Tag Archives: honesty

Negotiating With Empathy & Respect Doesn’t Make You Weak

Stop fearing negotiations! Learn how to reframe them from conflict to mutual respect and empathy, save face, and both walk out winners.


The sexy part of procurement is often seen as the negotiation phase

It’s the part of the project where the junior employees (who have done all the grunt work) are pulled off the project and senior management dusts off their suits and are rolled in for the “heavy lifting”. The outcome of which often goes one of two ways: either champagne is popped at the close of negotiations or, alternatively, someone mysteriously disappears to “seek opportunities elsewhere”.

But, negotiations are built off a myth. Let’s explore this by starting with a question.

What’s your reaction to the thought of having to lead a negotiation?

If you said “panic”, you wouldn’t be alone. 

We can all relate to this scenario: your stakeholder is happy with the procurement process that’s been completed … but there’s one thing. The pricing needs to be negotiated and some of the terms need to be pushed back on. Actually, there are a few areas the business owner has decided need to be sorted before the contract can be signed.

This is the point when terror can creep in. You don’t know if you’re ready for an all out war with the supplier – in fact, you’d be happy to concede some points if you gained ground on some of the more important areas.

Negotiation is wrapped in a myth and it’s time we bust it open.

Negotiation myth

Negotiating is typically seen as:

  • Something you have to learn through a course
  • A persona you have to become, leaving your “normal” self at the door
  • Hard, serious, take-no-prisoners approach
  • Directly correlated to your career success or failure
  • Confrontational
  • A considerable investment in time, effort and resources

Time and place

There are projects that do warrant an approach outlined above, where the stereotypical negotiation style needs to be adopted but it’s not needed for all negotiations. There are other areas of traditional negotiations that are important too, like negotiation plans, checklists and planning / rehearsing meetings.

Here’s an idea: what if we started to adopt a negotiation style that was built on mutual respect, where it doesn’t matter what the other side represents or may be plotting? What if we bring our authentic selves to the negotiation table?

Saving face

Saving face is a concept used to describe the facet of a person’s image that they want to retain: it’s connected to their identity and dignity. Nobody wants to be made a fool of or shown up. Saving face is about respecting that human desire. In negotiations, if there is awareness of saving face it can lead to better outcomes as both sides retain their image and reputation.

Negotiating with empathy

Here are some alternatives to the stereotypical negotiation blood bath:

  • Don’t call it a negotiation. Pick up the phone and structure a conversation around finalising the contract. “We’re almost at the finish line, I just want to run a couple of things by you to tidy up some loose ends so we can proceed to signing.”
  • If it’s about price, be honest. You’ll save a lot more time if you can give percentage thresholds where your business would have more comfort. “Look to be honest, you’re at least 10-20% above where our CE would feel comfortable proceeding. Other bids have come in closer to our mark but it’s your methodology and solution we’re seeking to proceed with.”
  • In New Zealand they often open meetings with the Maori custom of a mihi which shares who they are, where they come from, which acts as an offer to create a mutual meeting space where all are equal. Could you start the meeting with an informal conversation to shift the environment? Or share something from your own culture?
  • If you’re struggling with someone on the other side of the fence try something that will speak to the person they are, not the role they are playing. Flattering their experience in their field can act as a good way in “clearly you have extensive experience in this area, [begin your point]…”
  • Empathising with their view to show you hear and understand them. “We can see that it’s important to your business to guarantee continuity of supply and we can understand where you’re coming from. We need to ensure x,y,z. Is there a mutual place we can agree on?”
  • Syntax is important. An old tip from the pros is to use the word “and” instead of “but”. The latter implies that you are about to contradict what you just said and also disregard their point of view. “And” implies that you are joining two views together.
  • Research active listening and practice it for a week or so before your negotiation meeting. 

The tips for moving negotiation towards empathy and away from confrontation are centred around respect principles. Give it a try and share your tips in the comments below.

How To Make Your Company More Honest (And Why It Matters)

It’s a fact that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. So how do you motivate your teams to perform with greater integrity?

By Dado Photos/ Shutterstock

There is ample evidence that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. And while almost every company says they are honest, many do not create and support a culture of honesty.  The research tells us there is one key thing any company can do to ensure we are honest at work. 

According to annual research conducted by global accounting firm EY, 97 per cent of businesses say it is important that they operate with integrity. Businesses want to be honest for one very simple reason.  Their reputation is on the line.  Almost all of them rate customer perception as the most important reason to behave honestly, with public and shareholder perception coming a close second and third. 

They believe that honesty, or at least having your customers, shareholders and the public believe you are, is key to successful business performance.  Obviously, acting with integrity makes it easier for organisations to operate by reducing scrutiny and fines,  but there are other much more important ways that honesty improves business performance.  Dishonesty also has a direct impact on the bottom line.  A recent study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that about 5 per cent of a business’s annual revenue is lost when that business is struck by dishonest acts such as asset misappropriation (theft and skimming), corruption (bribes and conflicts of interest) and financial statement fraud (misreporting sales and expenses).

Besides those direct impacts, honest organisations attract the best employees and customers. We would all prefer to do business with an honest seller or buyer and we would all prefer to work in a place that has a reputation for integrity.  While the impact of better customers and employees is difficult to measure, there is little doubt both improve the bottom line. Every year Ethisphere ranks the World’s Most Ethical Companies and compares their performance to their competitors.  Their research shows that over the five years to 2018, the World’s Most Ethical Companies outperformed the US large cap sector by 10.72 per cent.

So, the benefits are clear.  But according to the EY report one in six companies still undertake fraudulent and corrupt behavior. Its not for lack of policy.  Almost all organisations have implemented anti-fraud and corruption programs and 95 per cent say their senior leaders set examples of good ethical behavior. 

The problem isn’t lack of desire for honesty.  The problem is getting everyone to actually behave honestly.  There is however one key thing every organisation can do to drive a culture of honesty, remind us we are honest.

The research on cheating and lying tells us that it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are all, at base, honest people who are happier if we behave morally. Once we remember that, we generally behave that way. The most effective method to remind people of this is to prompt honesty at key moments. Usually these little prompts are cheap and easy to implement, and most important when we are tempted to fudge things a bit. Professor Dan Ariely from Duke University has spent more than a decade putting people in situations where they could lie and seeing if they do.  His research demonstrates that people don’t lie more just because the reward for lying is bigger and they don’t lie less just because the chance of getting caught is greater.

When people don’t have to lie to a person face to face in return for the reward, they cheat a lot more.  Making us deal with people face to face halves the chance of dishonesty.  And we are also more likely to be dishonest if we think everyone else is being dishonest and conversely more likely to be honest if we think everyone else is honest.

But the real kicker, was the one thing that stopped almost all the lying.  It was simply reminding us that our workplace has code of honesty before we are put in a situation where we might be tempted to be dishonest. Bizarrely the studies showed that even something as simple as getting people to sign the top of the test (before they lie) killed the cheating. If they signed the bottom, after they lied, they cheated as normal.

When this was implemented in a large-scale trial of insurance applications, the results were even more impressive. Researchers from the Harvard Business School decided to see if signature placement on insurance forms changed the level of honesty in disclosure. The results showed that customers self-reported 10.25 per cent more miles when they were asked to sign the declaration of honesty before they filled in the form. This would amount to an insurance premium being on average $97 more costly per car depending on whether the form was signed at the top or the bottom. Even at a significant personal cost, people were more inclined to be honest if they declared honesty before they filled in the form.

Of course, the other way to stop people lying is to do what they did in the control state of the study – check everybody and everything all the time. But who really wants to work in a police-state? Life is so much easier if you can trust people to be honest.