Tolerating Ambiguity in the Negotiating Process White Paper

Author: 
Arthur Hochner, Ph.D., Temple University
Published Date: 
24 Oct 2013

In his classic work, The Nature of Managerial Work, the scholar Henry Mintzberg observed that “most characteristic of top manager decision-making as the unstructured situation” (1973, p. 191). That is, managers have to make decisions in open-ended, dynamic circumstances, faced not only with risk and uncertainty but, more importantly, with ambiguity.  Good managers learn how to deal with the ambiguities of predicting the consequences of their strategic choices, of having incomplete information, of coordinating the activities of many subordinates, and in general dealing with many difficult and complex matters.

Similar ambiguities and paradoxes apply to the negotiator.  For instance:

What is my relationship with my counterparts, and how important is that relationship to the achievement of my goals? Are the people or organizations I am negotiating with my potential partners or my foes?  If they are my partners now, will they become my enemies tomorrow?  Can I trust them?

Do I need them more or do they need me more?  Who has more power in the situation?  How should I deal with power issues and egos?

How can I achieve the best results on my major goals?  Is it better to play hardball or to be cooperative, i.e., to approach negotiations as win-lose (zero-sum) or as win-win (variable-sum) situations?  Or is that a false dichotomy that does not characterize the way real negotiations take place?…

Click on the link below to download the full white paper.

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