Negotiating across cultures

Published on October 27, 2011 Reviewed on October 28, 2018   49 min

A selection of talks on Management, Leadership & Organisation

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Greetings. I'm Jeswald Salacuse, a professor of law and negotiation at Tufts University's, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. I'm also a member of the faculty and the executive committee of the program on negotiation at Harvard Law School. I've written several books on negotiation including 'Making Global Deals', 'The Global Negotiator', 'Leading Leaders and Seven Secrets for Negotiating with Government'. My specialty is international negotiation. As an executive, consultant and teacher, I participated in and observed negotiations in over 40 countries during the last 35 years and have actually lived for extended periods of time for 15 of those years in various countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Today, as part of this course of lectures on negotiating and bargaining, I want to talk to you about negotiating across cultures, about cross cultural interactions. It's a subject of growing importance to all of our companies and organizations as they increasingly seek to negotiate deals throughout the world and bring together people from diverse cultures and countries in order to achieve organizational goals. Let's start by engaging in a little thought exercise.
Let's say that you are an executive with a company called Houston Glue Company located in Houston, Texas in the United States. Houston Glue manufacturers something called "Really Super Glue", the kind of stuff that may stick your fingers together permanently if you're not careful when you use it. An essential ingredient of "Really Super Glue" is cyanoacrylate. Let's say that last year, you successfully negotiated a long-term supply contract for cyanoacrylate with Dallas Adhesive, an organization located about 200 miles away in Dallas, Texas for a dollar a pound. Market demand for "Really Super Glue" has expanded during the last year, so Houston Glue looks around for an additional supplier of cyanoacrylate. It identifies Budapest Adhesive Company in Hungary as manufacturer that is willing to sell Houston Glue cyanoacrylate for 210 Hungarian forints a pound. Your boss calls you and says that you did such a great job of negotiating the Dallas contract, that you should get on a plane and fly to Hungary by the end of the week, to nail down a long-term deal with Budapest Adhesive. You initially think the task should be simple, two similar deals, right? Same stuff for roughly the same price. Having done the deal in Dallas, you can fly to Budapest with full confidence that you can pull off the same deal in Hungary. But as you think about the process of negotiating the Budapest contract, you begin to see that it is likely to be very different from what you experienced in Dallas. The Dallas deal was purely domestic, but the Budapest transaction will be international. An international deal confronts you, the negotiator with special challenges, special barriers that he or she would not face in a purely domestic transaction. What are these barriers?