Unspoken, subtle parts of a bargaining process--also known as the shadow negotiation--can set the tone for a successful negotiation. Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams, whose book The Shadow Negotiation was the starting point for this article, say there are three strategies businesspeople can use to guide these hidden interactions. Power moves are used when two negotiating parties hold unequal power--for instance, subordinates and bosses; new and existing employees; and people of different races, ages, or genders. These strategies, such as casting the status quo in an unfavorable light, can help parties realize that they must negotiate: they will be better off if they do and worse off if they don't. Process moves affect how negotiation issues are received by both sides in the process, even though they do not address substantive issues.
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Sometimes the hardest part of an informal negotiation is persuading the other side to deal with the issues. Everyone struggles with it at some point. When others are making decisions without your input or dismissing your ideas, shape negotiation agendas and dynamics to increase your effectiveness.
Negotiation was once considered an art practiced by the naturally gifted. To some extent it still is, but increasingly we in the business world have come to regard negotiation as a science—built on creative approaches to deal making that allow everyone to walk away winners of sorts. Nevertheless, some negotiations stall or, worse, never get off the ground. Whose opinions will be heard? In short, how will bargainers deal with each other?
The shadow negotiation is most obvious when the participants hold unequal power—say, subordinates asking bosses for more resources or new employees engaging with veterans about well-established company policies. Similarly, managers who, because of their race, age, or gender, are in the minority in their companies may be at a disadvantage in the shadow negotiation. Excluded from important networks, they may not have the personal clout, experience, or organizational standing to influence other parties.
Even when the bargainers are peers, a negotiation can be blocked or stalled—undermined by hidden assumptions, unrealistic expectations, or personal histories. An unexamined shadow negotiation can lead to silence, not satisfaction.
Our research identified strategic levers—we call them power moves, process moves, and appreciative moves—that executives can use to guide the shadow negotiation. In situations in which the other person sees no compelling need to negotiate, power moves can help bring him or her to the table. And when talks stall because the other party feels pushed or misunderstandings cloud the real issues, appreciative moves can alter the tone or atmosphere so that a more collaborative exchange is possible.
In the informal negotiations common in the workplace, one of the parties can be operating from a one-down position. The other bargainer, seeing no apparent advantage in negotiating, stalls.
Phone calls go unanswered. The meeting keeps being postponed or, if it does take place, a two-way conversation never gets going. Ideas are ignored or overruled, demands dismissed. Such resistance is a natural part of the informal negotiation process.
Willingness to negotiate is, therefore, a confession of mutual need. As a result, a primary objective in the shadow negotiation is fostering the perception of mutual need.
Bargainers can use three kinds of power moves. Incentives emphasize the proposed value to the other person and the advantage to be gained from negotiating. Pressure levers underscore the consequences to the other side if stalling continues. And the third power move, enlisting allies, turns up the volume on the incentives or on the pressure. In any negotiation, the other party controls something the bargainer needs: money, time, cooperation, communication, and so on. The other side must recognize that benefits will accrue from the negotiation.
High-tech executive Fiona Sweeney quickly recognized this dynamic when she tried to initiate informal talks about a mission-critical organizational change.
We became aware of the shadow negotiation as we interviewed, over a five-year period, more than executive women to probe their work experiences in formal and informal negotiations. We spoke with lawyers and bankers, accountants and entrepreneurs, consultants and marketers, project managers and account executives across a range of industries and organizational types. After describing these scenarios, the women wanted to talk with us not only about what worked and why but also about how they might have better handled challenging situations.
The shadow negotiation is where issues of parity, or the equivalence of power, get settled. And parity—its presence or absence—determines to a great extent whether a negotiation takes place at all and on what terms.
The company operated through a collection of fiefdoms, with little coordination even on major accounts. Production scrambled to meet unrealistic schedules; budgets and quality suffered. Sweeney had neither the authority nor the inclination to order sales and production to cooperate.
And as a newcomer to corporate headquarters, her visibility and credibility were low. Sweeney needed a sweetener to bring sales and production together. First, she made adjustments to the billing process, reducing errors from 7. Almost immediately, her stock shot up with both of the divisions. By demonstrating her value to sales and production, Sweeney encouraged the two division managers to work with her on improving their joint decision-making process.
A single strategic move seldom carries the day. In combination, however, such moves can jump—start workplace negotiations and keep them moving toward resolution. Consider the case of Fiona Sweeney, the new operations chief introduced earlier in this article. She had neither the authority nor the personal inclination to order the sales and production divisions of her company to cooperate.
Instead, she fashioned a series of strategic moves designed to influence the negotiations. Power Moves. Having established her credibility with sales by increasing the turnaround time on expense-account reimbursements, Sweeney knew she needed to up the ante for maintaining the status quo, which created hardships for production and was frustrating customers.
It was particularly important to bring pressure to bear on the sales division, since the informal reward systems, and many of the formal ones, currently worked to its benefit.
To disturb the equilibrium, Sweeney began to talk in management meetings about a bonus system that would penalize the sales division whenever it promised more than production could deliver. Rather than immediately acting on this threat, however, she suggested creating a cross-divisional task force to explore the issues. Not surprisingly, sales was eager to be included. Process Moves. Sweeney then moved to exert control over the agenda and build support for the changes she and the CEO envisioned.
