Negotiation is a very cardinal aspect in conflict resolution at our work place. It provides the link in exercising continuity in interaction with several partners in engaging them in solutions to issues that arise in our daily activities. The process can sometimes be stressful and a worse out come (Fisher 1995:3).However we should be determined to put up a brave face and forge in discussions under such difficult circumstances.In order to achieve success in negotiations there are clear steps that have to be taken into account.Preparations should be the first step to commence negotiations. This is important since it helps to in determine how the process will be carried out. One is able to tell whether the opposite group will offer the expected result, the terms of agreement and the benchmarks of determining the agreement. It also helps in prediction of the exact time to quit if everything turns out to be sour.
Preparation often depends on the issues at stake. Trivial matters require less time as compared to higher stakes with complex activities (Fisher1995:5).It requires the negotiator to narrow the lines of agreement ,formulate the necessary options and evaluate tentative offers to be put on the table. At times it is assumed that the time spent in preparations is commensurate with the time to be used in face to face negotiations. This cannot be referred to as the actual expected result on the negotiating table. Good preparations can even reduce the time that will be spent in negotiations. Proper preparations needs a systematic approach.It requires a checklist that directs every step to be taken at the negotiation table.
There is no single way of organizing our ideas.In order to achieve a good result in negotiations, seven elements come into play. Every negotiator should have clear interest in focus that have to be met.The outcome should be geared towards meeting the interests of both parties.Our approach in negotiations should embrace open mindedness in terms of options to be taken. The choices we have as the actions to be reached at should be wide spread so as to be able to arrive at an agreeable conclusion within a workable time frame.Narrowing the options we have makes it difficult for us to achieve the desired goal.The other partner can relate our fewer choices as unwillingness to come to terms with their demands or selfishness on our part. The options we put forward should only be those can benefit both parties. They should be designed in a manner that they do not compromise our ultimate wishes. This means that we should not give in too much but give the other party a considerable space to think on how to come to terms with our demands. Hard stance should always be discarded. This is because it easily leads to the collapse of the talks.
The negotiators should have well defined alternatives to be discussed on. Before reaching an agreement we must thrive to bear in mind on the other activities that we can do, apart from the decision arrived at. Despite the conclusions that we make at the negation table we should take into account that the forum does not make decisions for us. It only provides the mechanism that we can approach in fulfilling our desires. We must have our personal not alternative such that incase a hiccup develops in implementation of the joint decision arrived at, then we are capable of advancing our goals by using the available machinery. When preparing for negotiations there should well set standards to be used to avoid unfair agreements either on our part or the partner. A legitimate forum makes all the negotiators feel comfortable to identify with the entire process.The process should be designed in a manner that future challenges do not compromise the agreements.The parties involved should willingly make a binding solution that they feel contended with. Antagonistic approach to meet our selfish ends makes the other group to feel alienated from the whole process therefore jeopardizing the expected results.
In order to arrive at an amicable decision, there has to be a two way communication in a bid to influence both sides of the negotiating team. Careful projection should be made to be able to determine what is to be spoken and the expected responses form the other side. The interaction of the mediators should be emphasized during our preparations. A good result for both parties leads to a better relationship among the members. This cordial relationship gives a leeway in pursuit of the decision arrived at. Building a rapport with our partners helps in fostering, rather than hindering active participation. The most important aspect of preparations is taking into account the commitment of the partners. We should be able to preempt the possible promises that we can realistically fulfill and make, during the negotiations and the final conclusion.
These seven principal items provide a guideline that mirrors the expectations at the negotiations. It this therefore important that we approach negotiations from an informed point of view, rather than working with probabilities. Well prepared negotiators have much confidence, whenever they set out to the discussion table. The designed line of approach gives them the courage to face the upcoming partner. It is this positive attitude that serves one with the much required mental ability to face the challenge on the ground. Well equipped negotiators will always meet the expected results. One should only walkout from negotiations if the decision made is deemed to be unworkable or they feel compromised to the extent that the other party has had a lion’s share of the benefits to be accrued. This bold step should be taken only if one is sure of the next step to take. This is why preparation should include the necessary options just presumption that everything does not come by as expected. Storming out the meeting and failing to accomplish your targets, reduces your bargaining power in the next meeting since the other party feels that they have an upper hand gauging from your past mistake.
