The French Negotiation Style Essay
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The French Negotiation Style Essay
Assignment 1: Research Sources
By Saturday, May 10, 2014, post a directly quoted paragraph from one source that is appropriate for your current research project. Then offer a paraphrase or summary of the same paragraph. Be sure to appropriately cite both the original paragraph and your paraphrase or summary.
After you have posted your source and paraphrase, by Wednesday, May 14, 2014, respond to at least two other students’ posts. Some questions to ponder as your do so are as follows:
Are his or her listed sources appropriate for a university-level research project?
Are the materials properly cited?
Is the paraphrase or summary successful?
To receive discussion points, you must describe specific criteria that make the sources acceptable, the citation correct, or the paraphrase well written. Be wary of discussing the topic rather than offering substantive criticism.
Discussion question responses should be at least one-half, double-spaced page in length. Your responses to your peers’ writing should be a good paragraph in length and should include specifics from the text if you are attempting to make a point.
Before you begin to write your discussion answers, think about the points made in the lecture regarding answering discussion questions. All of your answers must be in complete sentence form, and you should avoid plagiarism at all costs by citing the readings correctly and composing your own original responses. Responses that copy ideas from the Internet or from another student will be considered plagiarism and will be treated as such.
Reading Assignment: Cross Cultural Negotiations
This article analyses and presents the French negotiation style. After reading the article please do the following:
Write a 1 page paper.
- You should assume that the description is accurate. In that case, what adjustments an American negotiator might need to do if he is about to go to France to negotiate a large deal?
THE FRENCH NEGOTIATION STYLE
The word “negotiation” is rooted in the Latin negotium, meaning “not leisure” (which means that what is not leisure is business). In Old French, “negociacion” meant “dealing with people.” Both definitions, though archaic, are right on the mark because the fact is that all dealings between people (whether social or business) constitute negotiation. This means that everyone has to negotiate in its everyday life. In our globalizing world, it is important to understand other cultures to take the most out of our international relations.
Moreover, France is one of the pillars of the European Union and number one worldwide in the tourism sector, therefore a meaningful partner on the global trade scene. It seems very important that France’s business partners understand the way the French negotiate to obtain more easily what they want, and in a friendlier way.
In our survey we’ll start with an overview of the French culture and the French particular negotiating style that we’ll try to compare afterwards with the Harvard Negotiation Style Concept to see what could be improved in our negotiating methods.
- FRENCH NEGOTIATION STYLE
- The French Culture and Values
France is a modern and very diverse country, and one can only admit the deep influence that France’s culture has had on western countries for the last hundred of years, especially in art, literature and philosophy. The French are proud of their history and their prominent culture is influenced by a mix of cultural and historical differences.
One of the characteristics of the French culture is the centralisation. France has a long and notable history of centralisation reflected in its geography, transportation system, Government and business. France is organised pretty much around Paris. In business, centralisation is reflected in the concentrated authority. It is especially true in SMEs, where the personality of the manager/founder strongly influences the life of the company, because he/she has difficulties decentralizing power.
To be successful in business in France, it is necessary to understand the culture. Culture has indeed an impact on the values, which in turn affect the attitude, which eventually influences behaviours. Let’s see, through the model of Geert Hofstede (1970’s), which are the French values regarding business. We use this model here to make our analysis understandable, since it has become a well-known standard. Power distance: France is getting more moderate. As Hofstede studied France for his model, it was the only country scoring high on power distance. Nowadays, the hierarchy is usually to be respected. Even though employees can bypass their bosses, it is not often the case, and they often have to ask for their bosses assent before taking a decision.
Individualism VS Collectivism: the French love uniqueness and freedom of opinion both in society and in business. The individualism is therefore a very important cultural characteristic.
Achievement VS Nurturing: the French place more interest in quality of life (nurturing) than on their career (achievement). It’s obvious in the way they defend their rights concerning their 5-week paid holidays and other social advantages and benefits.
Uncertainty avoidance: the French pay a lot of attention to rules and regulations. Moreover, the French don’t like ambiguity and they try to reduce them by establishing formal rules in order to avoid ideas and behaviours they don’t desire.
