At a party the other night, I heard an amusing story that went as follows: the little brother would demand two coins from his sister in exchange for one coin. The big sister, being older and therefore a bit more savy, would hand over two five cent coins in return for his one dollar coin. The Dad remarked that his son had the worlds’ largest collection of five cent coins; while the sister was slowly getting rich.
In the midst of plenty of talk about negotiation tactics given the Qantas dispute – I thought this a simple but effective reminder about what negotiation should be about when it works best – and that is that both parties walk away feeling happy and feeling that their needs have been met. It’s not always about equal value; it’s about what is actually valued by both parties.
Sometimes as negotiators, we get so caught up in the game of winning, in the tactics of it all, that we forget what negotiation is actually about – it is about getting a result and moving forward, hopefully with the relationship not just in tact but hopefully even stronger.
This does not mean mean capitulating or giving in. It does not mean agreeing to ridiculous or unreasonable demands. It does not mean agreeing to demands that do not meet the needs of the business.
And of course, sometimes a negotiation is not a negotiation at all – but an enabler of a strategy such as union busting.
But if it is a genuine negotiation; if it is intended that there will be a longer term relationship between the parties and so retaining trust is important; if the paralysis of a dispute means that time, energy and money is diverted away from the real business of running a business: then we could all do well to remember the story above and go back to the basics.