Before discussing the characteristics of the Argentinean negotiator, it is important to point out that this research project sought to identify the typical or most common traits in Argentinean managements’ negotiating style. It should be clear that not everyone in Argentina possesses the same attributes. Also, the author is aware of the valuable advice given by Breslin (1989): Stereotyping is often done unconsciously, and it becomes an ingrained, unnoticed practice. Breslin also accurately stated that if groups of different cultures learn more about one another, assumptions — particularly negative ones — will have less of an influence on their final decisions.
Moreover, according to Graham and Cateora (1999), it should be clearly understood that individual personalities and backgrounds heavily influence behavior at the negotiation table — and it is the manager’s responsibility to consider these factors. Also, different people have different objectives, interests and forms of communication, according to Fisher et al (1991). Therefore, different things may be persuasive to them, and they may have different ways of making decisions. For the purpose of this research paper, the definition of culture comes from Salacuse (1998), who said culture is the socially transmitted behavior patterns, norms, beliefs and values of a given community.
To have a better understanding of Argentinean executives, it is important to understand Argentineans in general. Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Argentina, with approximately 90 percent of the population practicing this religion. Judaism accounts for 2 percent, and other religions account for 8 percent. Freedom of religion is guaranteed. Eighty-five percent of the population is white and the literacy rate is 95 percent. The official language is Spanish.
Though Argentina is a country with people of varied ancestry, it is probably the most European country of South and Central America. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Argentina attracted many immigrants from Europe. Around 1920, one-third of the country’s population was foreign-born, predominantly Italians and Spaniards. There were also Russians, Polish, French, Turks, Lebanese and Syrians. In 1998 the population was 36,125,000, with approximately 85 percent of European descent. Two executives interviewed at separate times for the research project agreed on the same point: “Argentineans are a bit of everything; Spanish, Turkish, Syrian, Italian, German, French, etc.” This diversity leads to a mix of behavioral styles at the negotiation table. (Some executives joked that “Argentineans bargain as Arabs, shout as Italians, exaggerate as Spanish, and demand as Germans.”)
Team organization: One leader or group consensus?
According to Salacuse (1998), in any international negotiation it is vital to know the way groups are organized and the way organizations function. He said that one extreme is a negotiation team with a supreme leader who has complete authority to decide; the other extreme is cultures that stress team and decision making by consensus. The majority of the Argentinean individuals interviewed admitted preferring to have complete authority. However, depending on what the circumstance dictates, either method might be used.
Most of the executives interviewed preferred to go alone to the negotiation table, and then return to their companies and personally explain the outcome of the negotiation to their co-workers. More than 70 percent of the executives considered it better to meet their counterpart alone, regardless of how many individuals are with the counterpart. In contrast, the usual tendency in international negotiation is to go in a group because they value discussing each person’s opinion after the negotiation. It is appropriate to remember that Argentina is a country with limited experience in the arena of international markets. Consequently, small and medium-sized companies demonstrate a degree of inexperience in cross-culture transactions.
Other findings: One issue supporting the decision to negotiate alone arises from the need to avoid disclosing ideas to the other party.
In addition, the interviews reveal that Argentineans generally do not prepare themselves for the negotiations in advance. This may be due to the fact that Argentineans regard themselves as possessing a high degree of self-confidence, creativity and ability to improvise when facing uncertain situations. Very few executives demonstrated an interest in teams working towards the goals and means of the negotiation. The Argentinean executives do not have a high regard for the benefits of negotiating with a team.
The idea of including young executives in the negotiations is popular in theory. However, it is difficult to achieve due to several issues. Fears about interference with the negotiation, leaks of information, high personnel turnover in medium-level management, and the difficulty in teaching the young people the company’s way of negotiation are the main issues put forward by the interviewees. For example, one of the executives confessed to learning negotiating skills by observing his boss during negotiations. He recalls what his boss told him once, “Look at what we do and the way we do it because I cannot teach you. You will learn by observing me.” In addition, human resources are usually scarce in many small- and medium-sized companies.
Personal style: Informal vs. Formal?
