„Go fuck yourself,“ the Republican lead negotiator, John Boehner, growled at his Democratic negotiation partner, Harry Reid. After a tough negotiation about the 2013 U.S. budget, Boehner lost his nerve and reacted emotionally. The quote went around the world, and Boehner came out damaged from this negotiation process. He was blamed for not having a grip on his own people, forcing him into this tough negotiation with the Democrats.
And Obama? What did you hear from Barack Obama about this conflict?
The U.S. President is the decision maker in an immensely important round of negotiations. Based on the vocabulary we use at our Institute, he is the “Decision Maker”. Our terminology follows the FBI’s role definition where there is a clear division of responsibilities.
The “Decision Maker” must stay away from the negotiations. A negotiation is always also a conflict and has therefore the potential to damage the negotiating individuals. After such a long and tough negotiation such as the one on the U.S. budget, emotions are likely to boil over, causing emotional reactions. These reactions are always wrong, and they are bad for the negotiation.
Barack Obama did the right thing, he played his role perfectly. You as a decision maker should learn from him and
- stay away from conflicts at the negotiation table;
- not talk of adversaries;
- point out the big picture and appreciate common progress;
- support the negotiation team prior to the negotiation and not during the deadlock.
Management behavior in a negotiation will be our focus in 2013—with many seminars, the new Chief Negotiation Officer program, and the Conference in October 2013.
We wish you a successful 2013 and look forward to many difficult negotiations with you.