Negotiating In the Real World Getting the Deal You Want, by Gotbaum, Victor
- ISBN: 9780684865553 | 0684865556
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 5/23/2000
|PART ONE THE BASICS OF NEGOTIATING|
|PART TWO SPECIAL TOPICS ON NEGOTIATING|
Negotiating is a face-to-face human drama that can be as genteel as croquet or as brutal as a prizefight. Like these sports, negotiating depends on the talent, experience, and physical and emotional condition of the opponents. Some people are great at negotiating. Others tremble at the very idea. Yet nearly everybody must negotiate. You buy a house, sign an employment contract, get a divorce. Whether you're a mother working out the details of your baby-sitter's wages and hours or a corporate executive entering into a major merger, sooner or later you will find yourself at the bargaining table. So what's a mother or mogul to do?
This book explores some vital principles of negotiating that you can use in every aspect of your life. It will also help you to appreciate the importance of negotiations in events that range from labor-management discussions to peace treaties among nations.
There is no exact how-to formula, but following certain principles can make you a better negotiator. Whether the negotiations are formal or informal, professional or personal, the same principles apply. Your preparation for negotiations depends on assessing and evaluating the overall and specific context of the talks, and your own and your adversary's personality, power, position, strengths and weaknesses, and negotiating style. You must also determine the appropriate role you should play in the talks and when and how to seek the support of others.
One of the most important ingredients in becoming a better negotiator is experience, which is not always easy to come by. Although there is no substitute for firsthand experience, the examples in this book will fill the gap and enable you to do what you will need to do most during negotiations: think on your feet. This understanding will dictate your strategy. It may even cause you to decide that you should not lead the negotiations, but rather should participate in them in a different way.
The principles and the examples I use to support them are based on my experiences as a labor leader and consultant over the past forty years, as well as my experiences as a husband, father, grandfather, worker, ex-husband, friend, consumer, client, and patient.
From the beginning of my career as a labor leader, what I loved most were the negotiations. In keeping with my own principles, I begin this book in the same way that I propose you begin your preparation for negotiations -- by describing my own background and the environment that led to the writing of this book. In negotiations, and in learning to negotiate, you will need to know who you are dealing with. So, about me...
Papa was a loser. Although he was intelligent, he could not stay with a job, could not build a future, and kept his family poor. Consequently, my older brother, Irv, and I entered the world of work at a very young age. At age thirteen, I held a full-time (fifty-hour-per-week) job, washing dishes and making sandwiches, for weekly wages of six dollars. (This was between 1935 and 1938).
Like Irv, I was tired all the time. Irv was not only working, he was attending college. Unlike Irv, I was truant...most of the time. Thanks to Irv, I managed to receive a high school diploma from Brooklyn's Samuel Tilden High School. In retrospect, his appeals to my teachers and guidance counselors to allow me to take final exams in classes I had rarely attended were classic negotiations. Brother Irv, however, did not negotiate with me. He insisted I study; he made sure I would pass the exams.
After high school graduation and military service, I married and went to college on the GI Bill, working part time and seasonally at Unity House, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union rest camp. There I saw firsthand the activities of many labor leaders.
When I completed my master's degree at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, I went to work in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, where I did domestic programming for foreign trade union visitors. I felt, however, that if I really wanted to stay in international labor, I would need to do some overseas work. I was fortunate to be tapped to join a team charged with setting up a first-of-its-kind labor education program in Turkey.
I returned from Turkey with a hunger for a more basic knowledge about the American labor movement and labor itself. I accepted a job with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters as an assistant director of education and found this to be more satisfying than working in international labor. In 1957, after being fired by the director of education because of a personality conflict, I was soon hired by Arnold Zander, the head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a man who loved international affairs. He was impressed by my background and asked me to take over the Chicago local. This operation was almost nonexistent, with just fragments of union organization and little cohesiveness, but it provided me with my first real hands-on experience in running a union. I had observed negotiations and participated in strikes with the Meat Cutters, but this was the real thing. The work with AFSCME afforded me not only participation, but a leadership position. Sadly, it was leadership without power. Mayor Richard Daley's authoritarianism made sure of that. However, although being an adversary to Daley was difficult and depressing, the work in Chicago gave me valuable experience.
At the University of Chicago Lying-In Hospital, I did my first negotiations. Management was offering a four-cent hourly wage increase, and I was trying to increase it to five cents. The nickel was important since it would have been the largest raise ever achieved for the hospital workers. When management came around from four to five cents, it was a major triumph. One cent an hour made me a hero with the negotiating committee and the members of the hospital local. It solidified my position.
