Believe it or not, even the academics are beginning to see that negotiation skills, processes and procedures have utility beyond conflict resolution, grievance arbitration and collective bargaining.
Two of them, Lane Tracy, college of business administration, Ohio State, and Richard B. Peterson, graduate school of business administration, University of Washington, recently con¬ducted an extensive survey study to determine 1) what conditions support the attempt to solve problems by means of negotiation and 2) what tactics and behaviors facilitate problem solving.
Their interest stemmed from the view expressed by Richard E. Walton and Robert B. McKersie in A Behavioral Theory of Labor Negotiations (McGraw-Hill, 1965). Walton and McKersie claimed that distributive bargaining— the setting of contractual working conditions, say, and benefits— requires quite different conditions than does integrative bar¬gaining—the solving of mutual prob¬lems for mutual benefit.
The authors had speculated that integrative bargaining requires open communication. Information must be made available, ideas must be expressed freely and fully, and commitment must be withheld until sufficient alternatives have been explored. This behavior requires that the negotiators have a cooperative spirit based on mutual trust.
Distributive bargaining, the classic contract-negotiation approach, fosters the antithesis of these conditions. Tracy and Peterson wanted to find out if people who usually relate only under adversarial conditions possibly could “shift” toward cooperative behavior and, if so, under what conditions. The researchers surveyed 161 active negotiators, 65 of whom (37 management and 28 union) described themselves as chief negotiators or spokesmen. They followed the survey administration with in-depth interviews of 35 negotiators.
They asked questions about conditions prior to and during the negotiation of a contract and about behavior of the various parties during the negotiation. They also asked respondents to judge their success in achieving various objectives, such as finding solutions to mutual problems. The strongest relationship Tracy and Peterson found was between success in problem solving and respect for the other side.
If the chief negotiators for the respective sides have respect for each other and the skills of their opposite number, successful problem solving could ensue, even during a contract negotiation. Other conclusions Tracy and Peterson reached were as follows:
• Trust in the honesty of the other team and its chief negotiator is important. Both sides must believe that their opposite number will play fairly, tell the truth and keep its promise.
• The friendliness of members of each team toward the other team con¬tributes to problem solving.
• It also helps if each side accepts the legitimacy of the other side’s goals and proposals. This was particularly true for management chief negotiators.
The researchers also learned about certain within-team variables, which may be as important as between-team variables.
• The management team must have a strong, supportive relationship with its constituents. That is, its members need to feel that their efforts will be supported and will be satisfactory to the organization.
• Constituent support was not an important condition on the labor side.
• The chief negotiator must feel that he or she is personally free to take independent initiative in the negotiation.
• When the chief negotiators have sufficient authority and autonomy, effective problem solving often results when the two work on the mutual problem in private, as a special problem-solving team.
• Team organization was more important for the union side than for the management side.
• When a chief negotiator feels an imbalance of power in his or her favor, he or she is more disposed to mutual problem solving.
• Availability of full and accurate information about the problem did not affect success at problem solving.
• The only tactic that both sides related significantly to success in problem solving was exploration of subjects on an informal, noncommittal basis during the regular bargaining sessions. • Union negotiators tied success in problem solving to the discussion of feelings about a problem and the causes of it before taking a position on it.
It was particularly important that the management negotiators use these tactics. Union negotiators also relate problem-solving success to management’s ability to be clear and specific about issues. Tracy and Peterson summarize their findings this way:
“Problem solving is more likely to succeed when both sides explore subjects informally and noncommittally during the regular bargaining sessions and when both take a farsighted view. From the union point of view, problem solving is also aided by both sides discussing their feelings about a problem and the cause of it, as well as by management’s ability to state issues clearly and specifically.
Management negotiators further relate success in problem solving to exploration of subjects outside of the regular bargaining sessions and to an absence of criticism from the union negotiators.” And, based on their findings they conclude that: “Problem solving between labor and management, it appears, is an ongoing process which may occur at any time, including contract negotiations.
It is based on mutual trust and open communications. If most of the problems solved are minor ones, perhaps such minor successes are needed to build up the relationship to a point where important information can be shared.
Perhaps it is time for negotiators to begin to keep a record of their succession problem solving. The public is too little aware of the extent to which negotiations are devoted to solving problems.
When contract settlements are announced, it might be well to note the issues on which both parties feel they have gained. These final suggestions are based on the notion that, if problem solving is seen as a normal function of bargaining, it will be attempted more often.
Source : TRAINING Magazine