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Ernest R. Anderson Jr., MS, RPh
“Leadership in Action” is authored by Ernest R. Anderson Jr., MS, RPh, of Brockton, Mass. Mr. Anderson welcomes your input on leadership issues, at anderson489@ comcast.net.

As managers we are routinely involved in negotiations. Negotiations may be with a boss, a subordinate, a peer or a vendor. Or perhaps you are negotiating for a new job. Regardless of with whom you are negotiating, you need to determine your mindset going into the negotiation. Are you approaching it as a zero-sum game? Is it a win/lose contest? Or is it a “fixed pie,” where you want to get the greatest number of pieces?

We’ve been looking at some of the principles of conflict resolution from Ken Sande’s The Peace Maker (Baker Books, 2004). In this article, we look at conflict resolution in the process of negotiation.

Scarcity mentality often is the approach used in many negotiations. This infers that there indeed is a fixed pie—that is, there are limited resources and the total size of the pie cannot increase. Abundance mentality, in contrast, means that the size of the entire pie can increase. For example, let’s say that you are negotiating for a new piece of automation equipment in your pharmacy. The key to your negotiation is your return on investment (ROI). In other words, it is the creation of new sources of dollars to help pay for the equipment. Can you reduce your inventory to have a one-time savings that will help support the purchase of this new equipment? If we are fighting for a limited amount of capital dollars that are fixed, then we may be in a “dogfight” with other managers. If, however, we can show additional savings that will create new capital, then we are increasing the size of the pie or pool of dollars available.

Cooperative Vs. Competitive Negotiation

PAUSE Strategy For Cooperative Negotiation

Prepare

Affirm Relationships

Understand Interests

Search for Creative Solution

Evaluate Options Objectively And Reasonably

Many people automatically resort to a competitive style of negotiation. This may be the result of conditioning in their professional upbringing. It’s like a tug-of-war; whoever can pull on the rope the hardest wins. The fixed- pie competitive attitude discourages communication, openness, flexibility and creative solutions. It also often destroys relationships, which hinders future negotiations. This attitude actually is quite self-centered. “I want it my way.” I frequently see this play out between pharmacists and physicians during the process of standardizing order sets or treatment pathways. I have even seen many instances of intimidation coming from department heads and other professionals “pulling rank.”

So what is the best solution? Using cooperative negotiating is actually more efficient in the long run, allows creativity and new information sharing and preserves relationships. It demonstrates concern for others and shows humility. This does not mean, however, that you are a “pushover”—the intention is that both sides contribute to the solution.

Mr. Sande uses the acronym PAUSE to encourage cooperative negotiations (box). Let’s take a look at each aspect and determine how we can practically use each one toward a successful negotiation.

Prepare

Ask anyone who has put together a Pharmacy & Therapeutics committee agenda and he or she will tell you how important preparation is to the success of the meeting. This applies to any committee or negotiation. The following are aspects that you may want to consider in your preparation:

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  • Get the facts. To do so, speak with the key experts in a given therapeutic or operational area.
  • Identify the issues and interests. Dig deep to determine if there is more to someone’s position than initially may meet the eye. Perhaps there is a matter of someone’s job at stake, and that hidden agenda is making the negotiation more complicated.
  • Develop options. Brainstorming ahead of a meeting to think through possible options that will benefit your opponent will give you the opportunity to show you are thinking about them.
  • Anticipate reactions. Try to anticipate the possible responses to each of your options.
  • Develop an alternative to the negotiated agreement. This is a useful tactic if the negotiation is not successful or not going well.
  • Consider the best place for the meeting. Should it be in the other person’s office, your office or on “neutral” ground?
  • Plan your opening remarks. Frame the issue in a positive manner that encourages cooperation.
  • Seek counsel. If you feel uncomfortable about your process, seek the counsel of a trusted mentor. If the opportunity allows, you may want to bring someone along with you to the meeting, especially if you do not feel confident in your knowledge of the topic to be discussed.

Affirm Relationships

Most people focus on the problem at the core of a conflict or negotiation, and do not consider the feelings or concerns of the individuals involved. This further alienates the other person and frequently makes them defensive. Affirming the other person, recognizing all the effort that he or she has put into a project or issue, explaining your admiration of their contribution and stating that you want to find a mutually acceptable solution puts the other person at ease and opens them to possible alternatives.

Understand Interests

Another step in the PAUSE process is to understand the interests of the other person. As Mr. Sande states, “The more fully you understand and look out for your opponent’s interests, the more persuasive and effective you can be in negotiating an agreement.” It also is a good idea to make a list of your own interests. Asking clarifying questions helps you understand others’ interests and shows a caring attitude.

Search for Creative Solution

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The next strategy is to search for creative solutions that will satisfy as many of the interests of both parties as possible. Creativity and imagination should be included to attain a solution that is truly synergistic. This is the step that we use to “expand the pie,” as in the example of presenting ROI data to justify the initial cost of a new piece of equipment. As you search for creative solutions, show your “opponent” how this benefits him or her.

Evaluate Options Objectively And Reasonably

The final step in the PAUSE strategy is to evaluate possible solutions objectively and reasonably to reach the best agreement. In our work, we frequently talk about using an evidence-based approach to reaching objective decisions. This also is the area in which we rely on content experts in a particular therapeutic arena.

Once an agreement has been reached, it is important to document what has been decided, the potential time line, and the action steps each party has agreed to complete, and set a time for review of progress toward the goals. Negotiation does not need to be a painful tug-of-war. When approached properly, most people will respond favorably and solutions will satisfy all parties involved.