Category Archives: Negotiation

Putting the Spotlight on Older Workers (Baby Boomers – We Need You!!)

older worker

Some 20 months ago, I delivered a presentation Managing an Ageing Workforce at the National Local Government HR Conference. I want to share some of the key points I made then.

Firstly, what do we mean by ‘older workers’? Is it 60, 55, 50, 45, or even 40?!? I found some interesting contrasts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics and OECD give 65 as the threshold for ‘old age’. For the United Nations, it is 60, and some research I uncovered quoted 55 as ‘old’. Still coming down, the Commonwealth Age Discrimination Commissioner referred to 45 as ‘old’, and some international research maintains that old age begins at 40 in the workplace!

You may (or may not) know that we have a real problem/challenge on our hands. There are currently around a million workers in Australia who have recently retired or are about to retire, and we don’t have enough Gen X and Gen Y workers to replace them. These baby boomers are taking a lot of expertise with them, and various organisations are already feeling the pinch. I work with many local councils and they have relatively mature workforces, so they are definitely experiencing this problem.

Why do people retire? For various reasons, including: pursuing leisure activities; having had enough of the relentless stress/pressure that characterises our workforce; no longer having the job satisfaction they might have once had; and having finally gained financial independence to have a reasonable lifestyle in retirement. The other side of the coin is that many mature workers aren’t retiring because: they can’t financially afford to retire (they may have been badly hit by the GFC); they still really enjoy their work and see no reason to stop; their employers are supportive of them, perhaps giving them part-time or casual work that caters for their wants and needs.

There have recently been changes in the Australian working culture. Until recently, early retirement was actively promoted. Over a quarter of the men, and over half of the women were retiring before 55. Furthermore, around 80% of men and 90% of women retired before 65. Now, more baby boomers are delaying retirement (often for the above reasons), but older workers are still more likely to be retrenched and less likely to be hired in weaker times – this reflects the negative stereotypes of mature workers that persists.

Yes, folks, ageism exists. It is a real barrier to mature work participation, and the Australian Institute of Management wrote a paper in 2013, Engaging & Retaining Older Workers, which confirmed this. It highlighted the stereotype that mature workers are undervalued, seen to have lower energy, physical and mental capacity, difficulty learning new skills/technology, and are also less competent, productive, and resistant to change. While there may be elements of truth for some mature workers, this stereotype is at sharp odds with the views of many key figures who recognise what mature workers have to offer. Take M Wauchope, the WA Public Sector Commissioner, for instance. He said,

“An age diverse workforce has real benefits for any organisation. The ability to harness the skills, experience and enthusiasm of people of any age creates a cooperative work environment where the individuals, regardless of their age, can contribute.”

What are the potential benefits of hiring and retaining mature age workers? There are quite a few. These include:

  • lower turnover rates
  • corporate knowledge
  • better attendance/productivity
  • greater work experience
  • maturity and patience
  • minimal supervision
  • mentoring/corporate knowledge

So here is the inherent problem – we now have more skilled, competent people now leaving the Australian workforce than can be replaced, and we have many mature workers who would love to stay in the workforce if the organisation allowed this, and catered more effectively for their situations.

Here are some ways in which organisations can resolve this dilemma:

Develop specific plans and policies, to enable mature workers to pass on their expertise. Examples include training and mentoring, job shadowing, job-sharing, knowledge mapping, and team sharing practices

Job redesign to involve staff in organisational development projects, mentoring or coaching. Help managers redesign jobs for flexible work opportunities, meaningful work, and transfer of key knowledge and skills to younger staff.

Promote flexible work practices. Ensure line management support, highlight the flexibility in recruitment processes, ask mature employees what they would like, and identify and remove real & perceived barriers.

Health and well-being strategies. Liaise with staff, HR and WHS representatives, conduct regular ergonomic checks of the workplace, manage work safety risks for mature staff, give access to exercise and health information services, and put work-life balance on the agenda.

Reward and recognition. Give managers scope to recognise and reward staff (there are many ways to recognise workers), provide financial planning and retirement advice, and provide secondments, mentoring opportunities, job rotations, training/seminars, etc.

I’ll now make a confession. I am a baby boomer, and I am as passionate and productive in my work now as I have ever been –just ask my clients. Go, baby boomers!

Narayan van de Graaff

Older people

Principled Negotiation: Planning to Succeed

 “Don’t bargain yourself down before you get to the table.”      Carol Frohlinge

One survey of negotiators some years ago found that successful negotiators spent twice as much time acquiring and clarifying information as the less successful negotiators.

They also asked twice as many questions, and were shown to be much more effective at active listening.  Much of this could possibly be classified under planning for the negotiation.

Planning is such a key component of negotiating, and a Negotiation Planner can help us to be much more prepared for negotiations.  The following template can help you do this.


Your Wants/Needs, etc. Their Want/Needs, etc. (you may need to guess)
Who/Where/When? Who/Where/When? 
Your Key Stakeholders  Their Key Stakeholders
Your Overall Goal Their Overall Goal  
Your Wants & Needs  Their Wants &Needs 
Your Opening Position  Their Likely Opening Position 
Your Subsequent Positions   Their Likely Subsequent Positions
Your BATNA Their Likely BATNA 
Your Creative Opportunities  Their Creative Opportunities

What is a BATNA?  This is an acronym for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement.  Very often, a bottom line is arbitrary, and may actually prohibit us from obtaining the best results.  A BATNA is an alternative to a bottom line, and some experts suggest that a BATNA is the best standard against which negotiated agreements should be measured.  The key point is to focus on interests and underlying needs rather than arbitrary fixed positions.

