Posted on July 29, 2009
A competitive approach can be useful at certain times, believes Andrea Schneider (bio).
So in thinking about when it would be best to use a competitive approach in a negotiation, it really is going to depend on the person and the context that you're negotiating in. We talked this morning how when values are very important, when you know that there is really no give or take and you've got to move forward, and that if you don't get agreement on this particular point, you will move on to your other options.
You've got to be willing to back up that particular competitive behavior with the willingness to walk away, but it can be very useful in terms of outlining just how important this particular value or amount of money or research is to you. And oftentimes, unless you reach that point, sometimes the other party won't take you seriously. And when you finally lay it on the line, they might back away. But they might not, and you need to be willing to walk away and deal with that.
The other time when the competitive behavior is very useful is sometimes playing their game, so often competitors really enjoy negotiation and you need to demonstrate that you can play their game. It might not be the most effective or the most efficient, but until you demonstrate your skill set at being equally competitive, they're not going to back away. And then once you've both demonstrated, "Okay, we can do this back and forth. It's not going to get us very far, so why don't we try to collaborate and talk about how we're actually going to work this out." But sometimes a competitor is not going to take you seriously until you demonstrate that you can do that, too.
In engaging in competitive behavior, I don't think you need to assume that there's a power differential. I think that often spending so much time on they have power or they don't have power is very debilitating, and I don't think it gets you very far. You wouldn't be there unless they wanted you to be there.
Training new researchers is a lot of time and effort. If you are a good researcher and good at what you do, you provide value, and you don't need to worry about, "Oh, they have more power. They've been here longer. They have the title." You wouldn't be there unless they wanted you there and unless you were providing something and bringing something to the table.
Excerpted from interview with professor at the 2009 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Palo Alto, CA.
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