Social negotiations

Social negotiations


To make the best use of their time invested, managers shouldn’t consider labor relations a ‘necessary evil’ and union representatives should not get stuck in old rhetoric, but show courage and engage with everyone around the table to make things better for all stakeholders.

Abandoning the old roads of conflict in social negotiations

Let’s rather abandon the old roads of conflict which equated to putting each other under pressure, getting upset with each other and reaching an agreement because you have to. That is the lose/lose scenario. In such a set-up, employee representatives never get involved correctly and management sees the process as painful and difficult, delaying necessary change.

Company and employee representatives who do this well have the capacity to look at the bigger picture. They find out how to engage in a new social contract after having finished a round of negotiations, they look at work to be done as an investment into the future, even in case of layoffs or heavy restructuring. They realize this is not just an administrative process to go through but, on the contrary, they know they are putting in place the foundation for their future and that it means transformation management with a big T.

You don’t necessarily need to agree on everything

Effective negotiation processes are done with parties who involve each other and who realize that they do not need to agree on everything to move forward. Negotiators who can put their egos aside and focus on the essence are the key to success. They inform each other correctly and communicate openly about their issues. They also make sure they do not put their fellow negotiators with their back against the wall and they avoid too many surprises coming up in the discussions.

Employee representatives most often defend the status quo: they want no change and no big departure from how things are happening. That is not realistic. Leaders often put plans on the table they have worked at for months and do not realize that for employee representatives it is just undoable to understand and agree with all of this during a few short meetings.

It always takes two to tango

A well negotiated and balanced deal always produces better consequences in the long-term. Trying to understand the other’s frame of reference is crucial. At the negotiation table there is no place for dogmatic people, unable to listen and unable to depart from existing views on a situation.

The ideal profile for a social negotiator is a decent human being who is able to listen, learn, share, respect differences of opinion and willing to look for solutions agreeable to all parties. The profile is exactly the same for both employee and management representatives: there is no distinction between parties with regard to the personal characteristics they should have.

Think about what you would do if you were in the shoes of the other party.

However difficult things get: never lose your calm, stay focused and keep doors open. Decisions will come faster and agreements will be reached earlier when working like this. This is not about putting as much pressure as possible on the other party by getting the press involved, stopping servicing customers, tactics unions often use to intimidate - to cite just a few examples.

It is also not about forcing “take-it-or-leave-it” actions down negotiatiors’ throats and explaining there is no other alternative - a style many managers use.

This very different mindset, consistently lived up to, produces a new social climate in no time.

Are both sides of the table courageous enough to take the jump and move forward together without necessarily agreeing on everything?

Want to be an effective social negotiator, ask yourself this question before you start.

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