In Argentina there is a tendency to start a negotiation in a formal manner. This includes addressing the counterpart by his academic title or surname — so that proper respect can be demonstrated. (Argentineans consider it being respectful to use the other negotiator’s academic title.) Furthermore, studies by Volkema and Chang (1998), on Latin America showed that initial encounters are likely to begin with formal communications, including the use of academic titles and formal credentials, as well as the exchanging of calling cards. It has also been stated that only a very high-level executive could begin a negotiation in an informal way, without previous acknowledgement of his counterpart.
Nevertheless, all of the interviewees demonstrated the intention to build confidence between the two sides by using a degree of informality that helps develop a more comfortable level of communication. It is a common practice to begin the meeting with comments about football, politics or the economy without expressing a particular opinion. These comments are used to ascertain the opinion and points of view of the counterpart. (One entrepreneur argued that “Argentineans talk about politics and sports and that this waste of time can be fruitfully used for the negotiation.” He also added, “In general, their time management is not so good.”) Jokes and funny stories are also a good way to set an informal tone and help generate an environment of mutual confidence.
In Argentina there is a common belief that to build a strong foundation for a successful negotiation relationship, one must go from formal approach to negotiating to an informal one and not the other way around. This is why, despite showing a preference towards conducting the negotiation in an informal environment, most of the interviewees reiterated the importance of starting the business relationship on a formal and respectful basis.
Negotiators need to project a professional image. This means wearing an elegant suit, necktie, pair of shoes, etc. In many cases, very informal clothes may be interpreted as a lack of interest in the negotiation. For Argentinean negotiators, first impressions are important and demonstrations of appropriate respect are crucial.
There is a distinct difference between the residents of Capital Federal (Buenos Aires), who are known as “Porteños” (“people of the port”), and the representatives of the rest of the country. This is due to the fact that the “Porteños” often develop confidence with the other part more quickly. For instance, they use the less formal word “vos” instead of the more formal “tu” (both words mean “you”) to give a sense of informality. People from outside Buenos Aires often accuse “Porteños” of believing they are superior to the rest of the country.
Argentineans’ punctuality and written memoranda is somewhat more informal than in the U.S., though it does seem to be more formal than other South American countries. For an Argentinean businessman to arrive five to 10 minutes late for a meeting does not create a bad impression. However, most German executives do not tolerate this behaviour (Slate Emily, 1994).
The majority of the interviewees agreed that Americans go straight to the heart of the negotiation’s issues and express themselves clearly. However, they face difficulties and demonstrate a certain degree of discomfort when having to bargain for prices with Arabic businessmen. According to Salacuse (1998), Americans are quick to make a deal, while Germans are slow to negotiate and make decisions, but Germans are always punctual. Argentinean executives are moderate in terms of time to make a deal (not quick but not too slow), but less concerned about punctuality than Germans.
Argentinean executives believe a serious tone is important to prevent wasting valuable time and to get to the central issues of the negotiation. One executive asserted “Setting a serious tone is important in order to not waste time, though we must go on with the friendship and politeness between the parties.” This comment clearly shows that seriousness does not preclude friendship and politeness. In this regard, Argentinean interviewees accused their Bolivian and Paraguayan counterparts of being too bureaucratic. However, Argentineans have more positive working relationships with Mexican businessmen.
In conclusion, some of the key features favoured by many Argentinean executives are informality in the negotiation relationship, friendship, the possibility to develop more than just a business relationship, and the ability to share goals and ideas. One must be able to start a negotiation in a formal manner and quickly make an effortless transition to achieve an informal environment. In general, the negotiation will hopefully develop into a comfortable working atmosphere. That makes sense because Latin American negotiators may be more willing to share information with someone who is perceived to be a friend rather than a stranger (Volkema and Chang, 1998).
It is important to stress the strong influence of the North American literature on the Argentinean business community mainly through popular business books that have been translated into Spanish. Examples of such books are “Getting To Yes”, by Fisher, Ury and Patton, and “The Art And Science Of Negotiation” by H. Raffia, among others.
