By Liz Warren-Pederson
Technology-based communications, flattening organizational structure, and globalization have radically altered the role and process of negotiation in the 21st century workplace.
A new book co-edited by Associate Professor of Management and Organizations and McCoy/Rogers Faculty Fellow Barry Goldman explores how these changes have driven organizations to turn to negotiation as a means to add value and increase innovation, and as an alternative to litigation in business transactions.
“Much negotiation research ignores its larger strategic implications,” said Goldman. “Current research tends to focus on individuals and teams of individual negotiators, as opposed to organizations. There are a number of implications to this, including missing the role of negotiations to do more than complete transactions. It can be a way to add value to organizations.”
Goldman poses a what-if: How can organizations become more than the sum of a collection of individual negotiators? For example, if the two strongest individual negotiators of a team of 30 leave a company, how can the company retain their knowledge and continue to improve its capabilities?
“This book’s purpose is to bridge the gap between management and negotiation research so that employees, managers, and their organizations can all become better negotiators,” he said. Rather than simply collect chapters on a variety of topics, the book’s chapters each address separate issues with a common structure and a consistent focus on 21st century challenges.
In addition to chapters by most of the leading researchers in negotiation, the book includes work from prominent researchers in other areas, such as IT and social media. “The whole point is to bring new ways of thinking to the field and set the agenda for future work,” Goldman said.
Collectively, the book’s authors reveal ways in which negotiation today is fundamentally different than in the past. For example, flatter organizations, with fewer layers of authority and more contract-based employees, tend to value individual skills over organizational structure. Negotiations may involve organizational representatives based around the world, leading to more technology-mediated interactions.
“These changes reward negotiators who are effective at persuading international partners, those with culturally diverse knowledge and those who master virtual channels,” Goldman said. “The question we try to address in this book is how employees and managers can benefit as negotiators in this evolving workplace.” The book also looks at the role of attorneys in the negotiation process.
Goldman also pointed out that modern researchers specifically discuss creativity. “Throughout history, civilizations have advanced in large part because of trade,” he said. “The process through which trade occurs is negotiation. To date, scholars have largely focused on smaller units of analysis – individuals, dyads, or groups or teams as they investigate negotiations. Negotiations research in the 21st century will continue to focus on these issues as well as expand the units of analysis to include organizations and, perhaps, even societies.”
“Negotiators may share priorities in order to discover potential tradeoffs that are mutually satisfying,” he added. “The process of negotiation can lead to innovation in and of itself.”
The book, which Goldman co-edited with Debra Shapiro of the University of Maryland, is titled The Psychology of Negotiation in the 21st Century Workplace. Geared toward academics and practitioners alike, it will be released in April as part of the Frontiers Series of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists. The editors aim to follow up on the themes of the book with a conference in Tucson.
Goldman is also working to establish a new center for negotiation at the Eller College. He continues to explore topics in negotiation research and develop new teaching methodologies, such as a recent course in nonverbal communication that took students to a horse whisperer’s ranch.
Learn more about the dynamic faculty and research of the Department of Management and Organizations.