A Few Strategies Can Make All The Difference In Negotiating
For more than two decades, the use of negotiating skills in the construction industry has steadily increased—from project start-up through the performance phase to close-out. Still, management consultants point out that not all stakeholders are taking full advantage of some of the more proven negotiation strategies.
Project managers, by their own nature, tend to negotiate almost everything they do, but sometimes they overlook the actual process itself, thereby adversely affecting any desired outcome. Research further shows that engineers and other professionals alike tend to negotiate within certain levels of predictability, a routine that should be avoided whenever possible. Ironically, the key to effective negotiating often rests on the deployment of two basic interpersonal skills: patience and positive behavior. Without some occasional introspection or reinforcement, though, these skills can be elusive for some and totally abandoned by others.
Engineering negotiators who strike the worst deals are generally those who lack patience. Their anxiety becomes a weakness as they hurriedly move toward a conclusion of the negotiation process without fully understanding the consequences. Telegraphing a weakness only emboldens the other side to “hang around” and become more demanding. Also, impatient negotiators can be more susceptible to making unnecessary or poor opening offers, granting frivolous concessions, or engaging in impulse buying or settling.
One suggested way for not losing patience is to never negotiate against a deadline, if possible and affordable. Studies on conflict resolution and negotiation have revealed that in project management, those who tended to wait until the last moment to resolve an issue always seemed to pay for it one way or another. In other words, the bottom line price gets higher for less in return.
Savvy negotiators know the importance of maintaining a positive attitude at the table; they know that likeability can be a useful tool in gaining concessions. Posing a constant adversarial relationship with the other side will do little to persuade them or influence their behavior to anyone’s advantage. Similarly, dwelling on deadlocked issues or pointing a constant finger of blame or fault will generally result in just more of the same. Instead, try to convey more of a sense of optimism—an inexpensive substitute for making early concessions. Negotiating parties usually make concessions to gently coerce the other side into dealing, but an optimistic attitude is a better, more patient approach to the same end. After all, if the other side does not see a deal as being possible, it will not bother making concessions anyway.
When engaged in negotiating, it is also important to steer clear of the intimidation game and never reward intimidation tactics. Such conduct becomes ineffective when not acknowledged or rewarded with concessions. Likewise, do not try to defeat intimidating conduct. Just let it run its course, remain calm and neutral, and then redirect the negotiating process back to the underlying needs of both sides. However, be aware that acceptable behavior is not always guaranteed and that rational negotiation can be the exception, rather than the rule, when resolving conflicts.
Beyond honing interpersonal skills, initiating a favorable negotiation largely depends on research in advance of any formal meetings. The most effective negotiators are those who do not take any position until they have gathered insightful information regarding the other side’s perspective. Examples of information to obtain prior to or at the early stages of negotiating might include tentative deadlines, organizational authority or status, possible alternative solutions, personal interests, motivations, bottom lines, and past negotiating history.
The initial phase of any negotiating should always involve asking questions, floating trial balloons, and presenting options for others to consider. Oftentimes, though, one side or the other will negotiate blindly by entering a room, sitting down at the table, and starting off with an opening offer or a demand. This tactic is rarely successful because it shows a lack of patience; it is less likely to be received in a positive manner.
Assuming patience has prevailed, the opening position or offer from either side becomes the single most important tactical move in any negotiation, whether bargaining or resolving conflicts. An opening offer has a direct impact on the manner in which ensuing negotiations will proceed, including how engaged the other side will be in the process and what their attitude will be toward an amenable outcome.
Of course, engineering interests must always keep their bottom line at the forefront of their strategy, in addition to knowing when to strategically deadlock. Equally important, negotiators must know their status in relation to that of the other side, as this can be a tactical advantage. A lack of status at the negotiating table is a fairly good indication that demanding behavior will backfire and result in an unnecessary deadlock. However, keep in mind, too, that the party lacking authority to close a deal at the table can occasionally be the most powerful for the simple reason that it is unpredictable and cannot be pinned down on any position.
