Differences are rarely easy to settle even when both sides have the best intentions. They are, however, easier to settle if an enabling climate of negotiation exists. Three factors play a major role in creating such a climate: where and when the talks occur, how emotional factors are handled and the degree to which those at the table are heard and listened to. If these factors are implemented, the meeting will go better. If not, the differences between the parties grow rather than diminish.
A quiet, appropriate place and time to talk is essential. One would think that such a suggestion is only common sense. But I have seen some career-tipping internal negotiations conducted in the midst of clattering machinery, on busy stairways, and in crowded offices surrounded by curious listeners. Important meetings in today’s busy world are subject to frequent interruptions. That setting is no place to negotiate or decide anything.
Sufficient time must be set aside to discuss major issues. Time tends to follow the 90-10 rule. Ninety percent of the time will be spent on minor points and ten percent on important matters. Time must be managed at any negotiation. Where critical matters are at stake an agenda should be negotiated and agreed to in advance. It takes good management skill to set up and run an effective session.
A good negotiating climate must also deal with controlling emotional outbursts. Emotional outbursts are not uncommon in the workplace but occur more often in commercial buy-sell transactions. There, people feel less constrained to say what they please than in the office where they have to work with others on a daily basis. Nevertheless, unwelcome outbursts do occur at meetings and workplace negotiations that serve to disrupt ongoing dealings by making it more difficult to resolve problems peacefully. Managers must find ways to reduce these bursts of anger.
Team leaders as well as all team members have a crucial role in diminishing emotional impediments. They must jointly insist that any outburst stop immediately regardless of whose dies or view is favored. The time to silence such outbursts is the moment harsh words arise. When members of the group collectively accept responsibility for keeping control of outbursts they will cease before they damage everyone there.
The same can be said for insisting that everyone who has something to say is given the opportunity to do so. Each person at the meeting has a part is assuring that the right of others to be listened to not be impinged upon by snide remarks or negative body language. All at the session have a role in cutting highly emotional behavior short.
If organizers fail to actively structure the time and place of talks, the issues to be covered, steps to diffuse dysfunctional emotional outbursts and techniques to foster open communication, then the climate of negotiation inevitably has a reduced chance of achieving meaningful results.