The Negotiator Magazine

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Ask the Negotiator

John Baker

Ask the Negotiator is designed to afford our readers with the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of negotiations and provide them with answers from experienced negotiators in future editions of the magazine. Please direct your questions to John Baker at [email protected] We will only publish your first name or the nom de plume you suggest along with your country when your question is published. Your question will be answered either by John Baker or by a member of The Negotiator Magazine’s growing list of outside negotiation resources.

John Baker has well over thirty years of active negotiating experience in educational, (USA) Fortune 100 corporations and small business companies. He has negotiated collective bargaining agreements both for unions and for management. Dr. Baker’s experience includes agreements across a broad range of negotiation areas, including marketing alliances, purchase and sales contracts, acquisitions, joint ventures, non-profit and government services agreements and even the peaceful conclusion of student protest sit-ins on more than one occasion. He holds a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University (USA).

And now, this month’s letter …

“To Negotiate or not to Negotiate? That is the Question. Some thoughts on the decision criteria…”

From: Alicia (USA)

Dear Negotiator:

“How do you decide whether to negotiate something or not? What guidelines do negotiators use to determine whether or not to negotiate something?

Dear Alicia,

You have asked a question that goes to the very heart of negotiation practice. Negotiation is more than a skill, it is an art and a key part of that combination is the decision to negotiate in the first place. Let’s look at some criteria to help with that decision.

On its face, the decision to negotiate is a simple one, but alas human interactions are never simple. In theory, negotiation decisions should be based upon a simple cost-benefit analysis. On the cost side, an estimate of required resources for the negotiation is essential. The most significant expenditure, of course, will be in personnel time. This is both a real time cost and an opportunity cost. Personnel time committed to negotiations on this matter can not be used on others alternatives, of course.

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November 2004