– 27 --
Power at Play in Negotiations:
Moves and Turns
Deborah M. Kolb & Jessica L. Porter
Editors’ Note: Workplace negotiations take place in many forms, including informal “n-negotiations” which help people create buy-in for their ideas, advocate for new projects and opportunities, develop new work schedules, and get credit (and compensation) for their work. When we negotiate over these issues, we are likely to encounter resistance from others who may be quite content with current operations. Kolb and Porter examine the types of strategic moves people use in these “n-negotiations”, which can put others in a defensive position, and how those moves can play on social identity stereotypes and reinforce power dynamics in the workplace. The authors offer strategies for turn-ing moves to maintain power and to shift negotiations to create moments of learning and transformation.
Menacingly, [the Chinese negotiator] leaned forward across the table toward Barshefsky and said flatly, “It’s take it or leave it.” Barshefsky, taken aback by his harsh tone, surprised her counterpart by sitting quietly. She waited 30-40 seconds—an eternity given the intensity of the negotiation, especially for an American—and came back with a measured reply: “If the choice is take it or leave it, of course I’ll leave it. But I can’t imagine that’s what you meant. I think what you meant is that you’d like me to think over your last offer and that we can continue tomorrow.”
Sebenius and Hulse (2001: 10-11)
In the normal byplay of negotiations, people say things that can throw you off balance. We call these “strategic moves” (Kolb and Williams 2000). U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky faced such a strategic move during trade negotiations with China over intellectual property when the Chinese negotiator made a threat that the negotiation was over. Yet Barshefsky didn’t respond to the threat by issuing a counter-threat; rather she turned the move, first by using silence to interrupt the negotiation, then by reframing the Chinese negotiator’s threat so she could drive the negotiations forward. These kinds of moves and turns are the subject of this chapter.
James Sebenius (2012) has a related concept, which he calls the “hardest question.” Coming in several varieties, these are the questions you don’t want to have to answer. They might be innocent questions, or they could be strategic questions intended to throw you off guard, such as “How can we be sure your family responsibilities won’t get in the way of you doing your job?” Or “Aren’t you too inexperienced for us to risk giving you this contract?” They’re questions that call for a response; some might even ask you to provide what you consider confidential information: “What is the minimum salary you would take?” Or “What other offers do you have?”
This paper focuses particularly on those types of questions and statements that, usually by design, could cause you to become defensive. Because these moves can make you feel defensive and questioning of yourself, they can make it challenging to pursue the options you’ve proposed. If the negotiation is to continue, such moves need to be turned, as Barshefsky did with her silence and reframing.
Strategic moves happen in all negotiations. However, in our recent work on informal negotiations that take place at work, what we call n-negotiations, we have seen that moves are often related to the kinds of issues that are raised (Kolb and Porter 2015). In the first section of this...
For full contents please purchase The Negotiator’s Desk Reference.
Barrett, F. J. 2004. Critical Moments as ‘Change’ in Negotiation. Negotiation Journal 20: 213-219.
Bowles, H. R., B. Thomason and J. Bear. August 2013. Women’s Career Negotiations. Presentation delivered at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Brzezinski, M. 2010. Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth. New York: Weinstein Books.
Cobb, S. 2006. A Developmental Approach to Turning Points: Irony as an Ethics for Negotiation Pragmatics. Harvard Negotiation Law Review 11: 147-197.
De Dreu, C. K. W. 1995. Coercive Power and Concession Making in Bilateral Negotiation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 39: 646-670.
Fisher, R., W. L. Ury and B. Patton. 2011. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York: Penguin.
Gherardi, S. 1996. Gender, Symbolism, and Organizational Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ifert, D. E. and M. E. Roloff. 1997. Overcoming Expressed Obstacles to Compliance: The Role of Sensitivity to the Expressions of Others and Ability to Modify Self-Presentation. Communication Quarterly 45: 55-67.
Kolb, D. M. and J. L. Porter. 2015. Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kolb, D. M. and J. Williams. 2000. The Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kolb, D. M. and J. Williams. 2003. Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Meyerson, D. 2003. Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
Sebenius, J. K. 2012. Are You Ready for the ‘Hardest Question?’. Negotiation Newsletter 15: 4-5.
Sebenius, J. K. and R. Hulse. 2001. Charlene Barshefsky (B). Harvard Business School case: 10-11.
Wheeler, Michael. 2013. The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World. New York: Simon & Schuster.