The Negotiator Magazine

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Tyranny versus TLC: Five Negotiation Steps for Managers

by Ed Brodow

On Donald Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice,” employees are told: “If you don’t measure up, you’re fired!” An old boss of mine would have loved “The Apprentice.” I was one of eight experienced sales representatives transferred to his department from another division. On our first day in the new department, we were ushered into his office, shook hands, and sat down. I will never forget the first thing he said to us.

Not “Good morning” or “Welcome to my department.”

He said: “I fired 125 people last year and I’m proud of it!”

Imagine the effect his statement had on the group. Were we motivated? Inspired? I know that I wasn’t. I was disgusted. This approach to managing people — by fear — has long been the norm in the corporate world, and it accounts for much of the dissatisfaction in the workplace. Studies have shown that the number-one reason for stress on the job is the boss. If management’s goal is to get employees to do what it wants, this style of management by fear is counterproductive.

I prefer a more affectionate system of management, derived from my Three Rules for Win-Win Negotiating (see my book, Negotiation Boot Camp).

1. Treat each employee as an individual.

The affection-based manager does not try to intimidate his employees, but rather encourages them to apply their strengths in areas where they can make the optimum contribution. He finds a way to utilize each person’s unique attributes to foster cooperation in service of the company.

When I worked as a sales rep for IBM in the ’70s, I once alerted my manager to a threat from a competitor who was going after our largest customer. Unfortunately for him, my manager didn’t see me as an individual who could make a genuine contribution to the company.

“You are just a junior marketing representative,” he told me. “You don’t have the necessary experience to be able to analyze our overall account strategy. You couldn’t possibly be right about this situation.”

He was wrong — my prediction turned out to be dead-on. But by the time my manager realized it, it was too late. That taught me a lesson. When I became a sales manager at Litton Industries, I tried to view each of my reps as a partner rather than a subordinate, each with a set of unique skills. Our product line consisted mainly of complex systems that required sales reps to master a certain amount of knowledge. When it came to my attention that one of my reps didn’t have a sophisticated understanding of our big, complex systems, instead of firing or demoting him, I asked him to concentrate on smaller systems. It worked. He broke the company record for selling small systems. Had I taken the “Apprentice” approach and punished him for his poor performance with the complex systems, I would have lost a valuable member of our sales team.

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September 2007