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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…

The Negotiator’s Critical Role as Chief of Logistics…

From: L.T. (USA)

Dear Negotiator:

My boss and I flew to New Jersey to close a deal I set up with another company. We got the agreement but my boss is furious with me. We ended-up meeting in their conference room which was very small and had no windows. The final straw for him was that their group smoked constantly through the whole meeting and the room was filled with smoke. My boss says it will never happen to him again and blames me for the whole thing. Its my job to make certain it doesn’t. I could use some help on the mechanics of setting up negotiating meetings.

Dear L.T.

The conditions sound awful. I am surprised that your boss put-up with the situation at all.

I assume you were astonished by the conditions. If you were not, then you missed the first step of a principal negotiator to establish and assure a workable environment for the negotiations to take place. When that environment was not present, your job as the contact person has to shift to negotiating the immediate condition. I would suggest that the correct course would have been to ask your counter-part on the other team for a brief meeting and request a change immediately. It is hard to imagine your host not taking action to resolve the problem. If they refused, of course, then you would have gotten some very disturbing information about your potential agreement partner. Enough, I am confident, to talk with your boss and reexamine your other possible alternatives.

It is difficult, however, to imagine that this would not have been handled by an agreement to prohibit smoking and the provision of scheduled breaks. If you knew your boss was miserable, your job was to seek that agreement. If you did not know that, of course, then your boss sunk his own ship by not speaking out.

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