Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association Weekly (8/30/10)

This week's contents:

Topic of the Week  GRASP--The Negotiation Process, Explained

· Goals.
· Routes.
· Arguments.
· Substitutes.
· Problem-Solving.

Anyone who is a regular reader of this column knows that I'm a big fan of everyone at work becoming a better negotiator. Which reminds me of when a New Bedford, MA substitute teacher was taken to a hospital after drinking tainted iced coffee. As you can imagine, school officials were very concerned about the safety threat to its staff. Well they had to look no further than the substitute teacher himself. Turns out 27-year-old Chad Wunshel was depressed about breaking up with his girlfriend and admitted to tainting his own drink. Police charged him with filing a false police report.

This substitute teacher was too focused on his own needs as opposed to those of his students, police or hospital staff. And that is the same mistake that many of us make during negotiations, we don't put enough effort into learning what "they" need. I'll provide a framework to do this below, G.R.A.S.P. For more, check out Melanie Billings-Yen's "Beyond Dealmaking" (Jossey Bass, 2010).

Goals. The idea of starting your negotiation by figuring out your goals probably isn't news, but your goals are only one small part of the mix. There are also your company's goals. The person who you're negotiating with has goals too. And there could even be other interested parties involved: customers, vendors, etc. Rather than complicating the negotiation, knowing everyone's goals will simplify it, because instead of blindly wandering, you'll be problem-solving.

Routes. This is one of the most intriguing suggestions that Billings-Yen makes in her book. There are often many different routes for getting where you need to go. For example, there could be parts of a project that you'll willingly give up, either because you don't have the expertise or because it will cost too much for you to do it. Often this kind of horse-trading can get both sides exactly where they need to go. But as long as everyone keeps their cards so close to their chests, you'll never learn how you can really help each other.

Arguments. Not that kind of argument, this approach involves really listening to their explanations so that you can find common ground. Admit it, most of us spend most of our mental energy when someone else is talking preparing our rebuttal, not really listening to understand their concerns and to see how they can be addressed.

Substitutes. This involves one of my favorite ideas, a "tri-lemma." Rushworth Kidder developed this concept. We all know a dilemma, that's where both sides are locked in a fight because one side wants "A" while the other side wants "B." However, often there is a "C" and even sometimes a "D" option. But that involves real dialogue and a greater level of openness.

Problem-Solving. Even the most elegant solution often has implementation challenges. That's why it is so important to spend time problem solving to ensure that the solution is really a fit for both sides.

Follow these tips and your next negotiation won't be tainted, it will identify a solution that works for everyone.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Thought of the Week

"Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal."

–Karl Albrecht

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