I’ve been going through some old notes on negotiation and came across some materials from a negotiation retreat that a former employer sent me and many of my co-workers to in the ’90’s.
At that time, I was working for an employer that had an alliance with a British company. So our Head of Purchasing and our top Purchasing Director were actually employees of the British company.
They liked to preach the “British style” of negotiating. And the culture dictated that Brits negotiate with a lot of emotion.
They sent us to the aforementioned negotiation retreat where the training was being conducted by a couple of British consultants. One of the acronyms that was introduced during this session was NIGYYSOB.
Yeah, they said it stood for “Now I’ve got you, you son of a b**ch.” You gotta love the Brits, huh?
OK, I know, it’s weird.
But the concept was that you should be careful not to have your supplier hate you too much when a negotiation concludes – along the same lines as the “be hard on the problem, not the person” and “help your counterpart save face” tactics mentioned in the book “Getting To Yes” (or was it “Getting Past No?” Anyway…). Inspiring too much hate, they posited, would manifest itself in some way of your counterpart getting back at you (either personally or in business dealings) when it’s an opportune time.
They proceeded to tell a true story of how a buyer was always tough in a personal way with a certain supplier’s salesperson over a period of years. Then, one day during a tough negotiation, the salesperson stands up and punches the buyer in the face, breaking his jaw.
As the buyer slouches in his chair with blood pouring from his mouth, the salesperson smiles and says “I’ve wanted to do that for 10 years.” The salesperson then exited the building and retired that same day.
Fortunately, that’s never happened to me. I did think it was going to happen to a boss of mine one time, though…
My boss had responsibility for some categories and the folks at my level had responsibility for others. One day, my boss (let’s call him Rajeev) was complaining about there being a lot of maverick buying for one of his categories and said that he was going to ask our contracted supplier’s president to remove the rep (let’s call him Jody) from our account.
Jody had been working our account for something like 10 years. Rajeev told me that he thought that Jody “intimidated” the admins because he was a “big guy” and they didn’t like him for that reason.
So Rajeev told Jody’s company’s president. I’m not sure what he told the president (probably not the “intimidating big guy” rationale), but Jody was not only removed from the account – he was fired completely (we were a pretty big customer)!
Jody was crushed and ended up being admitted into a mental institution due to his self-destructive devastation. I’m not sure if he became suicidal or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Sadly, I don’t think that Rajeev felt one bit of regret.
I kept fearing Jody coming into our offices and going postal or one day finding my boss in a nearby dumpster. There was an aura of wrongness in our department for some time after that.
There is a line in being a tough negotiator. When you cross that line, it’s good for no one.
Ever heard the expression “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business?”
It’s all personal when someone’s career and future can be affected by the outcome.
Just ask Jody or the broken-jawed buyer’s salesperson.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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