I can hear you but I can’t understand you

“Negotiation is a process in which two or more parties exchange goods or services and attempt to agree on the exchange rate for them”

            Robbins (2005:435)

In real life scenarios, all negations are similar; they involve people taking initial positions, offering proposals, counter proposals, and concessions, until finally, coming to an agreement. Academics, such as Walton & McKersie (1965), identify two different types of negotiation behaviour: distributive and integrative bargaining strategies.

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Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.09.26Distributive bargaining emphasizes individual gains, where sources are viewed as limited and everyone wants to claim their share of the pie. People negotiating in this way view the other parties as “the enemy” to be defeated. The negotiation’s aim is not to find an alternative solution that would benefit both parties, but to agree upon a solution between the target point (what they would like to achieve) and the resistance point (what is the lowest outcome they would accept).

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 11.11.19Integrative bargaining emphasizes joint gains by engaging in cooperative problem solving with the ultimate goal to expand the pie, so there is more for everyone. In this case negotiators view the other party as a partner or a teammate. Resources are not seen as limited, so the pie must not be shared.  The bargaining is seen as an opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box in order to make the pie bigger.

I think we all agree when I say that the integrative bargaining is the right negotiation behaviour to use when dealing with conflict. This type of resolution will help building long-term relationships and trust between the parties.

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When negotiating, is important to keep in mind the three steps of principled negotiation:

  • Separate the people from the problem. Even thought they are the cause of it, that doesn’t mean they are the problem.
  • Focus on interests, not positions. Sometimes people take positions that do not reflect their real interest; when bargaining, try to focus on what you need and not what you want.
  • Be creative! You have to brainstorm and think at every possible solution that can get you to a resolution. Just after you considered all your options, you can agree upon what’s best for both parties.

The key to all this is two-way communication.

How frustrating is to talk to somebody and to realise that they are not listening or not understanding what you are trying to say? When you negotiate with somebody, be sure both of you are on the same page. Is fundamental to make to other party understand your point of view. Remember that, responsibility for the answer lies with the individual and that different people require different ways to communicate; so when you negotiate ask yourself: I am asking the right question?

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Me and myself in conflict

Today, while I was surfing the Internet for interesting news to blog about, I have found this YouTube video from UTMcCombsSchool.

The video focuses on the concept that conflicts of interest are present in every aspect of society. Sometimes individuals’ best interests conflict with their professional responsibilities.

Professional Responsibility + Personal Interest = Unethical Behaviour

How would you behave in a similar situation? Would you take advantage of the situation in order to benefit from it or would you be faithful to your professional responsibilities? Furthermore, where is the line between ethical and unethical behaviour?

What’s your conflict resolution approach?

People do not enjoy arguing with others. In the work environment, we all try to maintain a good relationship between colleagues. This is because conflict is perceived as dysfunctional. People believe conflict hinders organisational performance and dealing with it is an uncomfortable necessity.

Research has also shown that 18-26% of a manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict resolution. This is a lot of time spent on an aspect that most don’t find enjoyable! Unfortunately, however, it’s not something that can be ignored. Furthermore, we all know how frustrating is working in an environment where everybody ignores the ‘elephant’ in the middle of the room and keeps on behaving as everything is just fine.


What we have to do in this kind of situations is embrace and deal with conflict. This can enhance the understanding between employees and brings motivating energy, leading to higher productivity. This is what Taffinder (1998) defines functional conflict. Nevertheless, there are several ways people deal with disagreements, which not always lead to functional conflict.

Image1. Competing                                               “I know what’s right. Don’t question my judgement or authority.”

A person that approaches conflict in a competing way will risk to cause hard feelings among colleagues if is the price to achieve their objective, making the other party feel defeated.

Image 2. Avoiding                                                  “I am neutral on this issue. That’s someone else’s problem.”

By not facing a disagreement you will create tension in the workplace. As said before, it is useless to try to avoid the elephant in the room; sooner or later, you will have to face it anyway.


3. Compromising                                    “Let’s reach for a solution we can both live with so we can get on with our work”

The compromising person will approach conflict with the desire to avoid bitter feelings and achieve effective solutions .


4. Accommodating                                 “How can I help you feel good about this? My position isn’t so important that it is worth risking bad feelings between us.”

The accommodating person will do whatever it takes to maintain a harmonious relationship in the workplace.

Image5. Collaborating                                      “This is my position, what is yours? Let’s find the best possible solution.”

This is the case in which the problem is more likely to be resolved with all of the involved parts feeling satisfied and treated fairly.

(Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010)

What’s your conflict resolution approach?


Conflict is synonym of: battle, clash, collision, combat, competition, contention, contest, fracas, fray, rivalry, struggle, war. From a business perspective, is defined by Huczynski & Buchanan (2010), as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.

What is the concept YOU would associate conflict with?

war fight Image: Two Afghan burqa-clad women walk along a street in Kabul on May 6 bully-21-300x195

Most of us, when hear the word conflict, associate it with negative images. Traditionally, in the business world, is seen as bad for organisations and represents behaviour that should be controlled or repressed. Even more, Mullins (2006) affirms that it may cause emotional and physical stress to people involved in conflicting situations. However, most of the time, people respond to the perceived threat, rather than to the true threat.

Consider a scenario in which a company releases a new product on the market. The Financial Director and the Creative Director will have totally different ideas regarding the launch. The first one will see it in terms of money, profit, investment, while the second will consider it as an opportunity to be innovative and create a successful campaign. In this case, the difference in perception of what success is leads to conflict.

In these situations, it is necessary to think out of the box and out of your vision. This can act as an agent for evolution and improve the organisation’s strategy. It will also help to enlarge your horizons.

Here are some tips that will help you seeing conflict as a constructing force:

  1. Take responsibility for resolving the problem
  2. Agree to be open and honest
  3. Make the others feel that they would have their saying and you will hear them
  4. Listen objectively and not for feedback
  5. Ask open-ended questions to understand their point of view
  6. Summarize their words to prove you are actively listening
  7. Be willing to compromise. Nobody will have their way entirely!