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Tyranny versus TLC: Five Negotiation Steps for Managers

by Ed Brodow

Ed Brodow - Can a Good Negotiator Make A Difference?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.

2. Develop trust by listening.
A client of mine with a network of dental offices set up a series of procedures for his employees to follow when dealing with patients. But his employees refused to follow the rules. My client took an adversarial, disrespectful position - "I'm the boss, do as I say" was his attitude. He scolded, threatened and even fired one person as an example to the others. Nothing worked until we convinced the client to show his employees respect by listening. So he set up a meeting in which the staff could air their grievances and make suggestions for improving the rules. My client finally heard what they had to say, and together they created a new set of office procedures that the employees were happy to follow - and that ended up being much more effective.

3. Provide clear objectives.
One leading cause of workplace stress is confusion over expectations. When employees have clear guidelines for job objectives, this confusion disappears. The best manager I ever had would first describe the task and then give me options for how to accomplish it in my own way. It was the most productive period in my corporate career. Effective managers do not say, "Do it this way because I say so." They describe the objective, telling subordinates what to do but not how to do it. If an employee's skill set is in sync with her position, and she understands her objectives, she will get the job done. The manager's function is to provide clear options that lead to the desired result.

4. Involve subordinates in decision making.
Affection-based managers make subordinates feel that they are part of the decision-making process. Because they are involved in the process, they have a stake in the outcome. They can later see how they contributed to the end product, and they enjoy a sense of completion. Workers who feel that they are an integral part of an operation are far more productive than those who do not. Employees who are able to see the fruits of their labor and ideas derive a strong sense of satisfaction from their jobs.

5. Give constructive criticism.
People who manage by fear are often abusive in their application of criticism. In adversarial management, criticism is a tool for bullying. The affection-based manager, however, uses constructive criticism - criticism that encourages you to correct the mistake without insulting or offending. Sometimes criticism is called for, but if it is delivered in an objective, affirming and kind way, it will make employees want to do better in the future, not feel shame about their mistakes.

Ed Brodow is a keynote speaker and negotiation guru on PBS, ABC News, Fox News, and Inside Edition. He is the author of Negotiation Boot Camp: How to Resolve Conflict, Satisfy Customers, and Make Better Deals. For more information on his keynotes and seminars, call 831-372-7270, e-mail, and visit

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