Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Negotiating a deal

November 16th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I am in the market for a new car.  Some people might think this would be an exciting prospect. For me, it has been painful.  Cars are a necessary evil.  I need one because I work 40 km from home and I have two young children who walk at the speed of molasses.  And here begins my journey.  I have chosen the car and now we need to negotiate a good deal.  In doing so, I recognize some of my strengths and weaknesses in negotiations.

I teach negotiations to undergraduate university students.  Early in the year we cover some basics – there are two main types of negotiations, distributive and integrative.  In distributive negotiations there is a win-lose framework.  There are limited resources so any value gained by one player is lost by the other.  In integrative negotiations there is the potential for trades offs, collaboration, and creativity.  There is an opportunity for everyone to leave the negotiating table feeling as though they have benefited.  Most negotiations in life fall into the second category, integrative.  Sadly, at least for me, buying a car is clearly distributive.  I have to give up money and all I get in return is a stinky car – lose, lose.

To be successful in distributive negotiations you need to do your homework – research the value of the negotiated item, get a sense of the ‘bottom line’ for your counterpart, and during the negotiation, be ready to claim value.  This causes me some discomfort because there is limited room in distributive negotiations for my skill set.  My success in bargaining comes from ongoing relationships, problem solving, and dispute resolution.  These skills can be useful in distributive negotiations but you certainly do not get your bang for your buck.  So I have fallen back on another key skills – know when to contract out to a third party.

In negotiations you need to know when you should be negotiating or when you should farm the job out to an agent.  One of the reasons you might hand over the lead in negotiations is that you just don’t care enough.  So, in walks my husband.  He loves cars and is entirely invested in me driving a car that is safe, of good value, and reliable.  Our interests are entirely aligned and he will get great joy out of negotiating a deal – win, win!  Perhaps my ability to leverage relationships is proving to be an asset in this negotiation after all!


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