By Don Archer
In an article entitled "How to Instantly Increase Your Bargaining Power In Any Negotiation," author Al Pittampalli writes about developing his personal negotiating skills, including a story about car hunting with his father when he was 16 and his unreasonable desire for a 1994 Buick Skylark.
Pittampalli loved everything about the car, but didn't have enough money to buy it. So he started out by asking the seller to come down on the price. Seeing how bad the young man wanted it, the seller quickly refused. The teenager was devastated, and asked his dad to loan him the money. His dad didn't, but helped him in another way.
His dad told him to go back to the seller of the Buick, but focus on the worst-case scenario: Not being able to buy the Buick.
"Picture yourself driving the Honda and listening to that sound system," his father said.
With this picture in mind, Pittampalli went back to the seller and confidently asked him to lower the price. Seeing a difference in the young man, the seller gave in as he realized he could sell the car today or lose a willing buyer. He got the car for 20-percent less than the asking price.
Pittampalli explains he was able to do this by using what's called defensive pessimism. Defensive pessimism is embracing the worst-case scenario and mentally rehearsing how it is you would cope if it were to happen. It gives you the power to walk away from any negotiation.
Let's take a look at how it could be used when dealing with employees.
Picture two people sitting at a negotiating table going over a written agreement. On the one side you have the employer, and what he wants is fairly simple. He wants someone who knows what they're doing to do the work.
On the other side of the table sits the hopeful employee. He looks over the agreement and thinks about what he wants from the relationship. His needs are simple as well. He wants to know exactly what will be expected of him and to know that he'll be paid, per the agreed rates.
Sometimes, however, the relationship breaks down and an employee fails to follow through on certain aspects of the agreement. In the process of deciding how to respond, many possible scenarios run through the employer's head.
He starts asking questions like:
"Is the employee's failure in this one area acceptable?"
"Will correcting the employee bring about the desired result?"
"Do I have the manpower necessary to continue providing seamless service should a separation occur?"
The problem starts when the employer questions whether or not this bad behavior is something that can be lived with. In doing so, he begins the descent into accepting less than what he's negotiated for.
How could defensive pessimism be used to resolve the matter?
1. Take care of your business first.
Your business must come first; everything else is ancillary. When a situation occurs where an employee correction is needed, you must be able to walk away from the negotiating table and start over. Everyone involved in the business is either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. You must practice tough love.
2. You must keep a clear picture in your mind of your ideal employee.
Although perfection may seem illusory, your ideal employee is out there. Your job is to find them or create them, and fill your business with these high-quality people. Create a beautiful picture in your mind of your perfect employee and hold it there throughout the conversation. If you must, try picturing yourself going back to the negotiation table with someone new if nothing is resolved.
3. Don't trash the existing relationship if it's good.
The point of the story of Pittampalli and the Buick was that he was able to get what he wanted: the car at his price. Unless the relationship is beyond repair, your goal is to use defensive pessimism to help get the employee back on track by keeping your bargaining power.
4. Do it early.
The longer an employee is allowed to continue doing the unacceptable behavior, the more he'll believe that the behavior is acceptable. If left unchecked, it will snowball, making corrections much more difficult.
To many, defensive pessimism may seem like the "my way or the highway" approach. But rather than causing you to concentrate on what you can't get, it forces you to look at what's really great about the alternatives and it keeps you focused on the bigger picture.Don G. Archer and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, MO. Don is also multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at www.TheTowAcedemy.com. Want to learn more email him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.