Long term VS Short term orientation: France seems more short-term oriented: the French look more in the past and try to keep their social system the way it is, even though it will need reforms pretty soon. However, companies try to be more long-term oriented, through commitment to sustainable development and other future-oriented actions.
Now that we’ve seen what the French culture consists in concerning business, let’s see thanks to this what the typical French negotiator looks like.
- The typical French Negotiator
According to our culture, and also to some comments made by other countries such as the USA, Sweden and Finland, a French person while negotiating has the following characteristics:
- Intellectual style: the French are very intellectual and have a high level of culture. They also are very creative and political. The problem, as seen by other countries, is that it makes them arrogant and they feel intellectually superior to their negotiating partner.
- Nationalistic and self-centred: Frenchmen always try to find a solution for France. Most of the time, they give the impression to be fighting for France during a negotiation. This is because they are proud of their country, its history and what it nowadays represents (see previous part on culture).
- Non-verbal communication: the body language is used a lot through the gestures and the facial expressions while talking.
- Verbal communication: most people prefer speaking French, because they don’t feel comfortable with English or have a feeling of inferiority when speaking English with their counterpart. If there is a real language problem, it’s good to let the Frenchman speak French and the counterpart speak English or another language and have someone who understands the subject translate. In addition, it is very important to start the negotiation by trying to know the counterpart and not by getting to the business right away. It also is important to keep in touch afterwards through e-mails, phone calls etc. Furthermore, when a Frenchman says “yes”, you can usually trust it. But when he says “no”, it often means that the negotiation should go on, and not stop right at that time.
- Formality: it appears in different aspects of one’s behaviour. First, the French are formal in the way of talking: they don’t use the “tu”, the informal you, and they usually expect the same behaviour in return. Moreover, it is important to be correctly dressed while negotiating with Frenchmen. It is a sign of respect.
- Bargaining techniques: the French don’t bargain more than any other western country and they like to discuss the price just because they like to discuss every little detail while negotiating. Here we find the high uncertainty avoidance developed in the previous part.
- Attitude to female negotiators: they don’t make any difference between men and women. The person across the table is judged for what he/she represents and not whether it’s a man or a woman.
- Type of decision: the hierarchical organisation of French companies has a high influence on decision-making. If the Frenchman is high in the hierarchy, he will have a lot of independence to make decisions. However, a person lower in the hierarchy will have to ask his superior for agreement on the decision to take, and the superior will take the final decision. We see here the problem of power centralisation in the hands of a few executives, and the power distance.
- Personal relations: French people don’t like to talk a lot about private life, but they like when the other person shows interest in the French culture, and why not speak French! Business lunches are not as common as they used to be.
As we have seen, the French culture has a great influence on their negotiation characteristics, especially because of national pride. We’ll describe now in which way the French culture influences the ten negotiation factors of Salacuse.
- How culture influence 10 Negotiation Factors
According to a survey made by Salacuse in 1998 entitled “Ten ways that culture affects negotiating style: some survey results”, there are ten negotiation factors that can be influenced by one’s culture. We are here relating these factors to the French culture to see what its influence is.
- Negotiating goals: the contract seems to be more important than the relationship, even though keeping in touch is a good thing after the negotiation.
- Attitudes to the negotiating process: a win-win situation seems to be wanted by French negotiators.
- Personal styles: as we’ve seen on the previous part, the French are formal and considers it as a sign of respect.
- Styles of communication: indirect, because of the use of complex sentences while speaking. That’s why the French feel uncomfortable speaking English, because they can’t use as many language ellipses and images as they do in French. Moreover they use the non-verbal communication a lot.
- Time sensitivity: fairly low, because most of the French are always late.
- Emotionalism: neither high nor low, because the French don’t show their emotions too obviously but don’t keep everything to themselves either.
- Agreement form: the French prefer specific form of agreement because they like to go over details while negotiating, so they’d rather have a detailed contract with all the possibilities. The important part in the negotiation is the deal and not the relationship.