Collective bargaining in the Private and Public sectors
Bargaining is an idea that has developed due to industrial growth was witnessed in the country. Several workers joined to form unions that could articulate their concerns with regards to their salaries and other remuneration packages.It became clear that in their unity they could comfortably address their issues and be heard, rather than face the employer as individuals. It would be easy to bring the employer to the discussion table in a group and therefore avoiding victimization at the personal level. There are clear reasons as to why bargaining should be done in places of work. This because of the importance of the work force in any company or organization (Katz and Kochan, 1992:1) outlined how labor and the employees are valued in their current places of work. They stated that labor is not a freely exchanged commodity in the market as compared to other goods.
Changing jobs is costly to the employees due to personal and emotional costs. These challenges influence the employees’ behavior in their companies. They are not always ready to move from one place to another instead they opt to negotiate for the improvement of their terms at the current place of work. This is why bargaining plays a major role in management. In any place work conflict arises due to the fact that workers seek high pay and job security while employers pursue profits. This implies that the two parties have to agree on a common ground where both sides are beneficiaries of the business entity(Katz and Kochan,1992:4).Allover the world there are legitimate measures in place to ensure that this conflict of interest is solved amicably both in the private and the public sector. Collective bargain is viewed as the best means to resolve conflicts between employer and their employees while achieving their common interests (Katz and Kochan, 1992:4).In the United States collective bargaining is done separately between the private and the public sector. The development of bargaining was geared towards protecting the workers from unsafe working conditions and unlawful discrimination.
One of the distinct differences between the two sectors is that there is significant growth in public sector than in private sector. There is also a remarkable difference in the density of the collective bargaining. This because of the fact that bargaining is more important for increase in salary in the public than in the private (Najita and Stern,2001:3).The laws existing seem to grant private investors more powers in determining the amount of wages and allowances as long as they are within respectable market rates. As much as the bargain is done with an intention of revising the wages upwards the interest of the private investors has to be taken into consideration for the sake of business viability and continuity. However, this argument was disputed on the basis that employers are not forced by the law but every kind of negotiation has to be done within the realistic economic environment.
Unionizations cannot be effectively carried out if the employers were completely free to suppress all the unions in their premises. On a similar vein employers cannot compete effectively in both domestic and global markets if constant collective bargaining leads to increased wages and terms of employment (Katz and Kochan, 1992:5). The law governing the collective bargaining has evolved with time. The model applied in the public sector was a borrowed version of the private one that was adopted and fitted into the needs of the government (Najita and Stern, 2001:6).This means that it is the private sector that pioneered the principle of collective bargaining. However some scholars have argued that the borrowed aspect was not improved on but manipulated in order to fit the governments’ motives. (Schneider, 1987) argued that it was diluted, stretched and bent with a view of meeting the collapsed governments alternative workable policy instruments. This resulted in bit by bit application of the traditional procedures, while experimenting with new ones and gradually abandoning the undesirable static positions. The government was greatly interested in protecting its accountability image at the expense of improving the working conditions of the government employees.
Collective bargaining in the public sector has been fitted in a manner that it does not contradict the rules controlling promotions, transfers and grievances. However in the private sector, these matters form the bulk of discussion such that they can be attained once the bargaining process is successful to the workers union. There is also a difference in public sector and the private sector that emanates from the consumers. (Munk, 1998:2) argued that consumers tend to determine the results of collective bargaining. A business enterprise for instance may not be willing to engage in discussions that will lead to cumbersome wages and work rules. This is because, it can have an overall rise in price of commodities produced thus a backlash to the company. This forces the private unions to be reasonable in their demands to avoid collapse of business and consequent loss of jobs of the employees they represent. In the public sector matters are different in the sense that they have lesser external pressure during the moderation of their demands. All the extra costs that are accrued as a result of the discussions are translated to better services to be offered to citizens. The end costs are met by the consumers through the tax they pay. This explains why the salaries and benefits of employees of the public sector are higher than those of the private sector.
