– 99 --
Allies in Negotiation
Editors’ Note: In a thought-provoking book, Mayer analyzed new roles that experienced mediators and other conflict specialists might play, and suggested that they think more broadly about how they can best assist disputants. Here, he focuses specifically on how negotiators can enlist these specialists as allies instead of as third party neutrals. Just for openers, this could help you to get a complex negotiation framed properly, or to approach the other side in ways that will put them in the right frame of mind. But a decade after first analyzing the possible roles, Mayer has extended the reach of the underlying idea to a long list of “ally” roles which today often go unfilled—to the negotiator’s and principals’ disadvantage.
Arden is the principal of a private school in the Midwest. Several years ago the faculty was engaged in a rancorous discussion about policies regarding admission criteria. A division existed between the “old guard” who wanted admission based solely on grades and aptitude test scores, with a weighting for the academic standing of previous schools, and those who argued for a broader set of criteria, including diversity. Arden was in a complicated role conflict since she was a critical party to these discussions, a facilitator of faculty meetings, and a decision maker. She had a strong personal view that diversity needed to be included as a criterion, but felt that voicing that belief would undermine her role as a facilitator and leader of the whole faculty. I had been working with her as an advisor on a number of issues, mostly concerning personnel decisions, but she wondered if in this circumstance it might be appropriate for me to act as facilitator. After several conversations, we decided that it was best that I remain as her advisor, her ally, as she continued to both participate in and facilitate the negotiations among the faculty about this issue. She needed someone who was her “go to” person on these issues, and I felt I could be more effective in that role than as an outside facilitator.
As conflict professionals, how can we be most effective in promoting productive, constructive, and ethical negotiations? Historically, the conflict resolution field has taken three approaches to this. We have provided negotiation training; we have helped design negotiation procedures; and we have provided third parties to conduct negotiation processes. All of these can be valuable contributions—but they are also relatively sparsely used in the universe of significant negotiations. Often the most effective—and available—role for a conflict specialist is as a support person to negotiators. In the above scenario, while I had the opportunity to intervene as a third party, I chose a different role, for two reasons. Given my prior work with the principal, I felt that I would have to expend a great deal of time and perhaps credibility to gain acceptance in the facilitator role, and in doing so I might have undercut the capacity of the principal to exert the kind of leadership the school was looking for at that point. But more important, I thought I could play a more powerful and effective role by working to enhance the principal’s capacity to meet the demands of being simultaneously a leader, a negotiator, and a facilitator.
Negotiators need allies, and the support that is available to them is often limited in scope and sometimes counterproductive. The allies that are most frequently available are substantive experts, particularly legal professionals, or non-involved emotional supporters. What is often missing in this picture is someone who can assist the negotiator by taking a systemic look at the conflict, who has a clear understanding of negotiation dynamics, and who can help negotiators deal with the dilemmas and paradoxes that all negotiators face. Negotiators want help, they want coaching, and they want advice, but they are frequently reluctant to turn over a process to a third party. Often, however, they are more open, and better able to use, an ally. This role, which conflict specialists fulfill under a range of labels (e.g., strategist, advisor, consultant, coach, counselor, or advocate), is both an ancient one and a growing one in the world of negotiation. One sign of this is the growth of graduate programs in conflict studies. The great majority of students going through these do not and will not work as either third parties or direct advocates, but they nonetheless play a critical role in how conflict is handled, either as allies or systems players. Far from being peripheral to the conflict intervention field, allies are its most dramatic area of growth....
For full contents please purchase The Negotiator’s Desk Reference.
Axelrod, R. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
Boulding, K. E. 1962. Conflict and Defense. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Damasio, A. 2005. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Penguin Books.
Dawkins, R. 1989. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fisher, R., W. Ury and B. Patton. 1991. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York: Penguin Books.
Jones, T. S. and R. Brinkert. 2008. Conflict Coaching: Conflict Management Strategies and Skills for the Individual. New York: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Kronman, A. T. 1993. The Lost Lawyer. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lax, D. and J. Sebenius. 1986. The Manager As Negotiator: Bargaining For Cooperation and Competitive Gain. New York: Free Press.
Macfarlane, J. 2016. The New Lawyer: How Settlement Is Transforming the Practice of Law. 2nd edn. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press.
Mayer, B. 2009. Staying with Conflict: A Strategic Approach to Ongoing Disputes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mayer, B. 2012. The Dynamics of Conflict: A Guide to Engagement and Intervention. 2nd edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mayer, B. 2015. The Conflict Paradox: Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Moore, C. W. and P. Woodrow. 2010. The Handbook of Global and Multicultural Negotiation. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Noble, C. 2011. Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY Model. Toronto, Ontario: CINERGY Coaching.
Thomas, K. 1976. Conflict and Conflict Management, in Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, edited by Marvin D. Dunnette. Chicago: Rand-McNally.