In general, executives believe stereotypes that they have heard from colleagues or that they have learned from experience. One famous stereotype is “John Wayne,” which represents the cowboy-like American negotiating style of “shoot first; ask questions later.” The “samurai,” who is a fierce warrior, represents the Japanese negotiator. It should be noted that in Argentina there exists a weak tendency to study cultural stereotypes due to the lack of Spanish bibliography. However, all the interviewers expressed a great enthusiasm for reading this kind of information. They also affirmed having interest in the history and customs of the counterpart’s homeland.
However, approximately half of the executives confessed that they do little research on the counterpart’s customs and culture. Moreover, any research about stereotypes is generally done during the negotiation period. According to one of the executives, one of the reasons for the lack of research is that there are not many opportunities for long-term projects in Argentina.
Executives believe that Americans are the most precise and clearest negotiators. Americans, as well as Germans, are clearly identified as being very professional, but the latter are criticised for being less flexible and less open to the changes required by the Argentinean market. In regards to their fellow South Americans, they said they experience a lower level of stress in negotiations due to the similarity in language, religion and history (the colonisation and independence of these nations produced similar historical frameworks). The point here is that culture, history, language, values, decision-making processes and institutions often have enormous impact in the negotiations. However, the negotiations are conducted by people and not between national stereotypes. Graham and Cateora (1999) say companies and countries do not negotiate, people do.
Argentineans feel proud of their country and they generally have a strong sense of national pride at home and abroad. Occasionally, when one demonstrates knowledge about Argentinean culture and history, and not only about football, agriculture and meat, one is better able to gain an executive’s trust. This is one of the reasons why Spain maintains strong lobbies in several sections of the Argentinean economy. Spaniards understand the Argentineans quite well. This is one of the reasons why Spain is called Argentina’s Motherland.
For most executives, English is the language of business. More than 70 percent of the executives interviewed understand the English language, but only 30 percent feel confident speaking English when negotiating.
The remaining executives prefer to use translators, and the reasons they gave were:
- To have more time to think in the negotiation.
- To not spend time thinking in the language, but to use that time to get to know the counterpart better.
- To properly express their thoughts and opinions.
Some problems arise when considering the participation of interpreters. It is necessary to talk with the interpreters before negotiations begin, especially when the translator is a native to another Spanish speaking country. Mexicans, for example, use expressions that are difficult for Argentineans to understand and visa versa. This difficult situation frequently hinders good communication.
Another problem is that when the translator is a member of the company’s staff, s/he can misunderstand his/her role in the negotiation. Because the translator knows the business and the language in which the negotiation is being performed, it may give him/her a feeling of self-confidence that causes the translator to go beyond what the group leader intended. The translator may inject personal ideas into the negotiation. This is another difficulty that may arise in a team negotiation.
Stages for negotiation of international businesses
Graham and Herberger Jr. (1983) suggest four stages for international negotiation: First, non-task communication that provides information to the two parties without discussing the negotiation issues. Second, an exchange of task-related information. Third, persuasion. Finally, concessions and agreement.
For the Argentineans, persuasion is the most important stage. More than 70 percent of those interviewed talked about spending most of the time persuading the other side. They see it as the art of seduction. One of the businessmen interviewed emphasized that “to be efficient in the persuasion, one must be well prepared/trained, know precisely what is wanted and have personal conviction.” According to the chairman of an important trade company, during this third stage “We will use the ace we have up our sleeve.” It is clear now that this stage will begin when the parties trust each other.
Identification of the counterpart’s interests becomes one of the most important points that must be observed. Therefore, one should be alert. One of the managers, who has dealt with negotiations in the last five years for sums of up to
$800 million dollars, said; “I try to identify what the counterpart wants in order to persuade him/her in a better way, and many times I have to help him to understand what he is really seeking.”
However, the second stage, which is the exchange of task-related information, requires more attention at the start of the negotiation. This stage will be regarded as the most important from this point forward. When companies meet for the first time, they must pay special attention to this stage and the presenting the company and the terms as well as conditions of the possible business. One executive said, “They go around before a clear depiction of the business is made.” Moreover, they agreed that this comes from a lack of preparation.
How should the cards be displayed?
