Throughout the readings, negotiations, and self-assessment exercises this course offered, I was able to develop an accurate view of how I present myself in formal negotiation settings, and identify strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for how I might improve myself as I make the transition in my professional life to finding a job that is reflective of my educational background. I found that the self-assessment worksheets revealed distinct patterns of behavior and knowledge, pertaining to personal expectations, and how I conduct myself amongst my peers. The negotiations, especially the two in which I was an active participant, worked to elucidate the self-assessment results, and provided a strong contextual framework in forging a plan of action for the future.
The most apparent strengths evidenced from the exercises, lessons, and negotiations centered around the trust I place in my colleagues, and my perceptions and reflections of past conversations. In accordance with the Trust Scale, there were clear strengths in calculus and identification-based notions of trust. In using the example of my boss, the exercise showed a high degree of trust based on consistency of behavior: indicative of an individual who “values outcomes to be received by creating and sustaining the relationship relative to the costs of maintaining or severing it.” (Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders, 2015, p. 711) Similarly, the high scores for identification-based trust supported the notion that I hold an emotional connection with my boss that pertains to shared, understood values, to the extent of one party being able to assess and defend the values of the other, and vice-versa. I witnessed a similar dynamic develop over the course of class negotiations, as my group members proved consistent in establishing regular meeting times to plan the next step of our negotiation, and in the work they promised to do in between our meetings. Those factors, first established during the Twin Lakes negotiation, developed by the time of the Eurotechnologies case so that the four of us were able to efficiently develop responses and consider alternatives based on the preparatory work we assigned to each another. Trust was established not only through consistency of meeting times, but emotionally as we developed an awareness of each other’s strengths, and applied those to various elements of our responses to the other party.
This inclination towards trust and understanding was followed by two indicators in the communication competence exercise. In scoring close to the maximum amount in both planning and recognition, I identified a high level of self-awareness in perceiving how others react to the tone and context of a conversation, and also in recognizing points of resistance as an indicator to change or alter the subject at hand. The exercise revealed a tendency for me to engage in self-reflection regarding my own communicational performance, and how I might improve my presentation in the future. As superficial personality tests I have taken in the past have revealed, I am a highly introverted person, and do not necessarily seek out conversations and debate, so when I do engage in verbal or written discourse, I am drawn to those interactions, reflect on how they progressed, and consider how a number of potential alternatives would have changed the result. I found it fulfilling to see this tendency mirrored in a professional exercise, and even more so in my conduct throughout the aforementioned negotiations, as reviewing the group chat logs showed not only myself, but my entire team as tuned to each other’s resistance points when considering ideas and alternatives. Our awareness also extended to the teams we were working with, especially in the Twin Lakes negotiation, as our initial offer was met with what our group felt to be a hostile, abrasive tone, to the point that subsequent counters were given extra attention in addressing and rectifying this significantly altered mood.
The most apparent weakness manifested in the SINS II Scale, where my scores for each subdivision resulted in a number often well below the ‘model’ average. (Brown, 2015) In particular, my scores regarding misrepresentation of negative emotion and traditional competitive bargaining showed two areas in which I felt that the underlying ethics behind certain strategies were highly inappropriate. Tactics such as feigning the opponent into believing that either myself or my teammates were upset or disgusted with the proceedings of a negotiation, regardless of whether or not the terms are in my favor, have always seemed underhanded in that they attack the emotional response, rather than the subject at hand, which does little to encourage feelings of understanding between opposing parties.
As far as indicators suggestive of traditional competitive bargaining, such as “making an opening demand so high/low that it seriously undermines your opponent’s confidence in his/her ability to negotiate a satisfactory settlement,” and conveying a false sense of time in working to pressure an opponent towards making concessions, my scores were again below the average for my demographic. (Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders, 2015, p. 705) As my team went through our two active negotiations, we found ourselves taking these tactics to heart: not as a means to deliberately slip our opponent, but in a more productive sense that acknowledged the time constraints of each negotiation, and presented offers/counters that continually sought middle ground between the concessions each side was considering.
A further, motivating factor in determining the acceptability of misrepresentation, emotional manipulation, and competitive bargaining is persuasion. Whether centered around relationships, organizational politics, interests, or other channels, persuasion goes beyond direct, top-down authority, and is reflective of the competing values and interests that shape an organization. The Six Channels of Persuasion instrument assessed not only the strategies one is most comfortable with, but those that are needed to get ahead in an organizational setting: working to separate ideas of successful persuasion to that of its application. In ten of the thirty questions where an answer would have indicated a tendency for authoritative persuasion, only one of my answers indicated such, when assessing how to be effective within my organization. Furthermore, there were a total of zero answers suggestive of authority-based persuasion in determining what I am comfortable doing.
In similar fashion to my results regarding presence and reflection cognitions, the lack of authoritative persuasion seems to parallel not only my reserved tendencies, but also the fact that I have yet to hold an occupational position of prominence, and as such, am not familiar with utilizing authority over another individual in direct form. Shell & Moussa touched on an interesting point in that “you are using authority-based persuasion whenever you appeal to your formal position or authoritative rules or policies as a means of getting others to agree with your proposal.” (as cited in Lewicki, Barry, & Saunders, 2015, p. 227) I find this distinction between positional and policy-based authority to be particularly relevant, as I have a strong fixation on the latter as an acceptable tool of persuasion. Schoolwork provides a strong example of this, as I adhere to the guidelines found in the syllabus, assignment rubrics, and, relevant to this class, the briefing documents as a framework to refocus group-based discussions that consider ideas and proposals that stray from the core parameters. In that regard, I utilize policy-based authority as a means of persuasion for guiding a discussion. Though in holding a position of power as the basis for persuasion, I still feel uncomfortable. I recognize that this is partly a symptom of my occupation, where I do not hold direct authority. At the same time, I am beginning to realize that positional-based persuasion does not need to be direct and forceful, and can be presented in a rational manner that does not give off an air of callousness or supremacy over another.
In planning ahead, I believe the strengths I have identified can be used as a template with which to improve my perceived weaknesses. The personal bargaining inventory at the outset of this course hinted at the results that would follow in later exercises, as my answers indicated a high disposition towards sharing power, shunning conflict unless necessary, and avoiding misrepresentation in favor of transparency at the negotiating table. To this end, I would seek to strengthen not only myself, but also my peers in dissuading attempts at the manipulation of emotion, or any other form of misrepresentation in an attempt to gain the edge on an opposing team. Perhaps this is a consequence of deep-seeded optimism, but I believe that openness and transparency establish a far more accepting tone within a negotiation or conversation, and while such a move can open itself to being taken advantage of by enterprising groups or individuals, it remains a more ethically-appropriate tactic that does not utilize strategies that might not be considered practically or legally acceptable.
Continued personal development should also focus on persuasion – and not simply its authoritative channel. While this area stood out as particularly weak, my responses to the majority of the “choose one or the other” questions in this exercise did not result in personally satisfying answers. I do not fully know why I tend to shy from positions of holding direct influence over another, though I found the division between the channels of persuasion to be helpful in identifying relationships as my strong suit. Combining this with my tendency towards reflecting on past conversations and interactions, I will use this knowledge as an effective means of persuasion that does not come off in strict, top-down form. As with all of these self-assessment exercises, the mock negotiations were an excellent opportunity to assimilate with individuals who were similarly working to assess and improve upon their strengths and weaknesses. While this made for highly productive group exercises, the onus from here is to demonstrate these principles in every aspect of my personal, educational, and professional development.