Negotiating in Life February 20, 2013

Maximizing Win-Win Satisfaction for Both Parties

This is the story of a long term relationship and what happened to it. It concerns my gardener Jose. The situation, though small in scale, reflects the dangers inherent in any relationship which continues over a period of time.

Four years ago, my previous gardener retired. This, we thought, was fortunate because he hadn’t been doing his work. He was growing old and had slowed down over the years. I proceeded to look for a new gardener. During the next month, I interviewed five men, showed them about the premises and explained in detail what was to be done. When you hire a gardener you have to select someone who is not only competent but honest since he will often be on the premises when you are away. After considerable effort, I selected Jose. It was a relief to get it over with.

The trouble began when Jose’s quality began to slip about six months after we hired him. He spent too much time on what wasn’t needed and too little on what was. One thing he did well was to take care of my wife’s roses. From her point of view, Jose was satisfactory, but not from mine. It seemed wise to talk things over.

We talked not once, but many times. Three years later, I was still trying to correct the situation but to no avail. Why, after so long a time, did I still retain him?

There are many reasons and inertia was one of them. Of course, his work was still marginal, but we were used to it by then. He had reduced our expectations. Less is what we aspired to, and less is what we got. Every month as I wrote him a check, I promised myself to search for another gardener. But it was such a chore I put it off until next month.

Another reason was organizational. I preferred to lay him off, but my organization wouldn’t hear of it. Because of his success with the roses, he had won my wife’s allegiance and friendship. Whenever I wanted to say “go” she told me “no.” So the downhill relationship with Jose went on like this for years. It seemed like it would go on forever unless one of three things happened: if he quit, if I sold my house or if we tried to do something we hadn’t tried before to make it work.

Is there a relationship like this in your life that needs improvement?

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VICE PRESIDENT at GE

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PLANNER at HONEYWELL

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Stuart B.
CONTRACTS MANAGER at HEWLETT-PACKARD
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