More than 85 percent of those interviewed admitted that it is not advantageous to show all their cards at the beginning of the negotiation. This will be happen through a process, which establishes that as long as the counterpart shows his/her cards, they will show their cards. An example of an Argentinean negotiator’s inexperience occurred on a trip to an Arab country on which he commented, “I showed all the terms and conditions and I was very sincere from the beginning.” As a result of this error in the strategy, he confronted the strong bargaining tactics of the Arabs, who wanted to obtain something more. This led to a breakdown of the business negotiation. He was not able to show a better condition than the one he had shown at the beginning. This businessman concluded: “Now I show only what is absolutely necessary during any part of the negotiation.” Many Argentinean businessmen have made the mistake of showing everything too soon and of trying to reach a quick agreement. The root of the problem is their insufficient experience in international negotiations because the Argentinean economy has only recently opened to international markets.
All those interviewed agreed on the fact that it is of vital importance to have an ace up your sleeve, and secondly, it should only be used when absolutely necessary. They said that is very difficult for them to have an ace when conducting negotiations in the global market. A businessman affirmed: “This is difficult because we are not as competitive in these new global markets as we would like to be.”
Information is an essential component of the negotiation. Argentina has experienced many changes and has had to quickly adapt to new circumstances with limited financial resources. Thus, an excellent negotiator is seen as a person able to produce new ideas and options, and even to create an ace during the negotiation. According to one entrepreneur, “Negotiation is not a straight line. It has to be imaginative and innovative, defining the conversation so as to make the other party see the whole situation. You should make the topic interesting in order to seduce the other party.” All of that has contributed to fostering a very innovative and creative Argentinean negotiation style.
Afraid of severing the relationship or betraying the counterpart’s trust, the businessman will not only hide the ace until the end of the negotiation, but he will proceed with the negotiation even after denying having authority for performing such a transaction. He may continue to negotiate even after alleging that it is a new situation and that he needs to consult with his/her executive officer on the change in circumstance.
A characteristic of Latin Americans, including Argentineans, is to speak using long statements that say nothing, trying to fill up spaces of silence. Most businessmen interviewed described the typical Argentinean as a very talkative person and, for that reason, somewhat impractical.
Negotiation goal: Contract or Relationship?
According to Graham and Herberger (1983), a signed contract does not have the same meaning in Tokyo, Rio or Riyadh as it does in New York. Different cultures view the very purpose of a business negotiation differently (Salacuse, 1998). Volkema and Chang (1998) established that many Latin Americans believe that it is an individual’s word more than his or her signature that binds an agreement. In Argentina a verbal agreement is more important than a signed contract, which is exclusively performed in cases of problems. However, the acceptance and intention to sign contracts is greater in international than in domestic negotiations. Compromise and words said during the negotiation are of greater value. Generally, flexibility characterizes the Argentinean businessmen.
Most of the managers agreed that they do not have any problem signing a contract, but that this is not their favorite task. They prefer to trust and have an excellent understanding of the situation, so as to never have to deal with a written contract. Contracts exist and they establish limitations and rights, though in general Argentineans consider it more important to know the quality of the company and its personnel. In many cases, businessmen stated that it is very important to be aware of the counterpart’s background and the ethics of the company. In this way, Argentinean executives are unlike their American counterparts. According to Salacuse (1998), the goal of a negotiation for Americans is to arrive at a signed contract between parties. What is more, most of the interviewees believed in not writing very detailed contracts, stating that contracts only need to include the main ideas of the negotiation agreement. There is a pronounced difference between Buenos Aires and the rest of the country, since the latter groups are more likely to negotiate orally, whereas in Buenos Aires the concept of written contracts is becoming more common.
The research data showed that the executives possessed a clear inclination toward personal relationships, which play a central role in the negotiation process. An important statement, according to Ertel (1999), is that it is common for negotiators to confuse the deal and the relationship. This is an especially frequent problem for Argentinean negotiators. Both parties must trust each other in order to build a positive working relationship. However, sometimes in Argentina the concept of trust can be misunderstood because the showing of affections and displays of camaraderie during the negotiation. Several executives point out that they sometimes misunderstand the counterpart due to the difficulty of recognizing the differences between friend, colleague and business relation. It may be difficult to establish the line between personal relationship and business relationship, and being able to recognise that the deal does not always mean friendship between the two parties.