Soon they developed a common agenda and began working in concert to stem the influence of sales in senior staff meetings. On one occasion, for example, Sweeney proposed assigning a low priority to orders that had not been cleared by the operations subgroup. Quality control and production roundly supported the suggestion, which was soon implemented. Through these process moves, Sweeney built a coalition that shaped the subsequent negotiations. But she did something more.
Power and process moves often provoke resistance from the other side. Sweeney prevented resistance from becoming entrenched within the sales division through a series of appreciative moves.
Appreciative Moves. Most important, Sweeney never forced any of the players into positions where they would lose face. By using a combination of strategic moves, she helped the sales division realize that change was coming and that it would be better off helping to shape the change than blocking it. With better product quality and delivery times, sales actually made more money, and production no longer had the burden of delivering on unrealistic promises generated by sales.
Customers—and the CEO—were all happy. Creating value and making it visible are key power moves in the shadow negotiation. The benefits must be made explicit if they are to have any impact on the shadow negotiation.
When value disappears, so do influence and bargaining power. The same love affair carries over into ordinary negotiations in the workplace. When people believe that a negotiation has the potential to produce bad results for them, they are naturally reluctant to engage on the issues. Until the costs of not negotiating are made explicit, ducking the problem will be the easier or safer course. To unlock the situation, the status quo must be perceived as less attractive. By exerting pressure, the bargainer can raise the cost of business-as-usual until the other side begins to see that things will get worse unless both sides get down to talking.
That is exactly what Karen Hartig, one of the women in our study, did when her boss dragged his heels about giving her a raise. Not only had she been promoted without additional pay, but she was now doing two jobs because the first position had never been filled. Although her boss continued to assure her of his support, nothing changed. The resulting job offer provided her with enough leverage to unfreeze the talks with her boss.
No longer could he afford to maintain the status quo. By demonstrating that she had another alternative, she gave him the push—and the justification—he needed to argue forcefully on her behalf with his boss and with human resources.
Another party may not see sufficient benefits to negotiating, or the potential costs may not be high enough to compel a change of mind. When incentives and pressure levers fail to move the negotiation forward, a bargainer can enlist the help of allies.
Allies are important resources in shadow negotiations. They can be crucial in establishing credibility, and they lend tangible support to incentives already proposed. At a minimum, their confidence primes the other party to listen and raises the costs of not negotiating seriously. The matter was particularly sensitive, however, because it required the consent of the wing commander, two levels up the chain of command.
If Riley approached the commander directly, he risked making his immediate superior look bad since his responsibilities covered readiness planning. To bridge that difficulty, Riley presented a draft proposal to his immediate superior. Once aware of the problem, Riley and his superior anticipated some of the objections the commander might raise and then alerted the wing commander to the general difficulties posed by such situations. Rather than attempt to influence the shadow negotiation directly through power moves, a bargainer can exercise another kind of strategic move, the process move.
Designed to influence the negotiation process itself, such moves can be particularly effective when bargainers are caught in a dynamic of silencing—when decisions are being made without their input or when colleagues interrupt them during meetings, dismiss their comments, or appropriate their ideas.
While process moves do not address the substantive issues in a negotiation, they directly affect the hearing those issues receive. When ideas catch people off guard, they can produce negative, defensive reactions, as can ideas presented too forcefully.
Joe Lopez faced this dilemma. Lopez, a fast-track engineer who tended to promote his ideas vigorously in planning meetings, began to notice that his peers were tuning him out—a serious problem since departmental resources were allocated in these sessions. To remedy the situation, Lopez scheduled one-on-one lunch meetings with his colleagues.
She has examined the intersection of leadership, negotiation, and gender, to better understand how women can negotiate for the conditions that will allow them to lead successfully. Fifty per cent of the talent pool for leadership roles is systemically under-represented. When women hold leadership roles it is still seen by many as worthy of remark. Since , she has held the chair with Emerita status. They will be promoting their opinions, and trying to win the co-operation of the other person. This shadow negotiation often determines the outcome of the primary bargaining process, yet women often fare poorly here, no matter how well prepared they are for the structured negotiating process. The research that Kolb and Williams present, in their book, suggests three strategic levers to guide the shadow negotiation.
Harvard Business Review on Winning Negotiations by Harvard Business Review
Negotiation was once considered an artpracticed by the naturally gifted. To some extent it still is, but increasingly we in the business world have come to regard negotiation as a science—built on creative approaches to deal making that allow everyone to walk away winners of sorts. Nevertheless, some negotiations stall or, worse, never get off the ground. Whose opinions will be heard?
Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation
Below are the available bulk discount rates for each individual item when you purchase a certain amount. Publication Date: February 01, Unspoken, subtle parts of a bargaining process--also known as the shadow negotiation--can set the tone for a successful negotiation. Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams, whose book The Shadow Negotiation was the starting point for this article, say there are three strategies businesspeople can use to guide these hidden interactions. Power moves are used when two negotiating parties hold unequal power.