There’s an interesting uprising going on in Wisconsin these days. The state is having money problems, like every other state, and the governor of the state is ready to take some moves that may or may not be legal. Of course the people against it aren’t happy and there are daily protests occurring, sometimes a little violent, and on the surface it seems a lot like what was going on in Egypt only a couple of weeks ago.


U.S. Mission, Geneva

It seems that the art of negotiation has been lost. People these days do a lot of yelling at each other, but few will find ways to discuss the differences and then see where the best solutions might be. It’s too bad, but there is one main reason this is happening.

The main reason is because there’s a major lack of trust between parties. And I have to say that it’s usually the party that believes it has all the power that causes these problems. Why do I say that? Let’s take a look at this.

First, who sets the rules?

Second, who controls the money most of the time?

Three, who has the option of deciding to discuss options with true faith or be deceitful in those negotiations?

Here’s my point of view, and I believe it should carry into all businesses. We treat adults as adults. This means that if you promise or agree to something as the person in the leadership position, you stick to the promise and that’s that. Even if you take over for someone else, if there was something negotiated you don’t have the right to walk in and take it away.

You also don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep, or don’t believe anyone else could possibly keep once you’re gone. A few years ago our outgoing mayor made a promise that if we allowed our police department to consolidate with the county police that we’d all see a tax break on our property taxes. The next year, with a different mayor in his place, our taxes went up almost 10%. It seems that the outgoing mayor and the incoming mayor knew about this budget shortfall, and that something was probably going to have to be done, and yet it wasn’t until we were hit with the increase that we knew we’d been lied to.

And finally, if you’re in the position of authority, you don’t negotiate with the intention of putting one over on others. My classic example is offering up merit raises based on evaluations of employees. That’s one of the oldest tricks in the world, and employees fall for it every time and end up getting burned on the back end. When employers negotiate in bad faith, and the employees become aware of it, they will never trust a single word you say again.

How should interested parties negotiate? We’ll cover that in the next post.