December 18th, 2017

This is why trust and transparency matter with employees and negotiations

In business two elements can continually be at odds with one another. These items are trust and transparency.

Transparency is clearly a good idea, but when is to much a bad idea? This article explores this question with employees and then looks at this question related to a negotiation.

You want employees to do their best. You want to trust them. You should trust them. The old adage of trust but verify makes a lot of sense around verifying activities with others. Instilling a culture of trust is good for business. This has been well documented in the literature. By being open and sharing information this is a good way to build trust.

Not everyone is on board. Some are concerned that if sensitive information is shared with employees this may be leaked to those that should not know this information. Some are concerned that sharing this types of information may cause dissention in the ranks or cause others to second guess the decision making that went into the information being shared.

When we share this type of information with employees this demonstrates that you trust your employees. Think about what this means to them, and what they think about you. You need to be sensitive to your reputation. Emotions matter and you need to be sensitive as to how your emotions may impact on the process as well.

Now let’s take this a step further, what about when we are involved with a negotiation or a mediation. As a mediator between two business parties, I interview each of them confidentially before we enter the mediation. Having developed trust with both sides I may become privy to some very sensitive information. Working with the parties I may be able to ask a question that may allow one side to share something very sensitive with the other party. Once that information is disclosed that may be the “aha” moment to the other party in the mediation.

When working as part of a negotiation team a similar tactic may be used to share something that is critical to the negotiation. Information that is sensitive in nature may be disclosed and may very well add significant value to the negotiations. Since the item is sensitive in nature your negotiating team should have discussed this up front and tentatively made a decision as to whether or not to share this with the other party. During the negotiation or in a mediation you may want to pause the exercise and have a caucus to decide whether or not now may be the right time to make that disclosure.

The key is to have thought about it ahead of time, developed a plan and then to be prepared to take an appropriate action based on what had been planned around the sensitive information.

For example in a negotiation regarding a contract, knowing that the owner has a side bar agreement with a relative related to the product that he feels he must honor may prevent the vendor from an exclusive license in a geographic area. Once that was shared with the vendor, the vendor agreed that the relative could have the minor sales to the owner’s relative in the market, but the rest of the market would be exclusive to the vendor. This was a sensitive issue from the owner’s perspective that was preventing the exclusive license from the owner.

Consider the sensitivity of trust and transparency in a negotiation. Plan for it ahead of time and be prepared to alter the plan depending on how the negotiations develop. Keep in mind that you and your team can always pause and have a side caucus to discuss the matter at a crucial time in the negotiations.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders. Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. On point resources are available online at and check out the blog. Mike may be contacted directly at or at (651) 633-5311. 

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