Topic 4: Communication and negotiation in organisations

Communication revisited
The importance of communication
Effective communication
The importance of negotiation
Different approaches to negotiation: distributive and integrative bargaining
The process and tactics of negotiation

Managerial communication and negotiation emphasises the importance of communication for managers and the problems caused by poor communication. It identified the following as important forms of communication: reporting, advising, querying, responding, informing, rewarding, punishing, changing, negotiating, socialising and integrating. Communication should be both effective (the message reaches and is understood by the recipient as the sender intended) and efficient (uses minimal resources).

There are also factors which distort the message being sent. These are called 'noise', and include cultural differences, physical distractions, status effects, and lack of clarity in the original message. Some techniques to overcome the barriers to effective communication include: active listening, constructive feedback, developing empathy and trust, effective timing, and repetition.

Management has been defined as 'getting things done through people'. Communication is the basic function of management, as a manager has to communicate what is required, provide guidance on how it is to be done, comment on the result, and report the achievement to others who need to know. Managers also have to motivate staff, understand staff problems and issues, and offer praise and criticism. All these are communicative activities. Good management generally requires good communication.

A number of factors are likely to affect the effectiveness of communication.
* Relevance. When there is so much communication around us, we tend to focus only on what is important to us.
* Consistency. To be effective, communication must be consistent. If a manager contradicts himself regularly, there will be little trust in what he says.
* Noise. Noise refers to any factor which interferes with effective communication
* Feedback. Think back to the definition of communication at the start of the topic. It suggested that successful communication takes place when the sender and the receiver of a message end up with a shared understanding. One obvious way of checking this is by feedback—by the receiver communicating back to the sender so that the process is two-way rather than one-way.

While the general process is the same, the fact that communication involves the transmission and sharing of meaning suggests that what counts as effective communication in one context may not do so in another. In different national and cultural settings the same symbols, gestures or words can have quite different meanings.

In an increasingly globalised business world, it is particularly important that managers understand that different approaches to communication are necessary in different cultures

Negotiation is one of the main techniques used to manage conflict. Four rules for negotiation are suggested:
* separate the people from the issues
* focus on interests, not on positions
* generate many alternatives before deciding what to do
* insist that results are based on some objective standard.

What exactly is 'negotiation'? Lewicki et al. (1999) argue that what they call a 'negotiation situation' exists when the following conditions are present:
there are two or more parties (groups or individuals) a conflict of interest exists between them, i.e. what one wants is not necessarily what the other wants, so there is a need to search for a resolution each party believes that they can get a better deal by seeking to influence the outcome.

Rather than by simply taking what the other side is willing to offer, the parties—at least for the moment—prefer to attempt to reach agreement rather than fighting, breaking off contact, giving in, or asking a higher authority (e.g. the legal system) to resolve the dispute the parties expect that there will be give and take and that they will modify their initial demands (1999: 6).

Lewicki et al. (1999: 8–10) argue that one of the defining characteristics of negotiation is 'interdependence'. Put simply, each party in a negotiation needs each other. If they did not need each other, they would not have to negotiate. What this means is that, while negotiation arises precisely because of differences in the interests of the parties, at the same time unless there is some degree of common interest in reaching resolution then negotiation cannot take place. Thus, in any negotiation situation there is a mixture of conflict and cooperation.

Distributive bargaining is a situation where:
* Interests are mostly conflicting—the goals of one party are in direct conflict with those of the other party.
* Resources are fixed—that is any gain to one party is a loss to the other (Lewicki et al., 1999: 71).

Integrative bargaining, in contrast, is a situation where:
* Interests are not overwhelmingly conflicting—the goals of the parties are not in conflict with each other.
* Resources are not fixed—it is possible for one party to get what they want without the other party losing anything (Lewicki et al., 1999: 107).