Two or more team members enter into a negotiation. They are trying to reach a consensus on how to resolve a problem facing them. Their viewpoints differ. Each specializes in something different. Each is motivated in part by personal interests. Both would like to resolve the matter dividing them and complete the project successfully.
Why should we care so much about their relationship to one another? In the book, A Behavioral Theory of Labor Relations, it says:
“Two parties negotiate. The negotiating process shapes the division of the product of their joint efforts. The negotiation process also facilitates the resolution of joint problems and the integration of their interests. A third result of the negotiation process is a maintenance or restructuring of the relationship of the participants toward each other.”
Whatever the issue, the parties come to the negotiation with attitudes toward one another. The bargaining process is affected by their relationship, be it good or bad. Whether they like, trust and respect each other mediates their every offer and counteroffer, their responses and positions, and of course their strategies and approaches.
How they treat each other as the negotiating session proceeds then affects their initial relationship for better or worse. Negotiators wary of each other as talks start may change is the other person is candid and open during the process. Respect can grow or diminish as each party exchanges viewpoints.
A negotiation within a negotiation is taking place as they talk. The parties, while discussing and exchanging ideas on the issues, are re-establishing their relationship. At the end of the process they may think well of the other or wish never to work with them again.
Three basic rules govern the relationship mode and deserve a place in a negotiator’s planning and preparation kit.
- The relationship that exists between the parties affects how they will act at the table and the behaviors, strategies and tactics they will employ.
- What one or the other does or says during the talks has an effect on the attitude and behavior of the other as talks progress.
- The relationship between parties not only affects the outcome of their bargaining but also, in a reciprocal way, the outcome and how it was reached affect their willingness to abide by the agreement and their future negotiations.