Considering other alternatives
Fisher, Ury, and Patton (1991) say that the reason for negotiating is to produce a better result than the one that may be obtained without a negotiation. So, before the negotiation, it is imperative to determine the point at which the negotiator will walk away from accepting any agreement with the other side.
Half the businessmen interviewed confirmed not pursuing alternatives to the main goal of the negotiation. There is often no predetermined decision to find other alternatives if the main goal isn’t achieved. Argentinean businessmen are considered skilled at improvising, which results in little effort being spent on considering possible alternatives prior to the negotiation. Argentinean businessmen admitted to entering into numerous negotiations with little or no prior preparation, yet remaining optimistic about a successful agreement. (Argentineans are characterized as working progressively and persistently, instead of having a planned course of action.) However, according to Fisher et al (1991), having at least a tentative Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement –BATNA– (Fisher et al, 1991) is absolutely essential to conduct the negotiations wisely. Negotiators should always think through their alternatives before they even start to negotiate (Ertel, 1999).
Argentinean businessmen work in a domestic market whose population does not exceed 40 million inhabitants. It’s important to point out that is a relatively small market and that means businesses often have few alternatives. There is a lot of acceptance of the status quo because the domestic market’s size restricts the number of potential alternatives.
There is little enthusiasm to plan for long-term outcomes. The common focus is to react to and to work on short-term objectives. Various businessmen affirmed “it is very difficult to think of long-term results, due to the abrupt changes in Argentina’s economy and its short time under democracy.” This leads to an acceptance of instability almost as a norm, which makes future planning almost impossible. That is why intuition and quick reaction are more commonly used than long-term planning.
One executive claimed that he explored his alternatives, seeking two points: First, to be able to pressure the counterpart in a way that brings closure to the agreement, and second, to demonstrate his understanding and awareness of the business. He acknowledged “it is good to pretend to have an alternative B in the negotiation, despite the fact that B does not exist.” Furthermore, the negotiation process is occasionally perceived as a measurement of strength between parties.
Argentineans do not typically cope well with period of silences. More than 90 percent of the executives agreed that silences are uncomfortable. Argentineans feel that these moments should be quickly filled with conversation. One of the executives affirmed, “Silences have to be used to make points, persuade, or express concepts.” Moreover, almost 80 percent considered that one should speak when the other party is quiet and use it as opportunity to provide more information.
According to Volkema and Chang (1998), many Latin Americans place a high value on verbal skills in negotiations, particularly the ability to respond quickly to another’s claims or challenges. Argentinean negotiators usually give a spontaneous, quick answer and this is sometimes expressed in advance. There are people who believe that a quick response is better than a thoughtful one.
There are other cultures that believe in answering more carefully. One executive commented, “We experience the mistake to answer in advance, and we should carefully consider our answers.” Due to what has been expressed and analyzed, it has been observed that Argentineans negotiate with strong emotions and find it difficult to maintain calmness.
Taking “NO” as an answer
History shows that the Argentineans are people who had to fight to achieve their independence during the period of 1810-1820. They struggled and fought to receive dignified wages during the 1940s under President Perón’s leadership and are currently struggling to maintain their economy and young democracy. All this reflects a tenacious people and reveals an optimistic spirit that other nations would not consider possible, given the present economic circumstances in Argentina.
All of those interviewed agreed on the principle of accepting “no” only as a temporary answer. A common characteristic displayed by Argentinean negotiators is a high level of persistence. They are extremely optimistic and persistent. Some businessmen defined themselves as positive and unwilling give up after hearing “no” for the first time. An important point to highlight is the lack of alternatives with other companies. As previously mentioned, there is not a large market and this leads to a relentless persistence.
Since it is difficult to find many other companies with which to do business, one will try to maintain negotiations with the first contact. One businessman affirmed, “As this is a tiny market, and there are few alternatives to establish new businesses, we will keep working with the few options available to us.” This is why when there is a possible new business opportunity; persistence becomes the most valued attribute of the Argentinean executive. On the contrary, in other countries, such as Germany, if an agreement is not reached, businesses have many alternatives with other companies.
Many of the Argentineans interviewed admitted that preparation is their weak point, and that they are working towards being more organized and towards preparing more specific plans prior to the negotiation.
In Argentina, a “no” answer may be seen as an intention to go back to the previous discussion. This “no” does not necessarily mean that the counterpart dismisses the possibility of making a future deal. It has been observed that both parties pursue their own interests and keep a balance between what both sides want. When one side is sensing a lack of balance in the negotiation, he/she may give a “no” as an answer to create a chance to reconsider the last point discussed.
Way to check information: Directly or Indirectly?
Ample research evidence indicates that effective information exchange promotes the development of good integrative solutions (Pruitt, 1981; Thompson, 1991; Lewicki et al, 1994). Some groups, such as Germans and Americans, place emphasis on direct methods of communication. Others, such as the French and Japanese, rely on indirect and complex methods (Salacuse, 1998). Eighty percent of the Argentinean executives interviewed affirmed that asking in an indirect manner is the best way to obtain information and to maintain a good relationship with the counterpart. In certain situations, to act directly could be taken as disrespectful.
There are situations where Argentinean executives exaggerate the truth. These instances must not be misunderstood, questioned or taken very seriously by the counterpart. It can be common to hear exaggerated comments, but they should not be misinterpreted by the other side.
There is a long and strong commercial relationship with Spanish businessmen. Because of this history, they exercise a great deal of influence over the Argentineans. Just like with Spanish negotiators, a better way to approach an Argentinean negotiator is with an indirect question.
Emotionalism: High or Low?
According to Salacuse (1998), Latin Americans show their emotions at the negotiation table, while Japanese and many other Asians hide their feelings. He makes the important point that individual personality plays a role here. Casse (1982) stated that Latin Americans are emotionally sensitive and easily show their feelings. The Argentinean executives are not as rational as Americans because they behave in an emotional manner. Passionate and emotional arguments in the negotiation should not be taken as unusual situations.
On many occasions, the executives said that they showed emotions as a way to express their friendly relationship. Most of the businessmen reported being expressive and sometimes emotional with their counterparts. In this sense, they are not comfortable with a rigid and structured process. They said they observe their colleagues’ reactions and determine their next move based on these observations. The way in which Argentineans persuade people is polite and respectful, taking special care not to offend or make their counterpart feel uncomfortable. In addition, they also pointed that their Brazilian colleagues are too tough and they start the persuasion stage aggressively.
How to react to the counterpart’s behavior
More than 75 percent of the interviewees affirmed that if the counterparts were aggressive, they would act defensively and only pursue their own interests. One of the businessmen asserted, “If I am attacked, I attack.” In these cases, a loss of temper may be a characteristic of inexperienced negotiators.
When an individual trying to conduct business with an Argentinean uses an aggressive approach, this will lead to a frustrating negotiation. In such cases, the Argentinean is usually not comfortable with the aggressive style and would probably abandon the negotiation table. Also, it will be difficult for the foreign party to reach a deal if he/she is only considering his/her own interests and appears to have no intention of pursuing a mutually successful relationship.
In Argentina the “personal relationships” tend to be long-term relationships. However, due to actual matters of planning and knowledge of political-economic events, “business relationships” tend to have short-term objectives.
- Personal relation Whether the business is closed or not, the Argentinean businessman will try to maintain the level of friendship and trust. They will always express and preserve respect for the other person.
- Business relation Due to the difficult task of long-term planning, it is more common to deal with short-term business objectives. Nevertheless, there exists a desire by all the executives to conduct long-term business.
According to Volkema and Chang (1998), Latin Americans prefer to do business with someone they enjoy and trust, not simply because the other party has the best product or service. The interviews revealed a clear desire for friendship and trust. This affiliation can sometimes be more important that the power of persuasion. As a clear example of the importance that Argentinean businessmen place on personal relationships, many negotiators invite their counterparts to their homes and even introduce them to their families. In this situation some businessmen admitted to having more trust in the individual counterpart than in the institutions. In some businesses, statements such as “he will not terminate the agreement, he is my friend” are commonly heard. This occurs especially in the Latin American environment. On the contrary, in countries such as England, United States, France, and Germany, trust is mostly placed in the institutions.
