Posted: October 23rd, 2013
Negotiation in the Workplace
Negotiation in the Workplace
Within the office setting, time keeping and efficiency in performing duties is an important aspect of being an employee. The supervisors also carefully assess these and other duties to make conclusion on the level of employee productivity. When employees fail to deliver on their time schedules and productivity, it causes conflicts within the workplace especially between the supervisor and employees. The situation concerns two main people: Lisa and Marion. In this case study, there are two main parties. Lisa, who is an employee in a public relations company had recently transferred from overseas and is currently living in Australia with her parents. Lisa has a tight schedule that involves working the whole day at the office and then attending an evening course from 6-9 pm for two days every week. Additionally, Lisa also accompanies her sick mother to physiotherapy twice a week. On the other hand, Marion who is Lisa’s employer demands increased productivity levels from her employee. Her main demand involves Lisa developing a regular and predictable pattern of work. Currently, both parties have slightly compromised, but the new arrangement was not effective as Lisa still came in late.
Negotiation involves a discourse between several individuals or parties with the purpose of reaching a compromise, understanding, resolve a conflict, or to fashion outcomes to persuade a variety of interests demanded by the parties involved in the negotiation process (Forsyth & Kay, 2008). Forsyth (2008) states that “…negotiators are at pains to take the broad view, to understand the other person’s point of view and what they are trying to achieve and why” (Forsyth and Kay, 2008 p. 87). Negotiation is a course of action where every party concerned attempts to thrash out benefits for themselves at the end of the negotiation (Michael, 2011). The main purpose of negotiation is to reach a compromise. Mannix et al (2008) states “…negotiation may occur among multiple members of a single group (within-group), including among factions or coalitions within the group” (p22). Within the workplace, numerous complications emerge that may require a negotiation process to solve them effectively (Gatchalian, 1998). As Lyons (2007) argues “…we negotiate with other parties only when we can get more from an agreement with them, than from the other options we have” (p7). Each negotiation case is unique and, therefore, a negotiation process such as this will produce several results (Lyons, 2007).
The main problem between Lisa and Marion involves proper time management and allocation of tasks in the public relations firm. The major cause of this problem revolves around Lisa and her inconvenient time demands that constantly made her delay the workplace tasks. These demands include taking her mother to the hospital and attending evening classes. The clash between Lisa and her employer Marion has occurred due to different priorities and responsibilities within the workplace. On one hand, Lisa needs to work, increase her education and take care of her ailing mother. On the other hand, Marion demands a more organized working environment particularly concerning Lisa’s department. She requires regular working hours that are covered by all employees fully. David (2010) asserts, “…people differ, and they use negotiation to handle their differences” (p18). The negotiation theory demands that people should make separate, dynamic decisions, and this can be inferred to fashion a compromise between the two parties (David, 2010).
The impact of the stalemate is twofold. On the employer’s side, Marion is bound to realise losses in the company’s productivity owing to the underperformance of one of her employees. The firm will also experience an increased labour burden arising from uncompleted tasks and pileups caused by Lisa’s absence and late coming. On her part, Lisa risks being demoted, transferred to another department, or even being sacked altogether. Currently, Lisa finds it extremely difficult to juggle between work and family life and this puts pressure on her productivity levels significantly lowering them. According to negotiation analysis, these two individuals are intelligent and competent enough and should seek out a mutual, concerted decision. In this situation, they can adopt an integrative negotiation and should desist from being distributive. A distributive negotiation would mean that either Lisa or Marion would have to be disappointed when they lose.
Recommendation and Solutions
The negotiation theory incorporates decision-making approaches as well as negotiation analysis. In this case, decision making approach will be applicable as the situation will require the person or people in authority to make decisions. Kochan (2003) maintains “…the essence of negotiation lies in identifying the interests of those involved and satisfying mutual interests while finding efficient and equitable tradeoffs…” (p33). The negotiation analysis approach will also be used, as the two parties will have eventually to come to an agreement. Several solutions exist that can solve the emerging problem in the public relations between Lisa and Marion. One of the solutions would be to entirely change Lisa’s working hours and transfer her to the night shift. This way she will have ample time to take care of her mother during the day and have time to attend her evening classes just before reporting for the night shift. These two responsibilities were the main issues on which her employer, Marion had focused. Evaluating alternatives is important as it provides other channels through which the problem shall be solved (Michael, 2011).
