Role Negotiation

Acknowledgement

Roger Harrison first described Role Negotiation.

The idea

The expectations of others largely decide a person’s role. When these are clear, role conflict and role ambiguity can reduce. Everyone knows what everyone else expects. Role negotiation is a process for clarifying these expectations. You usually negotiate with an individual but this method can easily be adapted to work between groups

The method

  1. Each person or group writes down  the following: –

    In order for me or us to achieve my or our objectives, I would like you to: –

    Do these three things……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Keep doing these three things………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Stop doing these three things……………………………………………………………………………………………

  2. Each person or group then shares their information with their partner. At this stage just listen and seek clarification, don’t argue or get defensive! It helps to have equal time to talk.
  3. The parties now negotiate their expectations. A party can: –

Say “Of course I will accede to your request”. This would be sensible if the request is easy and gives you an immediate benefit.

Say “I can’t do that because……” The request might violate your values, by being (say) unethical, or it might be politically impossible.

Say “I would be prepared to meet your request if you would help me with this one of mine”. The request might not give you an immediate benefit and demand work. Acceding would help your colleague and the team. You would also get something back directly.

4 The parties record and preferably display their agreements. This helps people to follow through with their decisions.

Hints

  • Play the negotiation straight. If you use tactics or manipulation, then people will not use the technique again. They will also become suspicious of all the management techniques you use.
  • Make your requests small, clear and doable. People can agree to use the right form for something and deliver this. It is not sensible to ask people to be more efficient and expect them to deliver that.
  • Aim for equity in the negotiations. If people “give in” to every demand they will feel exploited later. People who want something for themselves for everything they give will lose co-operation. People will think they are mean.
  • People have found an external facilitator helpful. This person can help to build a supportive and equitable climate and manage the process. Both can be difficult for a manager who is involved in the negotiations personally.
  • Give the process enough time. The expectations take time to clarify. This is often the first time people have talked directly about how they work together.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick