few tips I use when negotiating:

First, I remind myself that negotiation is a process of trade: give and take. If I entered a negotiation, obviously, I will have to give something. I think in advance, what I am willing to give and where do I put my limits.

I manage the negotiation openly and fair: Openly- sharing the person I am negotiating with, in early stages of the conversation, where I am willing to concede; fair- suggesting limits that I think are fair (and I know I am subjective), not biased, even if I have an advantage point.

I know that I am willing to pay for results. Doing this is not as simple as it may sound, but it puts me in a better position. If I leave for a minute the manger-employee relationship, a good example demonstrating this is negotiating on a working contract with a potential customer. I start the negotiation, knowing my red lines, knowing they are fair for both sides, and knowing that if I loose the contract, because the other side insists on moving the line, it is OK with me. I do not work if the price is not reasonable.

I listen to the other side, trying to have a professional, yet pleasant and calm conversation. Many researches have been conducted, teaching that handling negotiations with positive feelings, may only help. We know it is indeed true. Nevertheless, there are situations in life where conversation turns loudly. In some occasions, this happens without control, in other situations, as a way to impress and pass a message. No matter why this happens, it is important to bring the conversation back to positive atmosphere and as soon as possible.

And always, but always, I try not to take the anger to far in any negotiation. Also if I seem angry, also if I feel angry, always I remember the positive things I know regarding the person I am negotiating with and try to go back to base line positive atmosphere.

I also know that negotiation is the bridge to agreement. Therefore, it is not as horrible as it may seem.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Life is never only routine. It is full of wins and loses. Winning is usually related to competition against somebody else. Winning is related to zero-sum games; I win, therefore somebody lost. This is different than success that is not relative to somebody else but focuses on the achievement.
The first asociation that comes to mind when thinking about winning is wars. The six-day war win (1967); the Hasmonaim win that Jews celebrate on Hanuke (winning 2000 years ago); the American win in the Gulf war etc.

However, the concept of winning is no stranger to organization and business life. You can win a bid for a new contract and you can win a business lawsuit. Usually, in everyday life, in organizations you win a debate.
Debating is natural; It is natural that different people will have different interests, different perceptions, and, sometimes, only different reality interpretation that leads to different conclusions.
The thing is that when we debate, be it a customer, employee, colleague or a new applicant, we sometimes digress from debating and decision making to a competition that ends with some people feeling they "won" while others feel they have "lost".
Naturally, I love winning, as a person and as a manager. If there is a win-lose situation, I'd rather be on the winning side.

2,000 years ago the term "Pyrhus Victory" was coined – a victory that is actually a defeat. Pyrhus was king of Epirus who won the 279BC Asculum war with the Romans (thanks to Wikipedia). When congratulated for his achievement, Pyrhus said: "one more such victory would utterly undo me". This reply was due to the loss of most of his army and some of his best friends and senior officers in the battle. I think that today, in the 21th century, some of the victories we experience against those closest to us – customers, employees and colleagues – have a lot of loss in them.
How come? Every time we achieve something, and somebody else feels that he lost because of out achievement, then in fact we lost as well. The other person is bitter, maybe angry, and his pride might be hurt. Going back to military jargon, we can say that we won the battle but lost the war.
What do I suggest? No way should we chose an "always give up" policy. It is contrary to human nature as well as a bad business approach. It is nice to suggest a "Win-Win" strategy, but this cannot always be practical. Hereby are a number of tips:
First, try to balance. Give up sometimes, if the loss is not too expensive, in order to give the other person a good feeling.
Second, look for "gray" solutions. Furthermore, even when the answers are very clear, you can, and sometimes should, create ambiguity and gray shades in the way you communicate these answers.
We must not forget, however, that sometimes the bottom line is important and sometimes we want to put the other person in his right place, even at a "lose" feeling on his part. In those situations, it is vital that we are aware and willing to pay the price of the other's "lose".
In no case, no matter what, do not brag. Remember this is zero-sum game and bragging can cause bad feeling of the other.
One last tip: "Winning is a dangerous intoxication" (Echad Haam). Take care.