This victory had very little to do with material gain. The penny was of small importance. The significance was in my demonstration to the local union leadership that I could meet management as an equal and leave the bargaining table in a stronger position. I was a paid professional. It was imperative that I prove my worth.
I stayed with AFSCME more than thirty-two years, and negotiating became my life's work. I now look back and realize Chicago couldn't have been a better experience. There's nothing quite like getting some bruises when you're a young man. It hurts, but it makes you think.
Several years later, in the sixties, a group of us formed a palace revolution against Arnold Zander, AFSCME's president. We believed, and I still believe, that he was a wonderful civil service reformer but was inadequate as a labor leader.
We wanted more militancy for the union, more activism in terms of obtaining collective bargaining rights and accelerated organizing. In other words, we wanted dramatic change. The change came about when we elected as president Jerry Wurf, the head of the New York City District Council, the largest in our union and the most sophisticated. Jerry's election was a double plus for me. He moved to Washington as the president of AFSCME, replacing Zander, and I replaced him as the head of the New York City District Council, the second most important position in the AFSCME union at the time. I was also put in charge of international affairs for the entire union. With New York as my major base and with the international affairs activity, I was now in a broad and rewarding arena.
Personally, a bad marriage was becoming worse. When I accepted the New York City job, my wife, Sarah, refused to relocate from Evanston, Illinois, leaving the children disturbed and me angry. She finally came east after a year. This was the first major sign of a breakup that would occur more than a decade later, when I met and fell in love with my wife, Betsy.
The divorce was long, drawn out, and tortured and was probably the most unsuccessful and unrewarding negotiation of my life. I describe it later in the book to demonstrate what can happen when the basic principles of negotiating are undermined by emotion. This is a common pitfall, particularly in personal or everyday negotiations: real estate transactions, job situations, and so forth. Emotional involvement can undermineeverytype of negotiation. But with personal and everyday negotiations the fact that you are both negotiator and client makes objectivity an even greater challenge. This certainly was the case with my divorce.
The union I headed in New York City, District Council 37, became the largest urban union in the country, growing from 25,000 to its current membership of 125,000. The union's goal was to develop the full potential of the members -- to go beyond the job experience. We would assure the members of benefits no other trade unionists enjoyed. We established the first college at a union headquarters and a legal resources unit of some fifty lawyers that protected workers off the job as well as on the job. The workers participated in the union's activities. We built an effective political machine that gave me a leading role in city, state, and national politics.
In my personal life, despite a difficult marriage or maybe because of it, Sarah and I had four wonderful children. My kids have given me numerous opportunities to hone my negotiating skills. I can't remember a time when I wasn't negotiating something with at least one of them.
Whether personal or professional, I loved and still love negotiating. Professionally, I don't just mean the multimillion-dollar, sometimes billion-dollar, contracts. I also loved negotiating workers' grievances -- grievances involving workers' being unfairly discharged, discriminated against, or otherwise demeaned. Few people realize that a union can spend up to 60 or 70 percent of its time on grievance negotiations -- protecting workers on the job.
But the mother of all negotiations were those that took place during the New York City fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s. The crisis was a major change in the life of New York City, the unions, and myself. This was a fiscal crisis, and finances were my weak point, so the crisis made for an incredible challenge. The whole world seemed to be standing on its head, and somehow the City had to come out of it. I knew we would.
Assisting in this was my introduction to Felix Rohatyn. He was an investment banker for Lazard Frères and had the confidence of Governor Carey. After an initial bit of suspicion, I trusted him. He wanted a positive solution, and he wanted the unions to share in that solution. We kept our eyes on the same ball: a solvent New York City without giving up the city's autonomy to the state or federal government.
A militant friend asked me what made for the major change in my approach during the fiscal crisis. I said, "survival." We didn't have the luxury of procrastinating. We had to work together. Felix Rohatyn, my wife, Betsy, the bankers, and the corporate world helped in that change. I believed, and still believe, that the experience changed many of the participants, including me. We went from an antagonistic and adversarial position to one of compromise and agreement through negotiations. The union and its members sacrificed much more than the other stakeholders, but we had much more to lose.
In 1987 I retired after thirty-two years with AFSCME. I believed that both the institution and I needed a change. In addition, I had been critical of labor leaders who held on too long.
