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Power Mayhem

Brian Buck
240318 Power Mayhem
© Scotwork NA

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
—Alice Walker

There’s no truer statement about power, and it’s one reason why power issues can create so much mayhem at the negotiating table.

Power is the central theme of so many of our clients’ negotiations. It’s also one of the topics that we’re asked about — and have written about — the most. But why does it create so many issues?

Power can be defined as the ability to influence. It’s difficult to measure and is largely based on our perception of a situation. When we feel we don’t have power, it’s usually because we sense the other side’s weight and influence. Regardless of whether that influence is real or imagined, our perception of the power dynamic is absolutely real, and that’s where the mayhem begins.

Power causes mayhem only when we perceive we have less of it than the other side. The good news is, because most power mayhem is derived from our perception of a situation, we usually have more power than we think we do. 

The first step in taming power mayhem is to challenge our perception of a situation and take an honest look to make sure we’re not inadvertently giving up power.

For instance, if you’re in talks with someone who you believe has more power than you, the first thing to remember is that they’re negotiating with you because you have something they want or need. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t be negotiating with you.

Put another way, negotiations are about trading items or issues of lesser importance for ones of higher importance. If the other side held all the power cards, they wouldn’t trade — they would take. Again, they wouldn’t be negotiating with you.

Knowing why someone is negotiating with you, and the items that you’ll be negotiating, is only part of the power puzzle. The final piece is understanding your own limits. One of the reasons we often feel so powerless is because we don’t fully understand our walk-away points. That puts us in a position of feeling like we need to accept whatever the other side puts in front of us. Knowing your alternatives is empowering — it eliminates desperation.

When faced with mayhem-caused power, take a beat and scrutinize your perception. First, understand why they’re negotiating with you. Then identify the issues you’re negotiating. Finally, establish your walk-away point. Doing so will ensure that you’re looking at the situation more accurately and will help mitigate your power mayhem.

Mayhem is our theme throughout March, coinciding with March Madness. We’ve identified 32 types of situations across four categories that can create negotiation mayhem. You have the opportunity to vote and narrow down our list to the most mayhem-inducing issues you face while negotiating. This week, vote on which Power Mayhem issues cause you the biggest headaches while negotiating. Then be sure to join us for our webinar, where you’ll help select the most mayhem-causing situations we discuss. Scotwork will provide expert advice on how to deal with them.

More power to you in your negotiations — and in your March Madness brackets!


We Can Help You Minimize Your Negotiation Mayhem.

Regardless of where it’s coming from — your side, the other side, a power imbalance, or anywhere else — mayhem can destroy deals. Rely on Scotwork experts’ nearly 50 years of real-world experience to help you manage negotiation mayhem or avoid it completely.

Talk to one of our experts today.

Brian Buck
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