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The Joys of Negotiation

Recently all I have been able to think about is negotiations. I don’t know if it is the tedium of all of our other classes catching up with me, or the novelty of the competition, but I can’t seem to get the thought out of my head. I invariably find myself asking the check-out lady in the Spangler Dining room if $1.95 is the best she can do on the price of my salad, claiming that I really can’t go a penny higher than $1.86.

I regularly find myself aimlessly pondering the connection of BATNA and the bat cave. This invariably leads me to wonder if Batman is a better negotiator than Bruce Wayne, and if so does he use all of those gadgets on his utility belt during negotiations or not? I am not certain if this represents an unethical way of shifting the perception of the ZOPA or not.

Then as soon as I think of ZOPA I am distracted by the similarity of ZOPA to U2’s Zooropa concert tour. I seem to remember that the CD and resulting tour was a bit of a bust, and I wonder if this is the sign of a negotiation gone wrong. Did Bono and The Edge really come up with the crap on that album and willfully release it, or like “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” did they find themselves stuck in a contract that they couldn’t get out of?

Once I get the negotiation machine in my head started up, I just can’t stop. I start to fixate on my professor’s assertion that this is my time to lie, to recklessly violate community standards. This is my chance to learn battle tactics that others will use against me in real life negotiations, so I must learn to defend myself.

If HBS is practicing what they preach, I tend to wonder why there are so many examples of negotiations gone wrong here? For instance, I can’t believe that all of the senior professors who taught LCA this semester volunteered for the job. I have to believe that some of them don’t consider teaching a brand-new course with completely unproven cases to be all that thrilling. And don’t even get started on that Enron case. It was torture enough for us to read it; imagine what the professors went through to prepare for teaching it. Does this just mean that the administration negotiates better than the individual professors?

Then I remembered that there was also somebody who negotiated a schedule where we have a couple of extra days off in exchange for weeks on end of exclusively three case days. I hope that this was considered a negotiating loss and was not just someone’s sadistic way of tormenting the RCs. If it was a legitimate negotiation, I think that our representative misunderstood the cost of the three-case day. If it was intended to torment me, then I guess the negotiation was successful and I should be congratulating someone on a job well done.

However, one negotiation that I am reminded of which I cannot condone is the one between somebody within the HBS community and an architect over the design of One Western Avenue. I am told that some people are warming to the building and that The Bridge truly does mirror the Charles River, but I can’t see it. What I can see is an elevator that has been broken for a full week, doors that get blown off their hinges in the wind (weekly), fire alarms that go off randomly, and a laundry room that can only be reached by walking outside. I have to hope that if I negotiated the construction of such a building in class, and it ended up with these deficiencies as part of the deal, I would be signing myself up for a three.

Yes, these are strange times I find myself in. I still don’t know to what I should attribute this obsession with Negotiations. I fear that it could be the stress of the still ongoing job hunt, or the sadness over the completion of FIN2, but I really can’t be certain. All I do know is that I have been fleeced in my two in-class negotiations thus far, so it is clearly not a vast knowledge of the subject matter that keeps it on my mind.

April 20, 2004
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