The management negotiator, Sean Riley, who was known for his ruthlessness, was always simply referred to as The Sean. He was a few inches taller than Chuck and in a designer suit that commanded respect. His dark hair was styled, and his nails had recently received a manicure. Ever the consummate salesman, Sean swallowed hard to maintain a friendly demeanor then respectfully explained, “Mr. Wood, we have the right to reopen negotiations with our labor counterparts as a part of our contract. To be absolutely transparent, we may have over-played our position in our last discussion, and, well frankly, we want to revisit the terms of the contract.”
Chuck, realizing that something was fundamentally wrong with this picture, responded, “Why would you want to reopen discussions with labor? Let’s be honest here, our teams didn’t bargain with each other to everyone’s mutual benefit. You took a hard line and basically threw labor out of your business model. Let me recount your marketing position:
“First, Fast Flyers – Automating low-cost air travel.
“Then, check us out on the web at FF.com
“Or, my favorite, your tagline – We got you there!
“Your airline has been rebranded as:
“Overall, Floundering Flyers – The high cost of automated air travel.
“With that new tagline – There! We got you, sucker!
“Your automated check-in of bags and people with RFID tags resulted in no humans at the gate, dispensed with all baggage handlers with an automated bag sorting carousel, replaced the flight attendants with drink serving robotics, and modernized the on-ground servicing of the aircraft with state of the art ground robotics only lightly monitored from an insulated data bunker, outsourced off-shore to reduce costs.
“You put the screws to the pilots and told them this was the wave of the future, and if they didn’t play ball your way they would see themselves flying freight dog runs out of Guangzhou, China.
“Your team got everything they wanted! Then, of course, we were told which crumbs we could have if we behaved ourselves. Have you now determined the crumbs we were offered should be withdrawn?”
The Sean tried to conceal his uneasiness with the accusations with his best salesman grin of acceptance. He too brightly responded, “This is precisely why we want to reopen the negotiations, Mr. Wood. From every angle that we have looked at the contract, we find some inequalities that in good conscience must be revisited. Let me first start off with …”
Chuck cut off The Sean’s opening monologue. “And before we discuss anything, do you want to introduce me and explain the purpose of these two contractors who are seated at the table? It is poor manners, even for you, not to introduce two new interested parties to our negotiation round. I’m pretty sure that they are not the finance dweebs you brought in last time, because these folks look like they have seen some sun. They also don’t have pencil necks.”
Before the lead management negotiator could properly formulate his next cheery, upbeat statement, Chuck flatly stated, “You might as well know that we know your human- free, fully automated flight service is being pounded. Anybody and everybody you threw out of work when you re-baked this airline, to use your terms, was waiting and hoping for you to stub your toes and fall down. From what we are hearing, not only did you stub your toes but you’re about to be forced to fall on your sword. It’s all over the news and the Internet that your big debut, didn’t.
“Your practice runs went well enough, but something went hopelessly wrong during your grand opening. We particularly liked hearing about your problem with the automated lavatory ground gear pumping into, rather than vacuuming out, the sanitary systems of the aircraft. Nothing like having raw sewage a centimeter deep in the aircraft to ground it. But your public relations snafu has really made this airline sparkle when it comes to the social media buzz.
“Your web site said FREE travel, and people signed up for it only to be told that was a mistake. It would not have been so bad if your automated baggage shredder hadn’t ruined all those passengers’ belongings. You should have had some other contact centers teed up just in case there was an unforeseen problem, because your outsourcing travel services support lines simply fell off the grid. Now you know, nothing aggravates a traveler more than when they can’t yell at someone concerning their problem.
“With all that fit of activity going on, my constituents are all asking me the same question; ‘Where were you when the fit hit The Sean?’”
Even some of these seasoned negotiators had trouble suppressing their snickers at the humorous poke at The Sean. The Sean rocked back into his chair to gather his thoughts and let the muted laughter subside.
After a moment of composure, he flatly stated, “I have two assignments to work on. The first is to get the airline back in the air, then to see it doesn’t happen again. We are coming to you for immediate help from your labor constituency to plug the operational gaps and provide the support to get planes back in the air. As for the two people at the end of the table, they are here for the second phase of my assignment.
“You, Mr. Chuck Wood, are here for the first part of the assignment. May I have your team’s cooperation? We can negotiate the rates and manpower required.”
Chuck slightly clucked his tongue before responding. “Trust! It’s what you need when dealing with people you want to partner with. Our labor team has always wanted to partner with management, but there simply isn’t any trust now. You won’t trust enough to even tell us who is at the end of the table, but you let them in to hear everything that’s going on. This one way behavior tells us that you are asking for us to trust you, but you offer zero reason to trust you.
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