- Agreement building process: they prefer a top-down agreement, which means to start agreeing in general principles and then go over the details.
- Negotiating team organization: even though the French are fairly individualist and seek often a solution “a la française”, they still want a negotiating team based on consensus.
- Risk taking: in this survey, French are said to be fairly high risk takers, probably because of their creativity and also their feeling of intellectual superiority. But this is not the feeling we have. The French always like to discuss every little detail during the negotiation, which considerably reduces uncertainty and, of course, the intensity of the risk taken. So we could say that French are risk takers but in an environment they know fairly well.
These ten factors are really influenced by the French culture and should be taken into consideration while negotiating, as well as the typical French negotiator portrait.
III. AN APPROACH OF THE FRENCH NEGOTIATING STYLE THROUGHOUT THE HARVARD CONCEPT
In this particular section, we will try to compare the French Negotiating Style with the principles of the “negotiating on the merits” developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project. It is indeed of much interest to analyse whether or not the French Style described below fits with those four principles, namely:
- Separating the people from the problem
- Focus on interests, not positions
- Invent options for mutual gain
- Insist on using objective criteria
Such a comparison might thus help us to find out for each point if our French negotiation style faces difficulties regarding this well-known theory, as well as if French managers/leaders’ methods need to be challenged.
- Separating the people from the problem
It is definitely important to make a clear separation between people and issue during a negotiation, to prevent emotions from creating difficulties. We can here compare the French Negotiation Style with the four areas of concern in this process:
- Emotions: Even if they don’t show their emotions too obviously, French negotiators tend to project their feeling onto the negotiation partner. They often believe the negotiation is a war. Many observers claim that they seek to impress, convinced of their own intellectual and cultural superiority. Therefore it might happen that French people try to win this “battle” against the negotiator, not treating people and issues separately enough.
- Perceptions: French people tend not to be able to perceive things in their partner’s way. They are said to be quite self-centered so they believe their own point of view is the right one. It is quite hard for them to develop empathy.
- Personality: The problem is more or less the same than with the emotional factor. It seems to be quite hard for us to not to focus on the other’s personality. French nevertheless begin to understand that they have to focus on the topic at stake instead of the personality
- Communication: French people do not make any effort to speak their partner’s language. They are not very good at languages (only a few of them can speak something else than English) and prefer to speak French in international negotiations. But most of time they would listen actively their negotiation partner, which is definitely a good point.
As we can see French negotiators are maybe not the best ones to follow the 1st rule of the Harvard Concept, mainly because of their self-centeredness. They should sometimes listen to Keld Jensen and Iwar Unt that underline in their book that “If you want to do better at negotiating, you have to start with yourself.”
But one cannot but admit that they often manage to build a trust relationship during negotiations, since they honour agreements and promises, always keeping their word. They keep goals in mind at all time and justify their decisions.
- Concentrate on interests not positions
French managers usually concentrate on interests and not positions. As we pointed before, they are really eager to clarify interests at the very beginning of the process and also during the whole negotiation. In France, clear aims are indeed very often defined prior to every negotiation. French negotiators set goals and won’t stop the negotiation until these goals are reached. And after this, that is during the negotiation process, we are used to get others to speak their mind, both using verbal and non- verbal tools such as acknowledgment, eye-contact, nodding or clear and direct questions.
It is yet interesting to notice that French also pay much attention on principles, which can sometimes be a problem to concentrate on interests rather than positions. A very good example of this being the fact that French decided in 2005 that on principle they would not sign the Warsaw Democracy Summit’s final declaration, because it was not an accurate portrayal of the French definition of democracy. Although French interests would not have been damaged by signing, principle was paramount.
To sum up, we may say that in general, focusing on interests is part of our negotiation style. French managers like to work in a clearly defined frame and won’t stop it until a decision is taken. That’s why they define negotiation aims as much as possible when starting a negotiation and thus respect this second priority of the Harvard Concept. This is a great chance in negotiating with us: no matter how long it will take, a negotiation won’t stay “open” (an agreement will most of the time be reached).
