Interview with Maren Lehky: Difficult personnel talks
Psychologist Maren Lehky was many years in management responsible for more than 4000 employees and faced various difficult personnel negotiations. She is lecturer for the Open Programs at SNI and talks about the difficult situations during a negotiation.
Dear Ms Lehky, what is the biggest difficulty in negotiations?
It is certainly a challenge for HR personnel to distinguish between the function and the person. Many conflicts result from the mistrust towards the HR function or from former critical experiences that someone made with the HR department here or with another employer in the past. Much of this frustration is then communicated very personally, which makes it sound like one is incompetent, does not understand what this is about, or is still wet behind the ears. There is often a certain arrogance associated with it—when things do not look too good. To keep calm, to not take it personally, and to also enter the conflict openly if necessary, is certainly a challenge in this context.
How do you prepare for your negotiations?
I collect my arguments and immerse myself into the subject matter without being too detailed in my preparation; that is to make sure that I still have some room to play and remain flexible. The most important element of preparation for me is to change positions and assume the perspective of my negotiation partners. What are their interests, what is going to be their goal, what will they want from me? Once I understand this, it will be easier to build the bridge between our two interests.
How do you overcome a deadlock or the standstill in a negotiation?
I had good experience with pointing out the common goal, to carve out the piece where our interests overlap, what both parties want, and coming back to it. But sometimes it may be equally helpful to break off and adjourn when you realize that too much pressure would end in a deadlock. Depending on the other party, either a constructive path or a temporary retreat can be helpful, allowing for a fresh start later on with a longer and different run-up.
What will be the focus of your seminar?
We will focus on negotiations with directors and department heads and work out how HR people can be better positioned, prepare strong arguments and communicate issues and interests convincingly. In doing so, we always include the position of the corresponding opponent, their interests, and numerous practical tools to come across as a convincing person. It will certainly be a very lively workshop given the many examples from the participants.