Friday, 21 May 2010

Goodbye Southampton Solent University

On Monday I completed my final day at university, so I am now preparing to launch myself into the professional world of PR and Communications as a relatively small fish in a huge pond. The student comfort blanket has been officially confiscated.

On the one hand I am sad to say goodbye to my friends for life, and I know I will miss the deadlines and getting stuck into various projects at once. However the thought of my future career prospects is exciting and I can't wait to start jobsearching.

To give you an idea - I am realistically looking at a high 2:1, with marks for the past year that I have already had returned varying from around 65 to 75. Although, there are plenty of grades that I haven't received which could make a huge difference, hopefully nudging my average to a 1st - fingers crossed!. Handing in my dissertation (see picture) was a huge relief, and I almost didn't want to part with it!

My biggest fear at the moment is losing touch with the industry now that I am not immersed in a PR environment and talking about it everyday. I intend to continue blogging about PR and Communications, read the PR books that I haven't had time to read yet, and keep up to date with publications such as PR Week and Behind the Spin.

You might say that I am being unwise in taking my time to search for a job, but I want to make sure that I give it a lot of thought and planning. I want to find a job that I really want, and that I will stay in for a long time. I will definitely keep you posted and any advice is welcome.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The ethical grey area

Although we studied cultural and ethical dimensions of negotiations this week, I have decided to focus on ethical negotiations because of its relevance to the case study. In addition, the ethical grey areas that exist within negotiations are of interest to me.

When the lecture began we were asked if lying during negotiations is ethical. Of course, I immediately said no. However, we were then bombarded with lots of questions about whether exaggerating benefits, downplaying negatives, omissions, saying you don’t know when you do, etc, is lying?
I was slightly stumped. I thought back to the study of BATNAs, and how theory dictates that in most situations they should not be revealed, but is it lying to imply that your BATNA is something different to what it actually is? These questions fall into an ethical grey area.

Thompson identified four aspects to lying in negotiations (2005, pg 166):
1. The speaker is aware that he or she is misrepresenting information
2. Regarding a material fact
3. The other party relies on this fact
4. By doing is so is damaged – economically or emotionally

These aspects are quite obviously unethical because they involve a party being openly deceptive about facts. I think the grey area contains misrepresentations about motivation. Thompson also identified two types of information misrepresentation. The first is passive – a party does not admit their true motivations. The second is active – deliberately misleading another party with a false claim about your motivation (2005, pg 167).

I would agree that passive misrepresentation falls into the grey area, and I would happily use this in a negotiation situation. However I would agree that active misrepresentation is unethical and belongs in the naughty area. Using active misrepresentation is also likely to ‘snowball’ and could cause problems in the future if a future situation is revisited.

With reference to the case study, we are only aware of the factual aspects to the meetings. However I would imagine that there were deceptions in the grey area. One of the borough councils in the negotiation had only just implemented a new performance management system, and other councils were trying to convince them to install a new system in collaboration with the rest of them.

Whilst this would benefit all of the councils collectively and save money overall, this borough council was likely to lose out individually. I can imagine that benefits were oversold and disadvantages ignored by the other councils whose true motivations may have been to benefit themselves in the long run.

Thinking ahead...negotiating the job offer

This week’s lecture was incredibly useful for me in terms of my future career. What we learned this week will not just apply to negotiating a graduate job, it can be transferred for promotions, pay rises, self-development, and anything else that I may wish to pursue within the workplace.

Negotiating a job offer is a classic example of ‘expanding the pie’. The process is very similar to the 5 step negotiation process studied previously. The following steps were suggested:

1. Figure out what you really want
2. Do your homework
3. Determine your BATNA and your aspiration
4. Research the employer’s BATNA
5. Determine the issue mix
6. Prepare several scenarios
7. Consider getting a ‘coach’

(taken from Thomas, 2005, pg 356)

What I found most helpful is the sixth step. Preparing several scenarios is an extension of determining yours and your employer’s BATNAS, because it involves projecting forward and imagining what could happen. In any negotiation situation, preparing your responses to potential situations could be beneficial for maintaining control of the situation when it occurs.

Conflict in the workplace

The meetings conducted by Dorset Strategic Management Partnership were task-oriented. The various district and borough councils met to agree on a plan for a new performance management system. Emotions and personal needs were not initially part of the negotiation process.

There are two main types of conflict, personal and task conflict:
“Personal conflict is often rooted in anger, personality clashes, ego, and tension. Task conflict, also known as cognitive conflict, is largely depersonalised”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

The negotiations from the case study could be classed as task conflict (assuming that conflict arose) which involves negotiation on tasks independent of the individuals involved. However there is significant and complex history between the councils which would take a lot of further research and interviews to uncover. It is possible that relationship history could have traversed to personal conflict, which is not ideal for reaching the best solutions for the organisation:

“Task conflict is often effective in stimulating the creativity necessary for integrative argument because it forces people to rethink problems and arrive at outcomes that everyone can live with. As a general principle, personal conflict threatens relationships, whereas task conflict enhances relationships”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

In this week’s lecture we studied personal conflict and examined some of the reasons that conflict can arise at work. I was reminded of the definition of conflict mentioned a few weeks earlier, which stated that conflict can only arise when one party PERCEIVES that another party is negatively affecting them. Therefore, emotions and interpersonal relationships can play a large part:

“Not only must a party perceive a conflict, but it must also feel it. That is, it must become emotionally involved in experiencing feelings of anxiety, tenseness, frustration and hostility towards the other party”
(Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007, pg 776)

In the lecture we discussed how to deal with put downs, so as not to become emotionally involved and allow conflict to escalate. For example, if a work colleague says “that’s typical of you” should you confront them, ignore them or question them? An appropriate response might be “in what way?”.