- Invent options for mutual gain
The French are generally well prepared to negotiate and extremely creative, meaning full of plans and new ideas, which is a very positive quality for negotiators. They are more argumentative than many of their counterparts, inventing options and solutions which can satisfy both partners. Thus the French view debate as a simulating part of the negotiation, and consider that an effective negotiation should include logical proposals, logical arguments, and logical counterproposals. The French may seek proof that all points have been taken into consideration and so they may push points to an extreme. New ideas, even these not on the agenda, may be discussed.
The French tend to be more risk-averse than Americans for instance, so more time will be spent on assessing the pros and cons of each outcome. As a result, one may feel that the French are talking in circles and not getting straight to the point. Moreover, French negotiators are willing to listen to the ideas and interests of the partners during the negotiations, so as to be able to stand back from the partners’ answers and then adapt to these new proposals by assenting or going even further.
Nevertheless, the French are often considered more aggressive and confrontational than other European negotiators. In general, the French will take a slightly extreme position and stick to it until the last moment, before relenting at the end to demonstrate flexibility. As it is said before, French negotiators give a huge importance to their interest and the interests of their companies, so they could often lay the emphasis on pushing for that position until it is either accepted or is no longer viable, and the effort made to ensure that France does not leave the bargaining table without gaining something for its trouble.
As we can see, French managers and negotiators follow quite well the third principle of the Harvard Concept but the arrogance and pretensions they often show during the negotiations may ruin many possibilities of good relationships.
- Insist on using objective criteria
To reach a common “win-win” agreement, both sides have to adopt a positive attitude towards each other and stay as objective as possible, in particular in the solutions they propose.
Both sides have interests in the negotiation that is why negotiators often use standards that are commonly accepted to go further in the negotiation process. Thus,
they understand the same things and are sure of using at least at first no subjective criteria. Examples of these standards could be expert reports, market information, or for instance the BATNA. And actually French negotiators usually agree on the fact that the price is not a part of the negotiation but the result of it.
French negotiators usually stick to that strategy, using official data, and then dealing with less objective questions such as the role played by some managers, to eventually reach the final goal.
Important to notice is that patience is not considered as a virtue by the French, because “the French do think quickly, decide quickly, and act quickly” according to Hall&Hall, 1990. They can speak a lot, give many ideas and proposals, but if the partners don’t really conciliatory for instance, the French could become aggressive and pressing. In international negotiations, the French may be tempted to adopt bargaining tactics that seek to maximize their influence, often frustrating their interlocutors and sometimes resulting in unsuccessful negotiations even with friend. And actually one study found the French to be very aggressive, using threats, warnings and interruptions to achieve their goals, meaning that they may nevertheless include subjectivity in their negotiation process.
Thanks to this we can say that the French managers and negotiators tend to use objective criteria during the negotiation process but are often suggesting some more subjective rules, and even sometimes pressing to impose them.
The French negotiation style is not so far from the one of our European neighbours, even if we have some national particularities. French businessmen are often criticized concerning a few points but everyone admits they are fair and loyal, which is certainly the most important asset to build truly and friendly relationships in the long term. And we all know such relationships greatly facilitate successful negotiations. Of course French businessmen could improve in different fields of the negotiation process (being more open-minded …) but every country style has its pros and cons. French people like negotiating and are not that bad at it, an example of
this being the fact that during year 2005 France was the country hosting the most numerous Mergers & Acquisitions operations.
It also is very interesting to compare the way we negotiate with the famous Harvard Concept. It helps to show us how we can improve during the whole process, from the definition of aims to their achievement. Other models can besides be great assets to do so. Like K. Jensen pointed “you should view the negotiation from a multidimensional perspective, and not let yourself be fooled by simplistic and one- dimensional explanatory models, in which one’s behaviour is always right, and others always wrong.” But theory is not all. You can learn tips and tricks to negotiate throughout it but the best way to improve is certainly (as we saw during the seminar) to practice and stay open to any kind of advice your business partners can give you, whatever their nationality.
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