The next solution would be to look for another receptionist that can cover Lisa’s tasks during the specific hours and days that Lisa would not be able to make it to the office on time. The alternative secretary should be able to solve the problem arising between the employee and her employer. Lastly, Lisa could be transferred to another department or position that would be less demanding and allow her to have time to further her studies and take care of her mother. The first solution can prove to be cumbersome and chaotic for both Lisa and her employer. Marion might end up with another receptionist who may not be competent and conversant with the workings at the office. Lisa will also be significantly inconvenienced as she would have to reorganize her program altogether. The next solution of employ another secretary would have adverse effects on the company’s financial reserves and slow down work in Marion’s’ office. Transferring Lisa to another department would also mean numerous inconveniences for her as she adjusts to the new settings, work description and employer. Negotiation is successful only when both parties accept the agreement (Forsyth and Kay, 2008 p. 89). Therefore, Marion should accept the terms as this would leave both parties satisfied.
In this situation, the best solution would be one that offers the least discomfort and disruption of lifestyle to both parties. Michael (2011) argues that “…in a principled negotiation process, the focus is on the interests behind the position” (line 38). Marion, the employer should accept to take up an assistant receptionist. In this way, Lisa would still be able to accompany her mother for therapy and attend her evening classes. However, the following aspects should be stressed. The hiring of an assistant receptionist does not mean that Lisa’s responsibilities and expectations will be lowered or reduced in any way. Lisa would still be expected to show up and leave at a certain time agreed between her and her employer. The assistant’s main role is to cover for Lisa and, therefore, her services would be necessary on the hours that Lisa would be absent.
In the short term, Marion would have a hard time as the new assistant would have a difficult time getting used to the program and being productive. Marion would also have to allocate increased company funds to pay the assistant and furnish her desk and other related expenses. However, in the long term, the public relations office will be more streamlined and effective in performing its duties because of two factors. One, Lisa and her assistant would be more organized and coordinate in their operations at the office. Their combined contributions would lead to a higher turnover for the company (Kochan & Bruce, 2003). Therefore, this solution may seem disadvantageous in the short term, but in the long term, it is a relatively cheap and easy way to invest in the future of her receptionists, solve some of the issues plaguing Lisa and organize the office demands. This solution is also fair as Goldman & Shapiro (2012) argue that negotiation “…makes a situation fair” (p29)
The game theory element in the negotiation theory can be used to explain why this solution was the most appropriate. Game theory proposes the employing of mixed strategies of conflict and cooperation in varying levels to achieve a compromise that is satisfactory to both parties. In this case, Marion who is Lisa’s employer needs to choose slight cooperation with her situation but also ensure that her productivity does not deteriorate. Therefore, the assistant receptionist would represent Marion’s decision to cooperate with Lisa. In return, this would have the effect of increasing her morale and result in higher output in the workplace. The game theory has the advantage of providing wholesome solutions when applied (Mannix et al, 2011). According to Fells (2012), one crucial feature of most negotiations is the need for reciprocity. He states “…reciprocity is a feature of many social interactions including negotiations. What one party does tend to be matched or reciprocated by the other.” (Fells, 2012)
Implementation and Conclusion
The solution will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will involve the orientation period where the assistant secretary will be guided through the office schedule, protocols and procedures by a joint team consisting of Lisa and any other human resource officer. This grace period should last for a maximum of a month after which the assistant should be fully settled and well briefed on the daily operations in the office. The next phase is the most critical one. At this stage, Lisa can adopt the new schedule that would allow her to conduct her personal businesses (studying and tacking care of her mother) without the hindsight that there is unfinished work at the office. During this period, the employer will also be closely monitoring both employees to ensure that the new system is correctly implemented. Other areas that may need reform would be human resource and finance departments that would have to include the new employee into their records. In summary, the problem existed between Lisa and Marion, her employer. The issue of time management had created a conflict between Lisa and her employer. The solution arrived at was to employ an assistant secretary and this enabled the office to be more efficient. Luecke (2010) asserts that negotiations officially end “…with some form of resolution. Resolution might take the form of one party walking away…a written agreement may be signed, complete with enforcement mechanisms” (Luecke, 2010, p.34).
David C. (2010). ‘Getting to yes’ through negotiation. The Quill, 98(1), 37.
Fells, R. E. (2012). Effective negotiation: From research to results. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Gatchalian, J. C. (1998). Principled negotiations – a key to successful collective bargaining. Management Decision London Then Bradford-, 36, 222-225.
Goldman, B., & Shapiro, D. L. (2012). The psychology of negotiations in the 21st century workplace: New challenges and new solutions. New York: Routledge.
Luecke, R. (2010). Best practice workplace negotiations. New York: American Management Association
Lyons, C. (2007). I win, You win: The essential guide to principled negotiation. London: A & C Black.
Mannix, E. A., Neale, M. A., & Overbeck, J. R. (2011). Negotiation and groups. Bingley, U.K: Emerald.
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