The broad principles on which negotiations should be conducted are outlined in the Paper entitled "Principles of Negotiation". This section will therefore underline some other matters to which attention should be paid.
There is no inflexible rule as to who should open the negotiations. However, it is not unreasonable for the management to claim that if the union has initiated the negotiations, it should first outline its rationale and justification for doing so. Nevertheless, the management should make it clear at the outset that agreement on any particular issue is subject to an overall settlement, including its own expectations from the union.
In outlining the employer's response, the following could be included:
The context in which the employer is negotiating, such as the business environment, and how this affects the employer's position in the negotiations.
A judgement will have to be made about the stage at which the union should be informed about the items on which the employer will not make any concession. However, the impression should not be created that the union will not be allowed an opportunity to present its case.
The basis on which the employer is prepared to negotiate. This could include the employer's objectives and expectations from a collective agreement, and any unsatisfactory features in the existing agreement (if there is one) which require to be rectified.
During the negotiations there should be good internal communication between the company and its managers about the situation at any given time. This will help clarify misunderstandings and even eliminate disinformation especially where employees, as happens in developing countries, seek information or clarification from their managers.
Notes of the discussion should be maintained, and preferably issued and agreed on with the other party, to avoid misunderstandings. Such notes could be useful in the event of disputes and a breakdown in negotiations.
It is an essential principle of negotiation - indeed of human relations - that one's style of negotiation may need to be adapted to the style of the other party. The negotiator who adopts only one approach to negotiations may be puzzled when he finds that the approach in question bears fruit in some cases but causes an adverse reaction in other cases. The ability to allow the attitudes of the other party or the facts or merits of the issue to fashion one's own particular style in a given negotiation requires a high degree of flexibility on the part of the negotiator, an absence of a pre-conceived approach to negotiation, and recognition of the fact that unltimately what matters is one's ability to secure one's objectives through dialogue. However, this should not be understood to mean that there should not be a principled approach to negotiation. What it means is that often one has to take into account even the idiosyncracies of the other party and assess what form of presentation is likely to appeal best to the person whom one is trying to convince.
A negotiator should view negotiations as an exercise with both sides walking towards each other, rather than away from each other. This will enable the negotiator to keep in mind that the final objective is a satisfactory agreement. It will also lead to a search for, or identification of, common ground while also addressing the differences.
A negotiator should be good at listening carefully to the other party who will, otherwise, feel that disagreement with his position is due to a lack of understanding. This is also necessary to encourage the other party to listen to you. Some indication should be given to suggest that the party has understood the other's position. Body language often communicates a party's reactions.
A party should build its case in a logical sequence and, as far as possible, try to obtain agreement at each stage of the process. This will narrow the areas of disagreement and facilitate focusing on those aspects.
Counter proposals and conditions attached to concessions should be indicated as early as possible, so that the basis on which a party is prepared to agree or compromise is understood.
Whenever possible, invite the other party to look at the problem from the opposite perspective, e.g. a wage increase as an additional cost which, due to competitive pressures, requires management to find ways to absorb it. It is sometimes useful to ask the union for suggestions on how it can cooperate to facilitate absorption of the increase.
It is usually preferable to avoid taking up at the outset the position that a particular item is not negotiable. It is more productive to request a party to justify its claim, and then point out why that claim is unreasonable. Taking up a non-negotiable position can lead to the preception that the position has nothing to do with the merits and that the party is not willing to listen.