Contract negotiators today work in complex, uncertain, and rapidly shifting economic and regulatory environments. Management and labor representatives alike say traditional negotiation tactics are more likely to polarize participants and yield inadequate results.
We provide support to bargaining teams committed to more effective problem solving.
The challenge: stalled negotiations
A suburban school district and a teachers’ union engaged in two years of traditional bargaining without satisfactory result. Unless they developed a new strategy, both sides predicted a strike.
Union and district representatives hired Sound Options Group to help negotiators move beyond old issues, rebuild trust and mutual respect, and conceive a more effective bargaining process.
The solution: a new approach
Sound Options Group, working with a customer design team, developed a more effective conversational structure for negotiators. We dispelled the deadlock and promoted shared learning by:
- Facilitating sessions for team members in which they mapped elements of “difficult” and “crucial” conversations.
- Designing and moderating structured conversations that jointly defined key issues of trust and respect while generating shared expectations for the negotiators.
- Providing strategies to resolve past grievances between team members in order to “get past the past.”
These initiatives produced a fresh negotiating atmosphere of mutual purpose and respect
The issues remain difficult and the contract elusive, but the school district and the union negotiate with increased confidence and a new sense of mutual purpose.
The two sides are committed to moving forward and changing the story that had defined their relationship. The negotiators also have effective new models for reporting progress to their respective constituents and to the community at large. Their next contract was negotiated and ratified in record time.