Saturday, April 27, 2013

The demise of trust in negotiations....sacrificed to the "deal"....

Trust....a word that sees very little light of day, in the daily press, in the political conversations, in the coffee shops. It has become a anachronism, belonging, apparently, to a different time and place.
"Harper should be talking more gently, and Trudeau should be attacking"...runs the David Frum headline in the National Post, in reference to the week's political attack ads from the two party leaders.
Image is all that matters, and how the public "perceives" the political leader, as if those perceptions had little or nothing to do with whether or not the public can and does trust the leader.
Similarly in business...make the sale, hit the quota, beat the predictions....never mind whether the client continues to trust you in the process!....This is the genius of business...it carves away all the extraneous matters, like human trust in both the negotiating party on the other side of the table and in the process that has been and is being created by both sides committing to a full disclosure of all the issues between the parties. And what is left is whether or not the sales contract has been signed, co-signed and submitted to the legal and accounting departments for execution and pay-out.
"Not so fast," it says right here!
It is long past time for the client, whether that means the customer, or the worker, depending on the nature of the discussion, to speak up about the core values of business, politics, medicine, law, architecture, and academia, not to mention the practice of religion.
And if those core values do not start and end with "trust" then why would anyone even consider walking onto the playing field.
Negotiations that tell the client how "swimmingly" is the process proceeding, only to be unceremoniously thrown on its ear, by a complete reversal of everything that has been said so far, in effect terminates such negotiations....and the reason for the termination is that trust is completely lost, if there ever was any authentic trust in the first place.
Compliance with normal expectations, in a formal negotiating process, has to be coming from both sides, and has to continue to come from both sides in order for the process to continue. And when "selling", or making the deal, or filing the commissions, or building the business....all of them legitimate, take precedence over the integrity of the negotiating process with the meagre little client, the nitty gritty details of the day-to-day openness, frankness, disclosure and the cumulative building of trust, then there is no trust left in the process.
There is a growing shift of power in what used to be assumed to be "trusting" business relationships, in favour of the business, and against the consumer. The business operator assumes that s/he is more important than the client the business serves. And once that equation has been tilted in favour of the business, the business has already begun to atrophy.
There is a phrase well known in politics: governments defeat themselves.
Similarly, businesses defeat themselves when they conceive of themselves as being able and willing to
negate whatever trust has been accumulating over weeks or months, in a single phone or text message that completely contradicts everything previously communicated in the transaction.
And when that contradiction is confronted, by a completely disarmed and shocked client, it is the client who "has the problem," certainly not the business executive who set the process reeling downhill with the reversal.
Compliance with the abuse of power, whether that power is vested in the business negotiator, or in the surgeon, or in the bantam hockey coach, or in the hospital housekeeping staff, or in the employer's treatment of the workers...is never an appropriate response. And, sadly, Canadians are known for their over-compliance in order to present a "politically correct" face to the world, and to not be a "trouble-maker"....
And the process begins in the public school system, where teacher control and principal support for that control trumps the educational process, to the detriment of every student it serves.
We need educators, parents and mentors who are committed to preserving the voice and the muscle to use that voice, in the face of the erosion of trust in all situations....without trust, we are merely pawns in a much larger, more impersonal and less ethical process in which "the deal" dominates and the "relationship" means little to nothing.
And in order to "model" such muscle and such voice, the teachers, parents and mentors have to have the courage of their convictions to practice what they must deliver to their charges. And that means refusing to comply with a business relationship that puts the "deal" ahead of the "relationship"....for the purpose of the commission, the business-building and the profit-seeking.
I learned something about the difference when I listened to my hardware-entrepreneur father tell his customers, "You really don't need that expensive tool; this less costly and equally effective one will do the job just as well!"
And they always kept coming back!
Wonder why!

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