Thursday, February 01, 2007

Negotiating Into A Paper Bag

CPO Commissar Hewitt with NHS pay negotiator

Tyler once went on a negotiation skills course. And as you perhaps know, one of the Golden Techniques of successful negotiation is The Flinch.

It works like this- no matter what the other side proposes, no matter how attractive you find it, no matter how mad you think they must be to offer it, no matter what... the key thing you must do is to flinch.

Say you're selling some magic beans, and you've got your punter champing at the bit:

"OK, for those beans, I'll give you the cow!"

"You're joking, I assume."

"OK...OK... I'll throw in the car..."

"Uh-uh... that won't work for me."

"Right... right.... how about the store.... plus....PLUS my HOUSE!"

"Look, we're wasting time here... we need to get serious."

"OK... I know... the cow, the car, the store, the house... plus my pension... plus my wife? No? Fine... take my daughters... take them as well. Do we have a deal?"

"Hmm.... well, I don't know... I'd also need your soul... and your Werthers Originals. And even then, I'd be cutting my own throat..."

And when you've dealt, always remember another Golden Rule- never brag about your deals afterwards. You have to leave the other guy thinking he got one over on you. Because you don't want to get the wrong reputation.

Which is why I'm a little concerned about the BMA.

This morning one of their members- the somewhat sinister sounding Dr Fradd- let slip that he and his fellow BMA negotiators simply could not believe the sensational GPs pay deal they managed to pull off with the Department of Health.

Because in exchange for the magic beans of a 6% cut in their "basic" pay, and agreement to tick a load of new tractor production boxes, they got the cow, the car, the store, the house, the pension, the daughters, the soul, the Werthers, our Out of Hours (OOH) GP service, and the opportunity for their members to rack up their earnings beyond even the wildest dreams of Doc Crippen.

Fradd says the BMA negotiators never expected to offload their OOH burden:

"We got rid of it for effectively 6% of the value of the contract. It was just stunning. Nobody in my position had ever believed we could pull it off but to get it for 6% was a bit of a laugh."

A bit of a laugh.

Dr Fradd, I think you could use a little negotiation skills training. We all know the DoH are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops and we wouldn't trust them to negotiate their way in or out of paper bag, but you GPs shouldn't be saying that. Definitely not. Think of all those future negotiations.

No, you should be saying:

"Well, obviously the DoH drove an exceptionally tough bargain with us, and made sure they extracted every last drop of value for taxpayers. And many of our members were certainly disappointed. But as always, our main concern is patients, and it's only right we should swallow our own concerns to do our best for them. But naturally, we will be seeking to redress the inequity in future pay negotiations."

Get the idea? You could play these patsies for the next twenty years.

If you get in touch with me I could arrange a series of special training seminars.

At a price.

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