The art of successful negotiation means paying close attention to detail – especially when it comes to legal agreements. The tighter and clearer the language, the less likely that disputes will arise in the future. A good negotiator knows that every deal involves give and take from both sides, but still presents a strong front.

There are many different styles of negotiators, but they all have the same objective: to achieve the best deal possible for their clients, their members or themselves. These are just a few of the most common negotiating styles.

The Strong Arm

The strong arm negotiator takes advantage of an unequal position. He or she is aggressive and unyielding. He typically has something the other side needs, which puts him in a stronger bargaining position. Of course, the strong arm negotiator is typically unpopular. Even if he wins the deal, resentments can linger for months or even years, causing unease to erupt in the future. In the employment context, a strong arm employer may win a favorable labour contract, but the chances of disputes arising over the terms of the contract will be higher and may cost the employer more in the long run.

The Flatterer

The flatterer is a negotiator who pretends to bend and yield but actually does not. For example, when city governments are negotiating contracts with public employee unions, the government may offer a token concession while holding out on the most expensive component sought by the union. The flatterer sometimes has his hands tied by a controlling unit of government and may simply be unable to concede what is being sought. In an effort to show good faith, he offers what he can, even if it is not what the other side wants most.

The Mediator

A good mediator knows the importance of neutrality. When two opposing sides clash over an important but difficult issue, their anger needs to be diffused. Their concerns need to be heard. And the details need to be hammered out. A mediator sits squarely in the middle and transfers information and offers from one side to the other. A true mediator seeks to resolve the outstanding issues and reach an agreement, and has no stake in the ultimate terms of the resolution, provided both sides agree to it.

The Importance of Negotiations

When business relationships break down or fail altogether, a good negotiator becomes crucial. A good negotiator keeps his clients’ objectives in mind, but is able to listen to the concerns and needs of the other side. In an employment context, for example, a good negotiator will maintain his cool while presenting the details of his clients’ objectives. He will, in turn, present the responses from the employer to his client, who can then work through the details with him.

Negotiations and Employment

In a changing global economy, companies change direction more frequently. Sometimes they reduce their workforce. Sometimes they change their talent pool to pursue a new business objective, and they end up terminating key personnel. In situations like this, it is important to present a rational, thoughtful response while exercising your rights to object.

No one likes excessive demands, and making unrealistic claims or accusations wastes energy. A good labour and employment lawyer:

  • can tell you the difference between standing your ground and losing your termination package altogether
  • is a good negotiator – he knows the business, and understands customary practice in the field
  • can play the part of a mediator, but is in fact negotiating on your behalf.

If you are terminated or laid off, you need the skill of a good negotiator to work out a severance package on your behalf. Instead of trying to ‘go it alone’, get a good negotiator on your side. After all, the best way to win a lawsuit is to avoid needing to file one in the first place.