What it the best way for people to deal with their differences? Is building trust possible when a war is brewing?
Many years ago, I was working with a (heavily unionised) steel company and the wire mill had the worst safety audit.
The problem was a break down in communication between the site managers and workers on the floor. And this was a significant safety issue where lives were potentially at risk.
During the next 12 months I worked with bridging the communication gap between the warring parties. The process was so successful that when the whole site called a strike, the Wire Mill with which we worked saw no need to strike.
Want to Reduce Stress? Build Trust
If workers had a problem with management, they went directly to them, sorted it out and moved on. Building trust had positive consequences: it meant less stress, less energy lost and greater productivity gains for BOTH parties.
Their safety audit went from the worst by far to the best by far. How? Communicating in a safe environment with people who all listened to each other with a win-win attitude. Trust reined.
These are skills that are naturally not necessarily taught to us.
Getting To Yes
In their classic ‘old but gold’ book “Getting to Yes”, Roger Fisher and William Ury speak about developing your ‘BATNA’.
What do you do if the other side is richer or has better connections, or if they have a larger staff or more powerful weapons? No method can guarantee success if all the leverage lies on the other side.
In response to power, the most any method of negotiation can do is to meet two objectives:
- To protect you against making an agreement you should reject
- and to help make the most of the assets you do have so that any agreement you reach will satisfy your interest as well as possible.
So, what is your BATNA? “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement”.
Know your ‘walk away’ point.
Fellow member of The Network of Consulting Professionals (The NCP), Tony Telfer introduced the term to me as a powerful tool in bringing together parties at loggerheads.
Ugly standoff – Union v Management
Tony had been on the executive team for a large supplier of critical packaging materials to the Australian Industry.
Tony explained that what originally was an ugly standoff between the union and management soon became a win-win using BATNA – the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. In Tony’s words, “Where are the areas we can both accept and be able to work with?”
Find the area with which BOTH parties can live. In fact, Tony even employed an industrial relations lawyer for the union to have complete access to. These acts by leaders built stronger, not weaker, relationships.
As with my steel client, once trust was built between management and workers, productivity and business began to boom in that business.
Indeed why start a meaningless, energy consuming war when all parties can walk away ‘winners’?
Is a ‘war’ is brewing in your workplace?