In the commercial world, parties enter into contracts with each other for various reasons. For example, in the construction industry, parties such as clients and contractors enter into a contract for the construction of an infrastructure needed by the client. In these contracts, disputes between the parties are very common. Therefore, one can say, disputes have close
relationship with contracts.
Conflict resolution was familiar with the Sri Lankan culture for a long time even before foreign dominance. Today Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods like mediation, conciliation, and adjudication are becoming more popular and effective. One reason for this popularity is the long delays associated with the court system.
In the construction industry also, disputes are unavoidable. This is mainly due to the complexity and involvement of various parties at different levels. Sri Lanka and most of the other countries in the world have diverted from litigation to ADR methods to resolve their differences in construction disputes.
Negotiation is the most cost-efficient method to resolve a construction dispute as it is informal. In addition, it is speedy and non-complex in nature (Ren et al. 2003). It is the basic level of a resolution of a dispute depending on the involvement of the parties to the dispute.
In mediation also party involvement is present. However, it is assisted by a neutral third party. In higher forms of ADR methods and in litigations, the decisions are imposed on the parties. Most of the present-day contract documents include ADR methods such as negotiations, mediations, adjudication, or arbitration for settlement of disputes.
It is better for all to resolve differences at basic levels. It helps to save time, money, and the other main important thing. In addition, it preserves the cordiality among the parties. Therefore, it is essential to improve the skills necessary to compromise and finish disputes with a win-win situation.
Due to the dynamic nature of conflict level, construction practitioners should develop their skills to avoid dispute. If disputes materialize in an unavoidable situation, they must have skills to resolve them amicably.
NEGOTIATIONS STYLES / APPROACHES
There are different schools of thought regarding negotiation styles and approaches. In one method, five types of negotiation styles have been identified. Those styles are named Integrating, Obliging, Dominating, Compromising, and Avoiding. However, in a practical scenario, most of the time, negotiators apply complex styles purely depending on the situation.
In this style, the negotiator collaborates with the opposing party to come up with a decision acceptable to both. All concerns are taken together and issues tried to be solved in the best possible way. Nothing is hidden from the opponent and accurate information exchanged with the aim of arriving at a solution acceptable to all. Finally, the outcome results in satisfaction
for both parties. This situation is popularly known as a win-win situation. Through this approach, parties always try to develop a joint outcome. It is sometimes called “expand the pie”, to gain more for both parties.
In this style, the negotiator tries to satisfy the expectations and needs of the other accommodating wishes of the other. Negotiator always tries to go along with the wishes of the other giving in and allowing concessions. It is also known as an accommodating approach. These are the types who enjoy solving the other’s problems while maintaining personal relationships.
Here, the negotiator uses his authority to make a decision in his favor, influencing to accept his ideas to the other party. The negotiator is firm in pursuing his side of the issue. Negotiator uses his expertise to make a decision in his favor. This is a win-lose approach. This approach is based on the basis that one person can win only at the expense of the other. Negotiator seeks
to gain advantage through concealing information, misleading, or using manipulative actions. This method has serious potential for negative consequences.
Here, the negotiator tries to find a middle course to resolve an impasse. Patiently negotiate with the other so that compromise can be reached, using the “give and take” tactic. This approach provides an outcome which is some improvement over the lose-lose outcome. To avoid a lose-lose situation, both parties give up a part of what they had originally sought and settle for something less than that. A compromise is the best way out when it is impossible for both parties to convince each other. Similarly, it is better when dealing with limited disputed resources. This type is best suited when the opposite party can be trusted. Parties that value fair and equal deals in negotiation tend to prefer the compromising style. This style tends to get fast results from a
negotiation. The solutions are often partially satisfactory to both parties but completely satisfactory to neither.
Persons who like to stay away from disagreement with the other uses this strategy. When negotiating, avoiders tend to avoid the confrontational aspects of negotiating. Sometimes these kinds of negotiators are perceived as tactful and diplomatic. However, the outcome of this type of negotiator will not be satisfactory for both parties.
SKILLS OF NEGOTIATORS
Skill is proficiency or ability developed through continuous training or experience in the relevant field. Like in any other profession, to be a successful negotiator, he must learn and develop skills necessary for negotiations.
