Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  27 Apr 2009

MANAGEMENT: UCT Offers Negotiation Skills


Recent Western Cape Business News

The need for businesses to be able to negotiate successfully - internally and externally - has become ever more crucial.

This is according to Barney Jordaan, Director of the course Negotiating Skills at the UCT Graduate School of Business this June.

In this climate of upheaval, having highly skilled negotiators could make the difference between a business surviving or going under,” said Jordaan.

There are numerous situations in which good negotiation skills are needed, from restructuring initiatives involving cost reductions, retrenchments and trade unions, to negotiations with suppliers and customers on pricing.”

The good news, said Jordaan, is that whatever organisation one is in, it is possible to develop these skills and improve them with practice. With this in mind the course being offered at the UCT GSB is geared to providing South Africans with an essential negotiation toolkit.

The UCT GSB course combines both theory and practice and uses a host of relevant real world case studies. Delegates will explore different approaches to negotiation in detail and learn how to advance their interests in a co-operative manner.

Jordaan said there are some key steps organisations must be mindful of when entering negotiations, particularly at this highly sensitive time.

With pressure on businesses intensifying, the natural inclination for South African businesses may be to negotiate to ‘win’ at all costs. This, however, would be a colossal mistake – because most negotiations involve ongoing relationships and quick short-term gains may come at a major cost later be it with clients, employees, suppliers or shareholders,” said Jordaan.

If the other party feels taken advantage of at a time that they are most vulnerable, for example, the relationship that was supposed to be maintained can become strained or destroyed altogether, he explained.

The risk also exists that victims can become aggressors and that ‘winner takes all’ negotiations can lead to costly litigation or, at the very least, a desire for the ‘loser’ by fair means or foul to claw back what they perceive they have lost.”

He said it is vital to take an approach that moves away from “winning” or “losing”, to approaching the issue for negotiation as a joint problem that requires a mutually acceptable solution. This approach recognises that with a “win/win” approach, the final deal can often be significantly greater for both parties than was initially thought.

Secondly, prepare and plan well. Skilled negotiators avoid kneejerk reactions and emphasise rationality and problem-solving. Negotiation is a process and successful negotiators make detailed plans – they know what they want and why they want it, they anticipate what the other side wants and they look at creative solutions that satisfy each party’s primary interests even in the toughest of environments,” he said.

Thirdly, it is vital to make sure that all the relevant stakeholders are involved. For example, in a recession a common situation is a business having to downsize or stop production. “In this context of major job losses it is critical that those affected and could influence the important decisions are represented at the negotiation table. In a recession context it is also important that power is used wisely – it is important to be assertive in a way that satisfies one’s interests but also preserves the dignity of the other party,” said Jordaan.

In trying times, organisations will have to deal ultimately with trying negotiations. By augmenting their negotiating abilities, organisations can ensure that hurdles to a compromise don’t become impassable obstructions.”

The course, offered by the Executive Education unit at the UCT GSB from 8 – 10 June, will explore these and other key techniques in detail, including dealing with conflict and difficult conversations; understanding one’s own conflict management and problem-solving style; how to prepare for any negotiation; how to deal with hard bargainers; and how to execute a negotiation in a manner that satisfies one’s interests and ensures that the agreement is sustainable long-term. The course is directed at not just business people but all individuals who are involved in negotiations.


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