Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In Bad Faith

Yesterday in our negotiation skills class we had an assignment, which was the basis of yet another life truth laid out so glaringly obvious.

The class was split into 10 groups, five of which represented the 'management' and the other five the 'Workers'. Each group was paired against another, management negotitaing with the workers. The problem was that the management had changed the shift hour pattern so instead of 12 hours per day for 3.5 days now they'd have to work 8 hours but for 5.5 days, [lessening the hours per day but increasing the days] and this was not acceptable to them. If the negotiations were not successful either the workers would call a strike or the management would declare a lockout. So we had to negotiate with workers and trade concessions and reach an agreement that was acceptable for both

As management, we came up with great incentives, we offered them transport, we offered to split 10% of the profits if the productivity increased by 30%, we even offered to change the shift time so that work would start at 6 am and end by 2pm, leaving them ample time to spend with their families as this was one of the concerns raised, that is, working 2 extra days they would have less time with family .

To cut a long story short, although the other group did not have any legs to stand on or any rational reason to refuse they took issue at some remark one of the 'management' made which they thought was personal and they refused the deal and raised banners [which they had brought from home] that they were quitting.

When I saw the banners, I realized that they had decided this outcome from before, so no matter what we would have offered their answer would be the same. I even asked one the girls from the other group after class and she confirmed my doubt.

Anyway to finally come to the point of this post - sometimes in life it's not about what we did or didn't do, or what we could have done better in any situation, its about the other person. When they have decided the outcome from before, even if we bring manna from heavens they will say no, at the same time they'll try to make us feel that it's our fault that if we had done more, things would be different. We sometimes feel so bad and think about all the things that are wrong with us and what we could have done to change some situation, when really it's not about what's lacking in us at all.

If the other person starts in bad faith it is not about what we could have done more or less it's about them having decided what they would do from before.


Lirun said...

interesting post.. hate to turn it political on you.. but many use your concluding argument to justify political processes.. especially in my part of the region..

confessing7girl said...

hey girl ... well it sounds like a lot of fun the manager and workers group.... i bet its a good way to show we all need each other and managers r nothing without the working class and the workers wouldnt hv work if there wasnt for the the managing class!! its all too complicated... its easier to look at urself and forget the others!! there should be a middle point!!

Josie Two Shoes said...

What a profoundly true observation, Amber. You have such great skill at learning life's lessons and boiling them down for us! Certainly what you say is true of marriage, the workplace, and basically any relationship. If one has predetermined the outcome, the other is powerless to effect change. It does give us a better perspective on why sometimes our best efforts fail, just as they did with your management team.

HollyGL said...

I understand what you're saying, Random. Many times people make judgements about other people or situations based on past experiences, instead of allowing the present to unfold in its own unique way. Certainly, lessons from the past have value, and I have struggled with this myself. I guess, for me, depending on the situation/person, there comes a time to look to new possibilities for outcomes. Otherwise, how will there ever be growth or evolvement (is that a word?)...

Jeff said...

Sometimes the damage is done when a policy is change BEFORE all the parties are consulted. I wonder if that was factored in.

rp said...

You are right. How silly and unproductive to dig in one's heels before hearing the the other person's view. But I guess that would be the very definition of bad faith.

However, as Jeff points out, if the policy was announced, and only negotiated after resistance was felt, then it the outcome was nearly inevitable.

No matter the relationship, should the conversation not begin, "I was thinking..." rather than, "It has been decided..."

meleah rebeccah said...

That is sooooo true.

When I have already made up my mind about something(which as a Libra, it can take a very long time to make up my mind...with all the weighing and analyzing before choosing.)

Once, I finally make a decision there is little anyone can say or do to change it.

Epimenides said...

I agree, but disagree at the same time! I guess I'm the hopeless romantic who believes that even if people are biased, when they recognise you're in good faith, they'll listen! But that's me dreaming I suppose.
BTW 12hrs for 3.5days!!! Are they hiring? (I'm currently on 14hrs for 5-6 days)

insanity-suits-me (Dawn) said...

Amber...your insight is amazing. You looked beyond the obvious and saw what was really going on. I think you are very intuitive!

