Thoughts and Insights by Michael Gregory

Working with Difficult People

Photograph of lady justice statue
January 9th, 2023

What does it mean to be ethical in a negotiation?

Having taught ethics to CPA societies and in other venues I make use of my own texts and also those of Linda Fisher Thornton with her book, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.  This commentary makes use of these sources and an article from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation written by Katie Shonk entitled Ethics in Negotiation: Avoid Complicity in Wrongdoing. In negotiations this implies not committing illegal and immoral acts, but also calling out unethical behavior of others. Shonk’s article highlights Max Bazerman’s book, Complicit: How We Enable the Unethical and How to Stop. You only have one reputation. You need to protect that all costs. So, what do you do? Read on.

Two groups facing each other while sitting with the word negotiation in the background
December 5th, 2022

Business valuers, the IRS, and conflict resolution – Part 5 Negotiating with the IRS

The last two weeks I offered ideas on the Top Strategies for Negotiation Part One and Part Two. This article is one of a series of five articles over the past five months. The focus of this article is entirely with the IRS on a technical issue. Having worked for the IRS for 28 years at all levels from specialist to executive, having brought mediation and mediation training to the IRS Large Business and International Division and trained some 2,500 employees in the techniques, having been involved with over 2,500 mediations from boards of directors with fortune 100 companies on billion dollar issues, to the IRS on valuation issues or issues on research credit from thousands of dollars to a billion dollars, I wanted to offer you some insights on how to negotiate with the IRS on examination on these types of issues. Similar techniques can be used at Appeals and with IRS Counsel, but the emphasis there is on hazards of litigation. There is a different emphasis on examination that focuses on factual development. This commentary will introduce you to factual issues and negotiations on examination where issues are discussed and may be resolved factually.

A hand with a bouquet of three flowers
November 14th, 2022

Should you make the first offer in a multi issue negotiation? Yes, but…

When you are involved in a multi-issue negotiation you may have asked yourself whether you should make the first offer and if so on which issue? Should you offer something significant on a major issue? Should you offer a token offer on a minor issue? There are different schools of thought on this. Recent research from the Harvard Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School offers some good insights for you to take advantage of this multi-issue negotiation. Additional insights are provided based on real world negotiations between a major taxpayer and the IRS.

A group of keys on a ring
October 31st, 2022

What are the keys for a successful mediation?

Having been involved in over 2,500 mediations, facilitations, and negotiations in my career, I thought what are keys to a successful mediation? Revisiting this I want to offer you some thoughts that may help you. My experience is largely oriented towards the federal judicial system, working with experts and clients, administratively with the IRS, and as a volunteer in housing court, conciliation court, with neighborhood disputes, in public housing and other venues including between gangs. I have found that alternative dispute resolution focusing on mediation works, saves time and money, is confidential, and it is successful in implementation because the parties produced a solution that they can both live with going forward. What follows are some key elements and what I have found as best practices that you may find helpful too.

two people. One with hands on face and possibly crying. The other has arms crossed
October 10th, 2022

What mediation techniques should you use to resolve disputes between employees?

Invariably conflicts or disputes arise between employees for a variety of reasons. Often the best solution is for the two parties to determine how  to work amicably with one another. However, sometimes these issues simmer over time or become caustic in nature. As a manager or peer this can poison a work environment. As a leader you may be called upon to work with the parties to help them come to a solution that everyone as a minimum can live with going forward. The hope would be to come to a solution where everyone is pleased with the final outcome. In reality often times the final solution maybe anywhere between these two extremes. So, how can you do this?

Four people in a negotiation
July 25th, 2022

Does lying in collaborative business deals really pay off?

As a promoter of collaboration, a mediator, a conflict resolution specialist, and a person that teaches ethics and negotiations, I did not initially appreciate the title  of The Dark Side of Collaboration offered by Scientific America. However, the subtitle of  “People working together often scheme to put profits ahead of telling the truth. New research points out ways to stop this behavior” gave me hope. I found this article extremely helpful and enlightening. This commentary that follows shares some of the highlights of that article and offers some additional observations.

Puzzle pieces for a difficult puzzle
May 30th, 2022

Ten tips to overcome difficult conversations

Have you been in a conflict or dispute with someone else and felt you were 100% right and that they were 100% wrong? Did it ever occur to you that, just maybe you were not 100% right. The easy decisions in life are truly yes-no decisions. However, the more difficult decisions and controversies tend to have shades of gray associated with them. You may perceive the other party as being difficult and you may be trying to determine how to deal with difficult people. This commentary explores steps you can take when you are in a strong disagreement with someone else. Instead of digging in and reinforcing your position, explore these ten tips to overcome difficult conversations

Hand holding a deck of cards
May 8th, 2022

The games people play in negotiations and mediations and how to address them

To avoid conflicts and to help resolve disputes in a negotiation or a mediation it is important to know your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and to consider the other party’s BATNA in order to work to resolve the situation. Before entering into the situation knowing that if your BATNA is not met you will simply walk away gives you room to exercise your own power. Knowing that you have tried your best to work with the other side, but what has been offered will not be acceptable so you need to move on This article explores how knowing your BATNA and what to consider can help you in a negotiation. It is important to understand why negotiations fail.

A fist punching through a glass hole
April 24th, 2022

Overcome anger in negotiations and mediations

When involved in a negotiation, mediation, a conflict, or a dispute a natural response is to become defensive, angry, and/or frustrated when things do not go well. A question arises as to how you can remain focused on the problem, remain calm, confident, and competent without letting anger take over. When you are angry you are not thinking as clearly, you may make poor decisions, and the ramifications may be extremely consequential. Knowing this, the commentary in this article addresses how to prevent anger from taking over, and how to overcome anger should it surface in a negotiation or a mediation.

a scissors cutting the word impossible into two sections with "im" and "possible"
April 18th, 2022

Ten questions to mediate a dispute

On April 12, 2022 it was my pleasure to see and hear a virtual presentation by Dr Ken Cloke on the Future of Mediation:  Imagining a Conflict Resolution at the Mitchel Hamline School of Law sponsored by the Minnesota State Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section where I serve on the board. Based on his commentary and reflecting on my notes,  I am sharing some insights I took away from his program that I am offering to you from my perspectives. He gave me permission to share with you his “12 Questions for Anyone in Conflict.” These are focused on students, but these can be applicable in other situations too. Feel free to share these with others.

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