Finally, if posturing and predisposition begin to pervade discussions, there is always one steadfast strategy remaining in an engineer’s negotiating toolkit: look and act confident in justifying all proposals with detailed metrics and insist that other parties do the same. Any refusal or hesitance on their part to comply will appear as a sign of weakness or, at the very least, lessen their opportunities for any viable counter proposals. Remember, in the end no one wants to sit at a negotiating table and appear uncomfortable for any extended period of time.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Engineer Gets Top Honor
Steven Arndt, Ph.D., P.E., a senior technical advisor for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been named NSPE’s 2012 Federal Engineer of the Year. Arndt received the honor during the 33rd Annual FEYA Banquet at the National Press Club in
D.C., on February 23. This year, NSPE was honored to have Congressman David McKinley (R-WV) serve as the keynote speaker.
Sponsored by NSPE and the Professional Engineers in Government, FEYA recognizes engineers working for federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Naval Facilities Command, and the U.S. Air Force, for their dedication and exemplary service to the public.
For more information on the FEYA program, including the full press release, visit the FEYA Web page.
You can also watch the keynote speech as well as interviews with several semifinalists and the winner addressing current topics facing the engineering profession on NSPE's YouTube channel.
In January, NSPE joined more than 1,000 professional, trade, and nonprofit organizations; businesses; and labor groups in sending a letter to Congress urging expedient passage of a long-term transportation reauthorization bill. The letter, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's campaign "Make Transportation Job #1," acknowledged the funding challenges Congress faces but stressed the benefits of infrastructure investment to the U.S. economy.
While the Senate has passed its two-year, $109 billion transportation bill, the House continues to wrangle over its version of the bill. With the current transportation funding extension set to expire on June 30, Congress must move quickly—but partisan rancor and election-year politics have raised doubts that Congress will be able to pass a long-term bill before November.
NSPE met with Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) and staff to discuss the Good Samaritan Protection for Construction, Architectural, and Engineering Volunteers Act (H.R. 1145). The bill, which Reichert introduced last year, would provide qualified immunity to engineering, architectural, and construction entities volunteering in a declared emergency. NSPE also met with senior staff for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to advocate Good Samaritan protection for professional engineers volunteering in an emergency.
Rep. Dan. Lipinski (D-IL-3) sponsored a House resolution (H. Res. 552) supporting the goals and ideals of National Engineers Week. Lipinski, an engineer, has introduced a resolution in support of EWeek every year since 2006. Watch his floor speech here.
NSPE cosponsored the Society of Women Engineers' "Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM" Capitol Hill Day. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made brief remarks during the legislative briefing, outlining NASA's diversity efforts and urging women to mentor each other in order to increase diversity in the engineering profession.
The event also included a congressional reception, where Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13), Robert Dold (R-IL-10), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3), and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) and National Science Foundation Deputy Director Cora Marrett spoke about the importance of broadening participation in STEM fields.
NSPE President Christopher M. Stone, P.E., F.NSPE, F.ASCE, LEED AP, was the keynote speaker at the Department of Transportation's National Engineers Day, which encourages high school students to pursue careers in engineering. Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez also spoke. As part of his presentation, Stone led students in a rousing game of Jeopardy! The interactive event also included a robotics competition and engaged students in discussion groups. Read Administrator Mendez's blog about National Engineers Day here.
NSPE attended the launch of the MathAlive exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. MathAlive seeks to increase elementary and middle school students' interest in mathematics by engaging them in hands-on activities that demonstrate math's applications in video games, sports, fashion, music, robotics, and more. NSPE and MATHCOUNTS are cosponsoring the exhibit, which is presented by Raytheon.
NSPE has many interesting and pertinent Web seminars lined up for the remainder of the Spring line up. Check out the following webinars, and keep in mind they can be used per site, offering great value to you and your coworkers.
Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Expert Witness and Engineering Review Issues Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur
Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on
the obligation to reimburse a payment advance, limiting the scope of an
engineering review, working for a law firm client involved in litigation
with a former law firm client, and a forensic study dependent upon work
of engineer in dispute with a client. Polling questions and a Q&A
will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH
April 18, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)
Historical Cases & Engineering Ethics Cultivating an
understanding of ethics is essential for engineers as they conduct their
professional lives. A different approach is to examine historical
cases, which can offer a different perspective on professional
responsibilities. This webinar presentation will consider several issues
in engineering ethics, such as unintended consequences; professional
responsibility and judgment; and concern for human health, safety and
welfare, using historical cases as examples. One of the more important
lessons is, as the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel noted, “We learn from
history that we do not learn from history.”