Meleah...Libra's are also born diplomats - always looking for balance and harmony! ;)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The mistake was splitting the class. It turned them into two opposing groups who might normally have reached an outcome.

Random Magus said...

Lirun: If they do it in bad faith the result is the same as what I was trying to say in the post. No matter what your intentions are if you're negotiating with doesn't want to negotiate there can be no mutually acceptable result

confessing7girl: It was fun to see that even in a make-believe situation people got so emotional, in real life it would be that much harder

Josie Two Shoes: It just reminded me that sometimes it is not in my control. I was so sure going into the negotiation that we had prepared so well and it was something that could not be said no to. What I didn't realize was that the group I got was not prepared to be rational or amenable to give and take

HollyGL: You are so right people sometimes don't give us the benefit of doubt - our reputation precedes us so to speak, they make up their minds not to trust or believe what the other person is saying before they have even said it. They put roadblocks to growth of both parties

Jeff: In this case the workers were sent the new time proposal 8 hours a day for 5.5 days and then there would be a negotiating on that because they found that the 12 hours a day was simply unproductive, But like Holly said above, since the company had a history of retrenchment and workers a history of strikes a lot of groups put themselves in that mind frame refusing to change

Random Magus said...

rp: This group had already decided from before that no matter what they would call a strike - which struck me as so immature and silly. It was like forgetting the whole point of the class which is negotiations.

meleah rebeccah: I know where you're coming from it takes me ages to make up my mind, it's a torture for me to decide on even the simplest of actions. I'm stubborn about somethings but if someone puts a sensible argument I do see their point off view

Epimenides: Hey I wish you were in the group opposing mine -the negotiations would have gone so much smoother. We were proposing 8 hours daily for 5.5 days. they wanted to stick to their 12 hour daily for 3.5 days.

insanity-suits-me (Dawn): I wish at the end of the negotiation I would have had the guts to tell the teacher that since they didn't negotiate in a 'mutually acceptable' manner they should be evaluated negatively - but I've known them for two years now. And it seemed to be in bad taste.

Jean-Luc Picard: There were 10 groups 5 were management and five were workers. So we had 5 negotiations. It was fascinating to see different pairs and how they negotiated and how much personality came into the picture.

QUASAR9 said...

Well sort of yeah

But often management count on the workers not being able to say no or walk out.

After all in Dubai when they were building 24/7 they wanted workers who would work all hours god sends for a pittance, and with no health insurance or pension plan - and very little time for breaks - enough to eat and sleep so to speak.

And take it or leave it, after all there are many more in India would jump at the chance.

Life will always be a matter of give and take. As long as managers can replace workers they have the upper hand - it is only when the managers are short of workers (and stand to lose money if the work is not done( that worjers have the upper hand.

But for sure if the worker doesn't want the job anyway, and has no mortgage to pay and no wife & kids to feed or a sick mother to care for - then clearly the employer has less of a sway - than with the majority of people who can be bullyed because at the end of the month they need their pay, come what may.

In conflict resolution, whether it's a love affair gone sour - or a conflict dating back thousands of years - one is powerless if the other is not willing to compromise

After all if an old lover loves us no more, no matter what we offer there is little we can offer will make them love us anymore.

But hey, life does go on
tomorrow a new rising sun

Blur Ting said...

Well, it depends on the people you're dealing with. I've been through scenarios like this before, whereby when the mind is made up, there is nothing you can do to change it (especially when it comes to relationship cos once it's dead, it's hard to revive those feelings again).

However,at a business negotiation, sometimes what is being counter-offered (like in your case study) may turn out to be more attractive than the original situation. Then it makes sense to accept it.

Peter Haslam said...

Great post Random Magus and it's true that often we don't know that the decision is already made. Similar to someone deciding that they are upset and determining the only acceptable solution before hand.

Random Magus said...

Quasar9: You are right in Dubai unfortunately UAE lacks legislation to permit workers to establish organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining with their employers. Although Sheikh Mohammed is implementing changes - now it is banned to work in the searing heat of the afternoon and break is compulsory. Plus there has also been an increase in the number of Ministry inspectors charged with inspecting construction sites and accommodation facilities for laborers, a requirement that all employers should take out health insurance for their low-paid employees and the establishment of special mandatory mechanisms to allow workers to collect unpaid salaries without undue delay.