Mediation is a process that has been carried out for a long period of time. (Moore, 2003:7) argued that initially it took the form of dispute resolution in courts, communities and families. Mediation refers to the process that parties involved in a dispute are engaged in a consultative forum that seeks to solve the dispute and promote reconciliation among the warring partners. In such cases a neutral party acts as the go between the parties in conflict. It is a process that begun after several parties realized that the courts were not able to give satisfactory ruling to every case forwarded to it.
Mediation was sought as a remedy to wounds that resulted from the court ruling. In a bid to foster harmony in the community, the affected parties decided to resort to individuals regarded with high esteem and authority to provide for guidance and amicable solutions. This enabled the members of any community, family or parties to be able to accept the court ruling and promote mutual understanding.It this process that later on developed to be a formidable solution to injustices in the society to the extent that it became a preferred choice for most of the people. It was widely accepted because of its affordability and accessibility by members of any social class. At the beginning Mediators worked as private practitioners and employers of state and federal agencies. The underlying aspect about mediation is that it has made living easier through well designed mechanism of conflict resolutions. The mediators have specialized in different aspects of human life.
These include: Family life and divorce, corporate organizations and public policy disputes.There are regulations that have been put in place to allow for this activity to take place within the acceptable social and legal mainstream. This has led to the legitimization of the decisions made by such talks. It is this kind of legal backing that led to many people embracing dialogue consequently giving rise to the recognition of mediation.
This process takes place when there are two warring parties involved in a dispute that does not necessarily require a legal ruling. It one of the cheapest and moderate ways of conflict resolutions that leads to solution that is acceptable to all the parties involved. Mediation quite often leads to maintaining of the cordial relationship of the aggrieved parties. Mediators work against all odds. The resources at their disposal are often limited while the matters are usually complex. It always necessary that the mediation talks are given a chance before one seeks a court intervention or a strike in cases involving workers in any organization.Pushing for the resolution of the problems in the organization has led to the mediators being regarded as pragmatic in their approach to issues. However these professionals do not work under luxuries. (Kearnes, 2001:17) argued that they are strained by laws, contracts, by the accepted practice and by their personal options. As they progress in their activities they develop experience and a definite line to follow in dealing with the matters at hand. Due to the similarities of the cases handled. The mediations have always been worked to provide a framework that can be standardized for all mediators.
This means that it requires patience to achieve the desired objectives. Bridging the gap of two parties takes into account the views of all the parties involved. It is out of suggestions that a compromise can be reached. It is also necessary that during the mediation talks preconceived notions are dealt with to avoid favoritism in the decision making. Mediation should therefore be approached with openness in participation too avoid malice. The decision arrived at should be binding to all the partners.
Dispute resolution techniques
Strikes are one of the most common means of conflict resolutions. In most instances it is regarded as last option when all the other options have failed. They occur in organizations due to the anger developed as a result of unions failing to arrive at an acceptable solution to the workers’ grievances.The agitators of strikes quite often site arrogance from their employees and unwillingness to cooperate from the management. A strike can also be as a result of unfulfilled promises from one party either at arbitration level or at mediation process.Labor laws have provided for this provision in its statutes so that unwilling employers can be compelled to respond to the concerns of their workers. Strikes quiet often take different forms depending on the magnitude of the problems faced.
There are the go slow strikes that are used in cases where the issues being raise are not in a large magnitude but have significance in the whole company or organization. Such strikes take the form of slowdowns, where the people do not stop working completely but reduce the pace at which they often use there energy and skills. This reduces the production capacity of the company. Strikes are meant to send a signal to the employer that the workers need to be motivated in their duties to boost their general performance. Other examples of such kind of strikes are the sit-down and the wildcat- strikes. (Kearney, 2008:20).Depending on the magnitude, strikes have yielded fruits by forcing the employers to create a forum for reconciliation. It has led to their acceptance to address the issues raised.