It was also my loss of energy at the bargaining table that signaled a need for change. I could no longer go around the clock, negotiating for twenty-four-hour stretches without growing tired. The most difficult aspect of the job was my intolerance of my associates. I had to pay attention to the danger signs.
There is nothing compared to the give and take at the bargaining table. I loved it, and -- I say it with my usual lack of humility -- I was good at it. And that's why, after I stepped down, I was willing to write a book about it.
When I began the book, I did a great deal of reading on negotiations, but my experiences seemed far more valuable than my reading. Most popular and commercially successful books were far too academic and theoretical for me. Too many of their examples came from a hypothetical world, not from the actual world. Some of the examples and principles were excellent, but I wanted to write a book that based its principles on actual experience, a book where the world, including the adversaries, is very real. The books I read on negotiations to prepare for writing this book make negotiations sound too easy. They claim that almost anybody can be a good negotiator. I disagree. There are people who don't want to negotiate. There are people whoshouldnot negotiate. Certain negotiations demand a kind of personality that some people do not have. Other types of negotiations require professionalism.
Everyone will be involved in negotiations at some time, but that doesn't make them negotiators. No one who is uncomfortable taking on that responsibility should negotiate. Participation in negotiations is important, but this does not mean that you must negotiate. You may be better suited to acting as chief adviser to your negotiator. My wife, Betsy, knows more about the economics of buying a house than I do -- but she refuses to do the actual negotiating since she considers it bargaining. My close friend Ralph Pepe, an expert on real estate and taxes, turns the financial information over to me. He insists that I do the negotiating.
Even in the most personal negotiations -- an argument between husband and wife, a divorce, or the purchase of a house -- negotiations are never really one-on-one. There are always others involved: the children in a divorce or the purchase of a house, the spouse in negotiating a large purchase or resolving a marital dispute, the outsiders you bring into an argument. Outside representation of the parties takes place not only in major collective bargaining and in business mergers; it can also take place in what may appear on the surface to be a disagreement between just two people.
Adversaries can be dogmatic about issues, goals, and policies. It is important, however, not to be dogmatic about how to arrive at solutions. There may be different roads to take. The academic experts sometimes dwell in an ideal world where the adversaries become manageable and have to live together after the situation is resolved. This is not necessarily so; generally, however, regardless of anger or policy difficulties, in most negotiations you must keep in mind that you have to work with your adversary after the storm subsides. New York's mayor Ed Koch and I could tear each other apart, but we both knew that in many areas we would have to work together -- lobbying the state legislature in Albany, for example. We never allowed our anger to make us forget an important fact. He was the mayor of the city, and I headed the largest union. It helped neither one of us to allow the other to bleed to death.
Almost by definition, negotiations require face-to-face interaction between individuals. There is incredible variation in terms of the personalities who are adversaries, and you react in different ways to different people. Mayor Ed Koch was not Mayor Abe Beame, and my strategies in negotiating with them varied, although the results may have been the same.
Most books on negotiations advise you to turn the other cheek and to dissipate a harsh, offensive attack with a kind, gentle, and principled retort. Under certain circumstances and for personal reasons, this may make sense, but it can also be counterproductive. I could do it with Abe Beame, but it would have been pure folly with Ed Koch.
It is not necessary to avoid confrontation in negotiations. It is not necessary to love thy adversary. You don't have to account for the fact that there will always be a tomorrow. In fact, confrontation and the anger that you bring to negotiations can be very appropriate and very positive.
My personality doesn't allow for constant lovableness. I can be humorous, and I can be sensitive, but mainly I can be very tough. Herbert Haber, chief negotiator for Mayor John Lindsay, paid me a supreme compliment when he was quoted inThe New York Times:"Vic will cut your heart out if he feels you are hurting his members." Mayor Koch and I could work ourselves into a lather during negotiations yet conclude contracts on a positive note. We negotiated some meaningful and important contracts, yet we always had a healthy distaste for each other. Negotiations can be bloody and vulgar and still produce a positive outcome.
The role you play in the negotiations will depend on your individual talents and abilities as well as on the size and condition of your ego. If this book gives men and women more know-how and security in choosing their appropriate role and performing it better, more fruitful negotiations will occur, and I -- as well as you -- will be happy.
Copyright © 1999 by Victor Gotbaum
Excerpted from Negotiating in the Real World: Getting the Deal You Want by Victor Gotbaum
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