My wife and I applied BATNA in our personal lives when we sold our home a few years ago.  We initially agreed on a bottom line selling price, which was quite arbitrary.  Then we discussed our BATNA, which was interesting!  We realised that our best alternatives to negotiated agreement were:

1.  Rent our home out while we moved elsewhere.

2.  Defer selling the home until the market picked up.

3.  Make changes to our home, so that it more fully encompassed all our needs.

4.  Renegotiate our home loan.

We agreed that number 2 would be our key BATNA if we didn’t sell, which we did, by the way.

Look up BATNA on Google if you want to know more about it.

Questions for you to consider:

Consider recent or current negotiations you are involved in.  What is your BATNA(S)?

Do/did you need to spend more time planning – perhaps completing a Negotiation Planner?

Successful negotiating!

Narayan van de Graaff

Principled Negotiation: Beyond Tactics and Dirty Tricks

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”           Forbes ’12

businessman and businesswoman having a discussion


In the last blog, we touched on the fact that some negotiators will employ tactics and ‘dirty tricks’.  Why?  Because they work so often, particularly with negotiators who trust the other party, and don’t realise what the other party is doing to manipulate them into surrendering to their demands.

The following are just a few of the tactics and dirty tricks that are employed:

 FAIT ACCOMPLI: doing something which is, or at least, seems irreversible, e.g. doing work for a you which had not been agreed to, then charging you for this work.

SALAMI: achieving their objective little by little without agreement, and ultimately achieving a lot!

ARTIFICIAL DEADLINES: trying to force you to arbitrary or unrealistic deadlines.

GOOD NEGOTIATOR/BAD NEGOTIATOR: along the lines of good cop/bad cop.  One negotiating partner takes a very tough approach while the other is much easier to deal with.  When the ‘bad negotiator’ disappears for a while (deliberate of course!), the ‘good negotiator’ makes an offer that under the circumstances may seem hard to refuse, given the circumstances.

NO AUTHORITY: at an advanced point in negotiations, stating that they don’t have the authority to make a decision when you had every reason to believe they did have that authority.

BULLYING and THREATS: deliberately intimidating you so that you will hopefully succumb.

STANDARD PRACTICE: Convincing you to do their bidding, because ‘it’s standard practice’.

CHANGING SCOPE OF NEGOTIATIONS: deliberately ‘changing the goalposts’ to try and unnerve you and make you cave in to their demands.

EMPTY PROMISES: Making empty promises with no intention of keeping to them.

FEINTING: Disguising the real objective by pretending they have other real concerns or objectives.

STALLING: Deliberately using delaying tactics.

SILENCE TREATMENT: Reacting to your offers/discussions with silence, to try and intimidate you.

The first key strategy to dealing with these underhand tactics is to be aware that they are being employed.   You can then assertively indicate that they are not helpful, and encourage the other party to practice principled negotiation.

 Have you encountered any of the above tactics?  How did you deal with them?

Happy to hear from you, and for us to learn from each other.

Narayan van de Graaff


Principled Negotiation: Is it Just a Lot of Bulls..t?

“Let us never negotiate out of fear.  But never let us fear to negotiate.”  John F Kennedy

 Common Ground Words Magnifying Glass Mutual Agreement

The term win-win has been around for many years, yet it is still very important and relevant.  By way of example, the workshops we facilitate on crucial conversations, conflict resolution, principled negotiation, bullying and harassment, performance management, leadership and dealing with difficult people, all have win-win as an underlying value system.

In their bestseller, Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury explain how principled negotiation works.  Both parties develop rapport, explore and communicate their underlying needs, and seek mutually acceptable outcomes.  This is in contrast to positional negotiation, where both parties dig into positions and possibly play manipulative games with each other.

Some years ago, I was managing a team of management trainers in one of the large banks. One of the bank’s workshops for supervisors and managers was Principled Negotiation – a two-day practical workshop based on the win-win principle in negotiating.  I discovered that the negotiation workshop for senior management was based more on a win-lose philosophy.  It was very much about using tactics and ‘dirty tricks’.  There is a whole range of them – refer our next blog.

I spoke to ‘John’ who was responsible for that workshop, and explained my concerns.  Here we had two negotiating workshops side by side in the same company, very much at odds with each other in terms of their underlying philosophy and suggested strategies/tactics.  John listened, and then said, “Narayan, all this win-win stuff is a lot of bulls..t.  Only one person ever wins, and I always make sure it’s me.”  Well, that was clear!  We had to agree to disagree.

I strongly subscribe to a win-win philosophy, particularly in relation to negotiations with clients.  If you are buying a new or second-hand car from a car yard, there is usually no need to develop the relationship.  However, if you are negotiating with a significant client and employ those tactics and dirty tricks, you may ‘win the battle but lose the war.’  You might well get a short-term win, but in the process alienate the client who will not trust you and very possibly look elsewhere in the future.

The other point about principled negotiation is that if you build trust and develop rapport with the other party, you are both more likely to finish the negotiations with your main needs met.  We are not suggesting that all of your needs will be met – life isn’t as simple as that.  However, you will both be more open to exploring options and the underlying needs of both parties, and finding solutions that you may not have found, if you had used a positional negotiation approach.

What are your views and experiences on this topic?  I’d love to hear from you!

Narayan van de Graaff