walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

BATNA, ultimata, and negotiations

My husband used to get kind of upset with me, before we were even dating, because I would sometimes sort of negotiate with an employer (DEC) or whatever (first husband) that I wasn't happy with, but mostly I'd go look for a better alternative (Spry, other people) and just leave. While I didn't know it at the time, what I was doing was improving my BATNA, my "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement". I found out about BATNA not while I was at Amazon, reading multiple books about negotiation while I contemplated my departure from there, because I was real unhappy about one of my coworkers (among other things), but when I was reading parenting books.

BATNA is great. If you have a great BATNA, you barely have to talk to someone you are working with. You can just say, See Ya, and walk out the door.

The easiest way to understand what happened with AEDE and Google News Spain is that Google had a great BATNA (See ya!) and AEDE hasn't actually contemplated what its BATNA even is.

The reason my husband got kind of upset with me is because I didn't actually bother to tell people I was about to leave. HE was also upset with our employer (DEC -- this was a long while back), so he got a great BATNA, came back to the employer, and required them to match it for him to stick around. Fair's fair. He compares this to Dr. Strangelove, where one side developed a doomsday weapon but didn't tell the other side about the doomsday weapon, so the whole MAD thing stopped working and everyone died. Apparently, you are supposed to tell people before you implement an ultimatum. Who knew?

So after that job, I actually did in fact work pretty closely with my subsequent employers (or at least my immediate bosses, not necessarily the big bosses) when I was unhappy and thinking about leaving. This did, indeed, work out better all around. I didn't really ultimatum them -- I just let them know I was unhappy and they did what they could to help with what they could and I stuck around a little longer, until I was just like, fuck it. Bye. See ya.

But even at my very best from a behavior perspective, I don't actually let other people have much say over my decision making (this is actually the part of the story where you should be thinking, Wow, I really feel sorry for your husband. And he _married_ you knowing this? Yeah, yeah he did. I feel sorry for him, too.). Any given human being is going to fall at different points on a spectrum of how much they let other people influence their decisions.

And there is this thing that the Spanish participants in the Google Tax probably didn't think through completely. While Steve Jobs was pretty happy to participate as the hub of a hub and spoke setup to preserve something like a publishing status quo in the US, and while Steve Jobs was a huge influence on Brin and Page, Brin and Page, ESPECIALLY Brin isn't really that much like Steve Jobs, especially not much like Jobs at the end of Jobs life. And Google was being run on the daily by Schmidt at the time of the French Google Tax negotiation. But Google is being run on the daily by Brin, now. And Brin is a whole lot closer to me on the How Much Do I Let People Influence Me decision scale than Schmidt.

Negotiations are fundamentally about people talking to each other, and letting other people influence your decisions. If you don't let people influence you -- if you decide ahead of time what you are going to do, and then you just do it -- then negotiating with you is not going to last very long, and it is going to be relatively predictable. You will get your BATNA, or the other side will decide to generously give you more than your BATNA. If you attempt a negotiation with a person of this nature, you should know this going into it. I'm thinking that maybe that wasn't clearly understood in this case.

ETA: In case it isn't clear, I think Google News did exactly the right thing. But I also recognize that I accept my husband's assertion that this style of negotiation is basically wrong, in some human way that I only barely understand. And I feel like anyone who sides with Google News, but thinks that walking out on a negotiation without sticking around to deliver an ultimatum before implementing it is wrong, is probably being -- unintentionally -- somewhat hypocritical.
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