CAHSS Faculty Articles

Interest-Based Negotiations: Increasing Satisfaction Among Critical Stakeholders

Neil Katz, Nova Southeastern University


In an environment of competing demands for limited resources from critical stakeholders, government finance officers need to pay attention to not only what they negotiate, but also how they negotiate. A popular slogan advertising some well-known training workshops on negotiations boldly proclaims, "You do not always get what you want or deserve; you do get what you negotiate." Though many participants seem to find this startling, I suspect that government finance officers are not surprised at the truth or the significant implications of the catchy proclamation.Yet, finance officers might not be fully aware of a negotiation approach that has penetrated both the public and private sectors and has influenced major events such as the prevention of numerous strikes and boycotts, the ending of apartheid in South Africa, and the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Though elements of the interestbased negotiation approach have been around for several decades, the phenomenal sales of the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In' served as a catalyst in developing a common language and a widely recognized set of principles and skills that proved useful for those seeking a more collaborative, cooperative approach to negotiations. To begin to understand the collaborative interest-based approach to negotiation and to distinguish it from the more competitive position-based approach, we might first consider the classic story of two chefs feverishly concluding preparations for a high profile dinner between their respective Heads of State.2 One chef, finishing a crepe, requires an orange.The other, preparing a duck sauce, also requires an orange. Unfortunately, there is only one orange available. Each chef's stated position, or pre-determined solution, is: "1 need the orange!" As the two argue and struggle over the orange, it falls to the floor. A prep cook picks it up and "solves" the zero-sum fixed quantity) dilemma by cutting the orange in half, giving one-half to each of the now-appeased chefs, who return to their preparations. Unfortunately, each chef soon realizes that half an orange will not suffice. As the first chef grates the peel for her crepe, she complains about the small size of her allotted portion, knowing that her diner will not be satisfied with the paucity of flavor he craves. While the first chef voices her dissatisfaction, the second throws his own orange half into the disposal with a contemptuous flair - for he knows his diner will not taste such a small amount of orange pulp in his coveted duck sauce. What happened to lead to such frustration in our respective chefs? After all, neither subdued the other with force to create a win-lose situation. Was there not a fair compromise when the prep cook split the orange in two? After all, outside of the possibility of one party dominating the other, neither chef should have expected to get everything, right? Absolutely, as long as the chefs negotiated at the level of positions. Positions are predetermined solutions articulated in statements people use to describe their wants.