Tuesday, 1 May 2012


john has been working alone as the head of network solutions for 5 years but because of expansion plans, the board wants to pursue other business options and brings in a consultant to work with John. John is furious, becomes deeply resentful at work, and unconsciously starts sabotaging work being done by him and the consultant. After 5 weeks of this, he is confronted by his boss and told to come in for a work meeting....

Henrietta is under unbelievable pressure at home to contribute money to a cause she doesn't believe in. She has always been a conscientious worker but for the last two days sleep deprivation has caused her to be be short with colleagues, snap at customers, and moodily sit staring into space and her team lead is getting worried because Henrietta is normally a very sweet person and wants to talk to her but isn't sure the best approach to use....

Our everyday lives both at work and at home are impacted by so many internal and external forces that conflicts and differences in opinion are bound to come up from time to time. The examples given above showcase the most common cause of conflict whereby a person is experiencing inner conflict that results in outward lashing out. People resolve disputes in many ways; some become highly aggressive and unreasonable, others go into complete denial while some people seem to be able to diffuse conflicts and manage them well. With people who are able to manage conflicts at work, mediation and negotiation are normally key to health conflict and dispute resolution.

Negotiation is a two way communication style that encourages participation by both parties for conflict resolution. Your approach to negotiation will depend on the outcome you require but generally, irrespective of department or job level, employees benefit from learning how to develop their win-win negotiation skills. Win-Win” negotiation is about alliance not conflict, and successful negotiation results in long lasting and fruitful professional relationships between parties. The key to effective win-win negotiation is clear communication and this involves three important skills: understanding, speaking, and listening: 

Before two sides can look for solutions, a common understanding must be reached. If two people do not understand each others problems and concerns, then the process of negotiation will either be breakdown or will end with solutions that do not work. Understanding also depends on active listening. Active listening encourages understanding. It is important to pay close attention to what someone says as well as to how he or she behaves. Body language, including facial expressions, hand gestures and degree of eye contact, can provide clues about the other person's thoughts and feelings. Observations, however, are shaped as much by the observer as by the person being observed. It is good practise never to assume to understand the other person without further clarification if necessary. However, asking for further clarification shouldn't now be used to feign ignorance or inability to understand what the other person is communicating.

Negotiation begins with a clear, concise explanation of the problem as each person sees it. Facts and feelings are presented in a rational manner from the individuals perspective, using "I" statements.
The negotiation process will be most effective when people take time to think through what they will say. When possible, plan ahead to meet at a time and place convenient to everyone. A quiet, neutral spot where there are few distractions or interruptions is perfect for open discussion.

Listening is an active process of concentrating all of one's attention on the other person. Encouraging the other person to share thoughts and feelings, giving feedback on what has been heard. Thinking ahead or anticipating the course of the discussion are distractions that interfere with listening. Poor attention and listening can lead to misunderstandings, inappropriate solutions and continuing conflict.

Guidelines for successful negotiation
Recognise and define the problemEach person begins with a clearly identified statement of what he or she wants and/or needs. Negotiation should identify not only individual concerns, but mutual concerns, perceptions and interests. From this process, a common ground for agreement between the individuals is sought.
 Show respectSuccess rests in accepting the other person despite differences in values, beliefs, educational experiences, ethnic backgrounds or perspectives. Negotiation permits you to examine a problem from all sides, and to promote understanding and interest in the other person without necessarily agreeing to her or his viewpoint. Taking time to listen and to ask questions makes it easier to learn more about someone's perspectives. Considering different perspectives will increase the range and variety of possible solutions.
 Seek a variety of solutionsMore information about the problem may be needed before a solution can be decided upon. It may be helpful to examine other sources of information such as books, magazine articles and people who may be familiar with the issue. Outside assistance may help you to overcome your own biases. Mediators can provide impartial assistance with the negotiation process.
CollaborationWorking together doesn't mean "giving up" or "giving in" to another person's demands or goals. Two or more individuals can agree that disagreement exists. However, they can also agree to put aside their anger, frustration, resentment and egos in favour of working together for a solution to a common problem.
Living out the agreed resolution
It is important to follow through with negotiated agreements. The very bane of negotiation implies a commitment toward whatever outcome has been decided. Developing a "plan of action" that spells out who is going to do what, where, when and how is helpful.
Effective negotiation is a two-way process that encourages both sides to actively participate in making decisions. It can occur anytime and usually helps when it is initiated between colleagues in the same or differing departments and most importantly during times when you need help from colleagues higher up the corporate ladder than you. It also provides a way for people to learn to understand each other better and to grow in their relationships while providing a healthy balance between "giving" and "getting."

Negotiating can be done as formally or as informally as you want it to be. It can involve calling your colleague aside for a quiet cup of coffee so that you can decide the best time in the day to work on a project or it may involve calling human resources and finding an office to lay all issues on the table in order to mediate over everything and find solutions that are acceptable to both parties.

Whatever the case may be conflict, disagreements, and arguments do not need to cause an irrepable breakdown of communication if both parties can decide to put their difference aside and come together in order to deal with the issue at hand.

Have a great month everybody and to all the workers: whether you are self employed, working for someone;  currently undergoing a change; or experiencing work burnout, just know that you have been a blessing by your existence, you have touched lives on the job, added value even when you didn't know it, and by your good work amassed blessings for yourself both now and in the future. Be proud of who you are and be eager for the future and opportunities to learn, grow and add value!

Happy workers day!


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