The Chief Spokesman & the Ultimate Decision Maker

As the eminent British philosopher, Walter Bagehot, once said, “When two men ride on a horse, one has to ride in front.”

In negotiation, there are two horses to ride: one for the individual who is the chief spokesman for his side and the other for the individual or individuals who are the chief decision makers. The rider is not necessarily the same individual on both horses, especially in group negotiations.

In labor/management negotiations, the company’s chief executive officer is usually also the chief decision maker. But he rarely comes to the bargaining table. The director of labor/management relations usually acts as the chief spokesman.

The union’s chief spokesman is usually a top official of the labor organization. He is often accompanied by a committee of shop officials. But any agreement they reach must almost invariably be submitted to the rank and file for ratification.

A negotiator claiming full authority to bind his principal usually overstates the case. Obviously, he has no authority to give the store away, and a poor agreement will hardly encourage his principal to retain him for the next negotiation.

While not decisive, the style and personality of the negotiators can materially affect the outcome. A big ego frequently gets in the way. Personal animosities can be a hindrance. Negotiations can also be influenced by such other personal considerations as pride, dedication, recognition, discrimination, security and rewards. For better or worse, personality can materially affect the course of negotiations and mediations. The dynamics of the dispute may outweigh the personal influences, but they are always present.