Negotiating with political intelligence

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TTM associates Article


Office politics are the strategies that people play to gain advantage, personally or for a cause they support. Due to the negative  connotation,  many people  view  office  politics  as something  that needs to be avoided.  The  term itself often has a negative connotation, as it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or in general. Good “office politics”, on the other hand, help you fairly promote yourself and your cause, and is often called networking and stakeholder management.

As Work politics are inevitable, developing political competence is not a choice but a necessity. Those who manage to reach the inner circle are at a great advantage, which is achieved through remapping the organization chart in terms of political power and understanding the informal network, building alliances and making the most of it. People who have political intelligence are able to assess decision-making processes. They “understand’ who makes the decisions and how they are made. Furthermore, those with political intelligence can influence both the decision-making as well as decision-leading.

Negotiating with Political intelligence

Negotiating means “testing” where the other is willing to go, i.e. which concessions he is ready to make and which of your demands he will never accept.

There is an old proverb stating that you should never give anything in negotiation, only trade. This means that in planning for a negotiation you need to understand the things that you can trade away and understand what they will cost you and the value the opponent will place on them. Also, it is critical to understand what you ask for, what’s the cost of the opponent and how much they are actually worth to you. Trading means exchanging concessions, which are assumed to be equally rewarding, but, in order to trade, concessions should be evaluated and the rewards should be estimated.

A successful negotiation involves the management of tangibles as well as the resolution of intangibles. Intangible factors are the underlying psychological motivations that may directly or indirectly influence the parties during a negotiation.  Some examples  of intangibles  could  be the need to “win,”  or avoid losing  to the other party,  or the need to look “good,” “competent,” or “tough” for the people you represent. Also, it may be the need to defend an important principle or precedent in a negotiation or the need to appear “ fair, or “honourable” or even to protect one’s reputation. Intangibles are often rooted in personal values and emotions. Intangible factors can have an enormous influence on negotiation processes and outcomes. It is almost impossible to ignore intangibles because they affect our judgment about what is fair or right or appropriate in the resolution of the tangibles.

Win/ Win Negotiations

Most seasoned negotiators  understand the value  of evaluating  their  BATNA,  a concept that Roger  Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton introduced in their seminal book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. A universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting taken and with- out being angry. BATNA stands for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. This is the course  of action that will be taken by a party engaged in negotiations, if the talks fail and no agreement can be reached. A party’s BATNA refers to what they can fall back on if a negotiation proves unsuccessful. BATNAs may be developed for any situation that calls for negotiations, from negotiating a pay hike to resolving complex conflicts. While a BATNA may not always be easily identifiable, Fisher and Ury have outlined a simple three-step process for determining it:

1. Develop a list of actions to take if no agreement is reached.

2. Convert the more promising ideas into practical options.

3. Tentatively select the option that seems best.

One of the core concepts in win/win negotiation is value creation. Value is created in a negotiation when you trade away something that costs you little but is valued highly by the opponent and receive in return something which costs them little, but which you value highly. For example, negotiating a longer-term contract which gives the supplier stability, while giving the buyer a better price. Alternatively, it could involve paying an account more promptly in return for a settlement discount. This is where ZOPA, the Zone of Possible Agreement, is reached. ZOPA is considered an area where two or more negotiating parties may find common ground, where parties will often compromise and strike a deal towards, a common goal and seek an area that incorporates at least some  of each party’s ideas (as in the figure below).

Final Thoughts

Being politically intelligent, understanding how to influence others and how decisions are made, is more than just a good skill to have, it’s a vital key in making things happen for you and your organization. Negotiations using political intelligence are all about reaching a mutually agreed action while dealing with others by using a set of skills and behaviours which diplomatically influence the perception of value thus increases the chances of both parties’ satisfaction. It is a road on which you must travel to reach success.

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Read more about Behavioural Leadership and Political Intelligence and how TTM associates can help develop a politically intelligent environment in your organization.