Every negotiation situation is unique and depends upon the personalities of the parties involved. Possessing effective negotiation skills greatly improves the chances of walking away with better results more often. In common with many other skills, such as public speaking, for example, those which make for effective negotiation are typically not natural talents that we are born with, but rather are learned and practiced.
A negotiator should thoroughly study the case and prepare for the debate before entering a bargaining process. The negotiator must decide first the goals he has to achieve. If the negotiator cannot achieve pre-determined goals, he should have another plan and he must have the bottom line to be accepted. He should well-read about the case, study the history of the relationship between the parties, previous negotiations had, and their outcomes.
Communication skill is very essential for a negotiator. He should have the ability to transfer what he intended to get to the other side in a very convincing way. It should be clear and effective.
Problem Analysis and Decision Making ability
A good negotiator should have the skill to analyze the problem quickly and take the decision needed. It is much better if the negotiator has the authority to make decisions. However, he should have the ability to quickly understand the situation and take the optimum decision without delay. A detailed problem analysis identifies the issue, the interested parties, and the outcome needed. Identifying the issues for both sides can help to find a compromise for all parties.
The negotiator should be a good listener. Sometimes problems may be solved only listening to the grievances of the other side. Active listening involves the ability to read body language as well as verbal communication. Carefully listening to the other party, the negotiator can understand what the other party actually wants and the area they like to compromise.
At no point during the negotiation, the negotiator should show his feelings. It is very important that the negotiator has the ability to keep his emotions to himself. During a frustrating negotiation, allowing emotions to take control during the meeting will definitely lead to unfavorable results. Similarly, the negotiator must control the anger during the whole process of negotiation.
A negotiator should have the ability to work according to the pre-agreed time scale. For instance, if the process drags to a longer period, parties’ interest in resolving the dispute through negotiation may reduce. Dragging the process will waste the time of the party members and thereby it will be a cost to both parties. Therefore negotiators should be able to manage the time and conclude the dispute within the shortest time possible.
Effective negotiators should have the interpersonal skills to maintain a good working relationship with those involved in the negotiation. Negotiators with patience and the ability to persuade others without using force can maintain a positive atmosphere during a difficult negotiation.
Ethics and Reliability
Ethical standards and reliability in an effective negotiator promote a trusting environment for negotiations. It will help to build trust between parties. A negotiator must have the skills to execute on his promises after bargaining ends.
Education / Experience / Professional practice
Negotiators should be knowledgeable about the subject area of the dispute. If the dispute is on a construction claim, the negotiator must have the required skill to understand a claim. Not only his educational background but experience and professional practice will count in these
PROFESSION AND REQUIRED SKILLS
Skills required by Project Manager to resolve Disputes through negotiation
Project Manager has a leading role in the success of the project. He should complete the project in time, within cost and within quality parameters, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders. To achieve the target Project Manager should be a very good leader. other than that, he should have the managerial skills blended with the skill of team player. He must be a good
communicator, negotiator, and a guide. To manage day-to-day activities free from problems, not only he be a good negotiator, he must have the talent to identify a problem before it initiates.
The following list illustrates the common skills required for a Project Manager in resolving disputes by negotiation.
Leadership – this is the ability to take the team towards the goals.
Decision making in a timely manner – Project Manager should be able to discuss with others, gather information, and take correct decisions effectively. Most of the project’s success happened due to the correct decisions.
Problem-solving – this ability will go in hand in hand with the above skill. To make a correct decision, the Project Manager must first understand the situation, solve the problem and then the decision must be taken.
Time Management – the Project Manager must have the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. For instance, if any work delayed, he must find the reason, quickly take a decision, and the problem must be solved.
Ability to Communicate – The ability to convey orders, knowledge, ideas, and concepts through oral, written, and any other means.
Critical thinking – The ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of possible alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems using logic and reasoning.
Trust building – The activity of developing trust between people so that they can work more effectively.
Persuasion – The ability to motivate others to change their minds or behavior
- Ren, Z., Anumba, C. J. and Ugwu, O. O. (2003). The development of multi-agent system for construction claims negotiation. Advances in Engineering Software, 34(11-12), 683-696.