Negotiation of the Month- Trucker v. Building Manager: Can Negotiating Skills Work?

The trucking company insisted on delivering at 6 a.m., making all kinds of noise that woke the neighbors. The building manager was furious. Could key ideas from negotiation training help two tough guys reach agreement? ^^Student Jason Daniels* found out when he taught his company’s building manager Steve* the I FORESAW IT** mnemonic. The chance for success seemed slim– Steve had spoken with the trucking company several times before about changing the delivery time but he’d always gotten the same answer- no way. “We need to get the trucks moving early so they can get in before rush hour,” the truck company always told him. “If we come an hour later, your loading dock will be blocked by a sanitation truck.”

Working through the mnemonic, Jason and Steve spotted several common interests the two sides had, such as avoiding fines, completing deliveries quickly, and keeping a good ongoing relationship.

Jason and Steve also brainstormed options and found several that would solve the problem. For setting and scheduling, they decided Steve would request a meeting at the dock at 6:30 a.m. so the problem (and the possible solutions) would be evident during the talks.

They also decided Steve would bring the delivery contract, the firm noise policy, and the local noise ordinances as independent criteria to show he was being reasonable. Lastly, they role-played to spot reactions & responses.

At the meeting, the trucker came on very strong at first. “I’m used to noise complaints,” he said. “I could care less.” But thanks to his preparation, Steve remained calm for once. He appealed to their common interests, and surprisingly, the trucker stopped resisting and gave Steve his attention.

At this point Steve offered several options, and they quickly agreed on one of them– have the trucks park one block away at another location away from the neighbors. That way the trucking firm didn’t need to rearrange its schedule but the neighbors would hear less noise.

Independent criteria confirmed it was a fair solution, and Steve showed that it was better than either side’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement– end the relationship and work with others instead.

Everyone’s interests were satisfied, and the trucker happily agreed. “Steve was very surprised it worked so well,” Jason wrote. “He admitted to me that when we first started doing this exercise [it] was [nothing] but a waste of time. He believed that there was too much [B.S.] involved…. He was simply going to tell the vendor to do it his way or else. But after seeing how smoothly this negotiation went and how confident he was throughout the whole meeting, he would continue to use it.”

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*I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy

* *I FORESAW IT is a mnemonic that lists ten questions a negotiator should ask and answer before a negotiation. For details, go to the Home page, move the mouse to the heading “Articles,” and you will see a subheading for “I FORESAW IT” where you can read how it works. You can also find a copy of a handy I FORESAW IT template by clicking on the I FORESAW IT tab on the left side of the Home page.