Developing Trust in Negotiation

Pages33-45
Publication Date01 Jan 1993
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/01425459310024910
AuthorR.E. Fells
subjectMatterHR & organizational behaviour
Developing
Trust in
Negotiation
33
Developing Trust in
Negotiation
R.E.
Fells
Department of Industrial
Relations,
University of Western Australia,
Australia
Introduction
One of the recurring themes in negotiation and workplace relations is that of
trust. Trust between parties is viewed as an integral - if not central - feature
of
the effective and productive
work
relationships;
a
lack of trust
between
management
and
unions,
or between employer and employee is often suggested as the cause
of disputation and of an inability to work through problems to satisfactory
solutions[l-5].
However,
although trust appears
to be
highly valued it
is
not clear
exactly what trust
is,
nor is it clear how trust can be brought about. In fact, the
clearest thing about trust seems to be when it is absent. The purpose of this
article
is to examine the
nature of trust
in
negotiation and
to
address
the
question
of
how
negotiators
can
negotiate
when
at
the
outset they
do not
trust
each
other.
One
element of trust
relates
to integrity, that
the
word of another
can be
relied
upon;
another aspect
is
a propensity
to take
statements at face
value[6-8].
Going
beyond the interpersonal level, trust is often so closely linked to co-operation
that the two appear indistinguishable (see, for example[9-12]). Trust is viewed
as an understanding that the other party is willing to co-operate in some way,
both
in
negotiation
and in
the maintenance of good
relations
between management,
employees and
unions.
But the practical difficulties
remain.
If
a
person or party
is known to have integrity and is desirous of co-operation then obviously it is
easy to do business but what about when you have no evidence of these? Can
you negotiate with a party you cannot yet trust?
This article will
seek
to
define trust
in a new
manner which
does not rely
either
on an individual's integrity or desire
to
co-operate.
It will develop a perspective
which
is
based
on the premise
that trust
in a
relationship
can only be
established
in the
context of the interactions between
the
parties
in
situations which
call
for
trust.
This allows
for the evolution of trust
within
the negotiations and so addresses
the difficulty of having to get to a point of trust when there is no trust to start
with. Also, an attempt is made to identify the stage in the negotiation process
where the building of trust should be
the
focus of
attention.
The notion of trust
is a difficult concept to examine and the negotiator might be left wondering:
"What should
I
actually do in order to develop
trust?"
To
address this question,
some
constructive negotiation behaviours
are
identified and
the article
concludes
with extracts from the dialogue of a negotiation to show how the development
of trust might happen in
practice.
The focus of the article is on interaction through
negotiation because
any
trust-building activity must eventually
involve
interaction Employee Relations, Vol
15
No I,
1993,
pp 33-15 ©MCB University
Press 0142-5455

To continue reading

Request your trial