However in some circumstances especially in the private sector it has been perceived as evasion of duty which has devastating results such as dismissal from jobs. It is clear that for any strike to be successful it must be carried out in mass form.Divisions amongst the striking workers can lead to “betrayal” which then does not serve its purpose. On the other hand strikes can lead to destruction of property through acts of looting and hooliganism. It is this ugly view of strikes that have led to it being avoided.
Arbitration has been regarded as the last option in dialogue form after all the other mechanism of negotiating have used and failed. There are cases where even the court rulings have not been able to address the matters of concern in an acceptable way to all the parties. This occurs especially when unions feel that the courts have favored the employers. They are designed to resolve impasses at the work places.The decision arrived at on the grievances are binding to the parties engaged in arbitration. Just like in strikes arbitration can also be applied in case where the decisions arrived at have not been fully implemented. It therefore seeks to avoid sanctioning of fighting of different camps while promoting collective negotiations. It is therefore important to note that all these activities are interrelated in a manner that failure to succeed in one approach lead to pursuit of more serious and intense approach.All the three steps in negotiations are designed to resolve conflicts.
According to (Dukes, 1996:1) Conflict resolutions ideology has three main components. It is designed to address the crisis of governance in any organization. It includes the explanation of disputes, conflict, the resolutions and the distinctive goals and objectives. It also deals with the people’s perception, the society and the role that governance plays in fulfilling the peoples’ visions. In his definition Dukes stated that conflict resolution provides a common ground where engagements in public issues are addressed in fairness, integrity, openness compassion and responsibility. It is a forum whereby decisions are arrived at without dictatorial approaches (Dukes, 1996:7).This indicates that conflict resolution should be encouraged in our society.
In order to reach a workable compromise it always important for both parties to embrace positional bargaining (Fisher, 1981:2).Under whatever circumstances the parties involved should engage in routine discussions with each side taking positions while making concessions to reach a compromise. This means that at no time can mediations collapse as long as every suggestion is taken on board. Every party should be allowed to take time to analyze the demands made by the other side before thinking of the next move. Dictatorial behavior on either party due to frustrations should be addressed by softening of stands in the discussions. The crisis of governance is always a result of the proliferation of powerful single groups that quite often lead to diffusion of power. In other cases there arises the over application of rules that tend to attract opposition from the subjects
This can be as result of general rivalry. It is these problems that require intervention so as to avert chaos and anarchy in any company or organization.In order to forge ahead in our problems and meet our desires. Conflict resolutions seek to correct these anomalies through certain means. It inspires nurtures and sustains the community through engaging every person in decision making. It provides vigor to the institutions of governance leading to a more responsible management. It also enhances people’s ability to solve their own problems hence promoting their dignity in the society. By considering these facts it necessary for all the non violent means to be exploited before resorting to strikes. It is only through dialogue that our intellectual capacities can be put to taste. A sincere approach to all issues at stake should be underlying factor in arriving at amicable solutions. In deed man is to error but the errors can be corrected by men.
Dukes (1996). Resolving public conflict: Transforming community and governance. Manchester; Manchester University press.
Fisher (1981). Getting Ready to YES. Negotiating Agreement Without giving in. New York: Houston Mifflin company.
Fisher, R (1995). Getting Ready To Negotiate: The getting to yes work book. New York: Penguin books.
Joyce and Stern (Eds) (2001). Collective bargaining in the public sector. The experience of the 8 states. USA: ME Sharpe publishers.
Katz, R.C and Kochan, T.A (Eds) (2002). Labor relations in the public sector.4th Edition. Pennsauken, New Jersey: Auerbach publishers.
Moore, C (2003). The mediation process. USA: Josses Bass.
Kearney, R (Ed) (2008). Labor relations in the public sector. New York: Marcell Decker.