Blur ting: It was a really good offer at the end of the class the professor told us that this was a real case that had happened nd afte a strike renegotiations were done by different people on both sides and a deal was struck

Peter Haslem: And the worse thing is that instead of ending as a win win for both we deliberately make it a lose lose.

surjit said...

Yes Random, I fully support your views:
If the other person starts in bad faith it is not about what we could have done more or less it's about them having decided what they would do from before...
Preconcieved notions lead you nowhere.
A good post.Best wishes.

paisley said...

exactly... and i think that there is something to be said for the one who enters into the negotiations with their mind already made up as well...

i am not sure what... but i will think about it in depth right now....

Geno Petro said...

It's perhaps sad to say but in 'negotiations,' it's not whether you win or lose...it's whether you win. At least in these parts of the world.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Random, I'm glad
I always had the feeling the sheikh IS a fair & enlightened sort

Mark said...

There is a great lesson here. We have all been guilty of making our mind up before hand. Sometimes for good reason, however most of the time when we do this, we close the doors to opportunities that may lie before us. Great post!

Zakman said...

Hi Rans!

I read all the comments, and anything I wanted to say is already taken... uh oh

Perhaps I can add this: Whenever I feel intimidated, I first look at what I get to lose.

And then go ahead and look them in the eye.

ps: That's a cool cool post. Keep writing!

the domestic minx said...

Brilliantly insightful and unfortunately true.

Successful negotiations in any relationship must surely be borne from compromise:
"A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions."

Rather hard to do when one side has limited themselves from the outset...it makes the whole negotiation process redundant really, doesn't it!

Random Magus said...

Surjit: Pre-concieved notions are the death of any sensible alliance

Paisley: The person who enters a negotiation with their mind made up is just playing a power game with you. They are wasting your time and it's insulting and ridiculous.

Geno Petro: It should be win-win for both parties at least that's the point of it - but throughout this class I noticed that people would rather loose themselves than let anyone else win even an inch. Human Nature showed its really ugly side to me throughout :(

Quasar9: He's ambitious, a champion horseman and writes poetry, you know. People always imagine Sheikhs or Arabs in general as the ones portrayed in movies, on a horse with the usual stereotypes. He's not like that. We call him Shiekh Mo

Random Magus said...

mark: I have been guilty of making my mind about things before hand, like I decide I wont like something and usually end up not liking it. But as far as going to negotiate with someone for something I try to be as neutral as possible otherwise it ends up being a cat and mouse game.

Zakman: Thats a really good strategy by the way before any negotiation you must have a BATNA [thats your fallback plan]

the domestic minx: It does make it redundant - and the funny thing is by acting the way they did, they put a spotlight on their immature stupidity themselves, in front of the whole class. So in the end it was them who were the losers

Zakman said...

BATNA... doesn't it stand for "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement"?

Alright... I didn't know that, but Wikipedia did ;)

Oh yes, it's a great idea to have a fallback plan, I do believe in it too, but I've also seen some top businessmen who act first and think later.

I always wonder how they do that. Perhaps it's an instinct, the business acumen, or they have 22 million dollars stashed away!

Either way, what it finally boils down to is one's moral fiber (or fibre) ... I think.

Random Magus said...

22 million dollars would make a very good Batna

Michelle said...

Great thought-provoking post, Random.

Random Magus said...

Thanks Michelle

NeoAuteur said...

Sounds like a very interesting assignment. Unless both parties are genuine about getting a compromise, most negotiations yield little or no result.

Random Magus said...

It really was except some people just didn't approach it in a good spirit.
Thanks for stopping by!

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Random, I know
we met in Cambridge, or it may have been Newmarket

Random Magus said...

You met Sheikh Mo?

Goldy said...


We do exercises such as these at business school quite a bit. If the "workers" truly came with a preconceived notion of the outcome then they were missing the point of the excerice.

Random Magus said...

I know and I think the rest of the class thought as much