April 24, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)
Focus on Shop Drawings: Vital Link Between Design and Construction
This program will focus on contractual and legal issues regarding the preparation, submittal, and review of shop drawings. This course will provide in-depth discussion of:
Key issues arising from shop drawing provisions in standard construction contracts;
Shop drawing review practices for contractors, architects, and engineers; and
Court cases examining shop drawing duties and liabilities.
May 15, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)
Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Business, Employment, and Licensure Issues Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur
Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on
the signing and sealing of a subcontractor’s calculations, a Canadian
firm’s noncompliance with engineering licensure laws, obtaining
professional references, and an employee’s awareness of his employer’s
financial improprieties. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow
opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH
NSPE members can enjoy special pricing and great discounts on a wide range of HP business products you use every day, including printers, tablets, PCs, servers, and so much more! Plus, NSPE members receive free US ground shipping*, flexible financing and leasing options, a specially trained sales team, and award-winning service and support. For questions or to order by phone, call 1-888-202-4465 and mention code NSPE. To shop online, visit www.hp.com/go/nspe.
Engineers, architects, and other design professionals can now update their continuing professional development and increase their productivity using state-of-the-art educational programs available through SmartPros. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that online learning costs one-third less than off site, classroom training and consumes half the time. Consistent with this estimate, users of SmartPros programs enjoy the convenience of immediately accessible CD-ROM and Web-based training that allows for just-in-time learning-24 hours a day.
CE completion at your fingertips! From green building techniques (including LEED) to legal and discipline-specific topics, you'll find the excellence in course content you demand, delivered in a highly interactive online format. NSPE members enjoy a savings of nearly 15% off regular course pricing. To learn more, visit RedVector online or call 813-202-8460.
PDHengineer understands how busy you are. That's why they offer web-based learning to fit your schedule. You can choose from a library of nearly 2000 hours of self-paced, online courses and complete them in the comfort of your home or office—and print your certificate of completion on the spot! NSPE members can get acquainted with PDHengineer by taking their popular Engineering Disasters: Kansas City Hyatt Catwalk Collapse course for free! To take advantage of this offer, visit their Web site and use passcode NSPE508. Call 877-500-7145 for more details.
For more information on how to become a PEC Sustaining Firm click here.
Halverson Constuction Co Inc
Lloyd Consulting + Engineering Inc
Industrial Specialty Contractors, LLC
Frank Gurney Inc
Edward E Gillen Co
Allied Contractors Inc
Blitman Building Corporation
Buchart Horn Inc
Fagen Engineering LLC
Glynn Geotechnical Engineering
D'Annunzio & Sons, Inc.
Richard W Rauseo PE Consulting Engineers
Dalton Olmsted & Fuglevand
John N Puder, A Division of Moretrench
Zachry Construction Corp
Suberroc Systems SUBSYST
Paul J Gallo Contracting Inc
Stansell Electric Company Inc
Century Electric Inc
Rohde Soyka & Andrews Consulting Engineers PC
Rohde Soyka & Andrews Consulting Engineers PC
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GECO Engineering Corp
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ADCOMM Engineering Company
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LidCo Electrical Contractors Inc
McAbee Construction Inc
Mayberry Electric Inc
Judy Construction Company
Free Contracting Inc
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BEC Engineering LP
Henderson Electric Company
Drury South Inc
Stephen A Estrin & Co Inc
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ABC Paving Co Inc
Cogdell Spencer Erdman Company
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Doka USA Ltd
The Crom Corporation
Rice Lake Construction Group
Hamernik & Associates, Inc
CBD Design and Construction
Riverso Assoc Inc
Code Consultants Inc
S Seltzer Construction Corp
Harper Industries, Inc
Broaddus & Associates
Trade Construction Company LLC
Lundy Construction Co Inc
Big M Constructors Inc
Bridges & Co, Inc.
White Cloud Engineering and Construction Co
J Fletcher Creamer & Son Inc
Peter Basso Associates Inc
Five Oaks Associates LLC
Notch Mechanical Constructors
RB Construction Group
Construction Industry Advancement Program of NJ (CIAP)
Pembroke Construction Co Inc
Kerr Greulich Engineers Inc
Fuellgraf Electric Co
Fred Weber Inc
Project Development Services Inc
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