Business

Nothing personal, it’s just business….

In the current climate of rampant industrial action and dispute, the traditional methodology for resolving the disputes ‘in the room’ cannot happen because the people who need to be ‘in the room’ are not there
In the current climate of rampant industrial action and dispute, the traditional methodology for resolving the disputes ‘in the room’ cannot happen because the people who need to be ‘in the room’ are not there In the current climate of rampant industrial action and dispute, the traditional methodology for resolving the disputes ‘in the room’ cannot happen because the people who need to be ‘in the room’ are not there

IT'S nothing personal, it’s just business . . .

This expression often has me perplexed, whether it comes from a mobster onTV or across the negotiating table in the heat of an offer being made (one that he can or can’t refuse) as part of crunch pay talks.

We often hear of the need for emotional detachment and not letting our judgment be clouded by emotion. But I say embrace and channel the emotion and draw the distinction between making something personal to you but not personal in the antagonistic sense against your counterpart across the table.

I’ve read many books, especially by former FBI agents about the art-form of negotiation and what body language means or doesn’t mean. I’ve found many of the tips useful but many more contrived or simply lost in translation from the USA to here.

Negotiation 101 will often teach you about getting to “yes” and the best alternative to a negotiated agreement , power imbalances and how to counter them, reframing your language and asking open counter-questions.

And all of that is fine but it does a disservice to the negotiator as an individual who has to make the process personal in order to get the best deal agreed at the table.

I have known many great negotiators over the years on both management side and trade union side and they all have some common traits –

· They do their due diligence on all aspects of the deal and the people involved

· They are respectful but passionate and channel that passion to great effect

· They know their history and they can plot their future realistically

· They can pivot from micro to macro and in-company to outside world to great effect

· They are not all that different in the room and out of the room and don’t do showmanship

Unfortunately, in the current climate of rampant industrial action and dispute the traditional methodology for resolving the disputes ‘in the room’ cannot happen because the people who need to be ‘in the room’ are not there.

Such politically charged disputes may not be relational in nature but the lack of engagement will set things back somewhat as industrial resentment just gets stored up and at some time there will need to be a venting of some kind.

And that’s where relational damage can happen, albeit collaterally.

There is a lot to be said for emotional intelligence and possessing the qualities detailed above when you do eventually get back into the room.

Until then, keep it personal (to you) if you know what I mean.

:: Mark McAllister is director of employment relations services at Labour Relations Agency NI