By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta


Many times in mediation I have seen negotiations go awry because of prior relationships that the parties or attorneys may have had.  These mediations anecdotally demonstrate that how you negotiate today can significantly affect your relationship in the future. 

This concept was recently reaffirmed in a study conducted by researchers Jared Curhan, of M.I.T., Hillary Elfenbein and Gavin Kilduff of U.C. Berkely.  In their study they researched the effect that initial negotiations had on long term relationships.  The study explained that most of the studies addressed short term implications for negotiations.  The study addressed the issue that the experience in the prior negotiations can have an impact on future negotiations. 

In their study, they evaluated how initial negotiations between an employer and employee would affect the long term satisfaction rating of the job by the employee a year later.  The study found that the satisfaction with the experience the employees had during their job offer negotiations significantly predicted compensation satisfaction, job satisfaction, and turnover intention one year later.  By contrast, the actual economic value – meaning the value of the compensation package — achieved in the negotiation had no association with job attitudes or intentions to leave.

Applying The Research

First, remember that no matter what the deal terms are, people are concerned about how you arrived at the deal.  Just recently, I mediated an employment case involving a termination of an employee that was overwhelmed in her job.  The termination may have been legitimately based, but the way that they terminated her caused her to file a lawsuit.  No matter what your interaction, remember it’s not what you do, but how you do it.

Second, when negotiating with a person in a competitive or a win-lose environment, try to give the other side concessions that will help the other side save face.  Even if you end up getting the better part of the deal, the fact that you allow them to save face will help to make the experience related to the negotiation better, and will therefore help the future interactions.

Third, remember that if you have a bad interaction with the other side, there is a natural tendency to retaliate against you.  Some people subscribe to the philosophy that revenge is best served cold.  Therefore, they may wait a while before trying to get revenge.  If you feel that you had a bad interaction, ask them if you can start over and then do something to build trust.  Many people, and especially the Millenial generation are willing to forgive a violation of trust if an apology is given, and something is done to restore trust.

Research Source:  Curhan, J., Elfenbein, H., Kilduff, G. Getting Off on the Right Foot: Subjective Value Versus Economic Value in Predicting Longitudial Job Outcomes From Job Offer Negotiations, Journal of Applied Pyschology, 2009, V. 94, No. 2, 524-534