How Outsider Status Benefits Negotiators at the Bargaining Table

In this article from the Program on Negotiation Harvard Law School Daily blog researcher Gerben A. Van Kleef points out that bringing on board a motivated peripheral member that is held accountable to the negotiating team can provide some real benefits.   Besides wanting team negotiators that are “prototypical” with “strong negotiating experience, intelligence, a good attitude and a winning personality” newcomers may by particularly helpful because they “may be driven to demonstrate they belong”.

This may result in additional research not only on the logic of the issue, but also on the emotions behind the issue on both your side and the other side’s perspective.   This fresh look may provide some interesting insights.

My own personal experience being brought in to help with client to IRS, client to other businesses or within businesses (boards of directors, shareholder disputes, and interpersonal issues in management) affirms this for me as an outsider.  I find that in many instances, listening has been significantly reduced and often tensions run high causing the first step in the process to work with the parties to de-escalate the situation with my client and their team.  Gaining insight into the situation, the emotions behind the issues are typically a driving factor that are often more important than the business results being emphasized by the parties. 

Our brains are 98% emotional and 2% rationale.   Knowing this, addressing the emotional component is critical to any negotiation.   As I have stated in this forum and others many times, developing a relationship, truly listening to the other party, and being there to educate the other party before initiating the actual negotiation is critical to a successful negotiation. 

With one of my clients we discussed an upcoming meeting six times, and structured the time, place, participants, a tour, snacks, drinks, and an agenda to ensure a very positive initial setting taking into account critical elements from neuroscience.  As a result we really planned for essentially all realistic alternatives.   Given that opening meeting this set the tone for a nine month audit.  

The client discussed each Information Document Request (IDR) as a draft with the IRS agent before formally accepting the IDR.  Once the IDR was accepted the client always agreed on a date such that the client under promised and over delivered by responding with a quality response every time before the due date.   Similarly, the client asked for a commitment on each IDR for a completion date by the auditor and the client followed up with the auditor if a response from the auditor was not timely.  Each time this was documented.  The request by the client was for an indication by the auditor that the issues was dropped, a new draft IDR had been initiated for discussion, or a preliminary proposed adjustment had been issued for discussion on an IDR to discuss with the client by a given date.  By being proactive and managing the audit in this way the client was able to stay on top of the audit, always know what was going on and why, and work with the auditor to resolve issues timely and in a professional manner during the audit. 

By being proactive and in this case bringing on someone with expertise, but not part of the negotiating team up front and during the audit a process was put in place to structure the audit for success and to include individuals with the appropriate skills at various times to be prepared to work with and provide information to the auditor.

This resulted in a very successful timely audit acceptable to both the auditor and the client.   Sometimes these things just happen, but by being proactive, it is possible to significantly improve the probability of success.  Consider a third party to help with your negotiation.

Mike is a manager with over 25 years’ experience at all levels of management.  Mike provides services related to negotiation, mediation, and value added services (business valuation reviews, research credit advice, transfer pricing assistance, strategic planning and leadership development) to help clients and boards of directors on a wide variety of issues.  When not serving clients as a consultant or blogging, Mike is an avid writer, speaker and educator.  When not working Mike enjoys family, church, volunteering, and daily yoga, meditation and exercise.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]