From the ’60s to the early ’80s, the Argentinean government was largely controlled by the military. Due to its somewhat unstable democratic system and the frequent changes in the policies implemented by the de facto governments, a lack of trust in justice took root and corruption grew.
Therefore, some businessmen affirmed that they preferred to reach a private agreement between the parties. Occasionally, it is more beneficial to reach a private agreement than to win a trial in court because of the costs and time it takes to work within the Argentinean judicial system. There exists a lack of confidence in the legal system, which can at times be inefficient and slow.
Regarding a separate matter, it is important to mention that many Argentineans of Italian origins are more extroverted, expressive with body language and tend to raise their voice to defend or express certain ideas. These attributes are not necessarily wrong, but according to those interviewed, caution is advised because if the situation changes and the offence is perceived to be of a personal nature, it will certainly cause damage to the relationship between the parties.
Negotiation attitudes: “win/win or win/lose”
The win/win negotiators see deal making as a collaborative and problem-solving process. On the other hand, win/lose negotiators see it as confrontational (Salacuse, 1998). Nearly 80 percent of the executives affirmed that if the counterpart acts in an aggressive way, they would take that same attitude. The Argentineans will probably act indirectly, trying to avoid confrontation, but they will try to continue showing their respect.
Walton and McKersie (1965) claim that the fundamental structure of a win/win negotiation situation is that it is possible for both sides to achieve their objectives. Executives identified the best business as one in which all parties are satisfied with the result of the negotiation. Emphasizing that, though it does not always occur, Argentinean negotiators take a win/win attitude. They stressed that difficulties arise from the abuse of power by many companies and from the concentration of decision-makers in certain sectors of the economy.
There exists a feeling that when dealing with international companies, the attitude is win/lose. An excellent observation from Jeswald Salacuse (1991) is that developing country officials often view their negotiations with large multinational corporations as win/lose competitions.
It used to be thought that just one party wins. For example, in the United States, there is a popular image of a used car salesman who forces the sale. That example and others like it show how parties tried to take advantage of their counterparts. However, today there exists an awareness orientated towards flexibility and cooperation between the parties.
Lax and Sebenius (1986) argued that interests include anything that the negotiator cares about and any concerns that are raised by the issues discussed. Also, they emphasized that clarifying interests could sometimes be difficult. In the interviews, businessmen asserted, “Each party should pursue its own interests, or at least know how to identify them clearly.” Moreover, one of them stated, “The identification of interests is not always an easy task.”
They agreed on the importance of having a working knowledge and comprehension of the counterpart’s interests. (Almost 60 percent of the executives agreed with this statement.) Sometimes they considered it necessary to give some concessions to maintain the other party’s interest in the negotiation. It is well known that only pursuing one’s own interests may lead to an unsuccessful negotiation and an unfulfilled project. Executives affirmed that it is difficult but necessary to also pursue what the counterpart needs in order to satisfy both interests. What’s more, most executives agreed with Robert Axelrod’s (1984:3) expression, “We all know that people are not angels, and that they tend to look after themselves and their own first.” This is due to the fact that it is thought that each side should pursue the most successful outcome in the negotiation.
Showing the other party that it is achieving its objectives is of great importance in maintaining good relations and a state of harmony between the negotiators. One businessman said, “I pursue my own interests, but I also try to show the counterpart what he is achieving.” Trying to show what the other is winning contributes to building a good relationship with the counterpart. Furthermore, having a good relationship with the counterpart is considered very significant for Argentinean companies.
Finally, it should be noted that businessmen expressed the need to not disregard the counterpart’s interest, because if that occurs, the negotiation fails. A senior executive asserted, “We should place ourselves in the other’s shoes; we should be concerned that the other party finds satisfaction in doing business with us.”
Argentineans involve many aspects in the negotiation; they build not only a business relationship, but also a friendship. Argentina’s executives said that they have started to realize the value of meeting the other side’s needs, in hopes of achieving of a win-win goal and building a long-term relationship.
Form of agreement: General or Specific?
The more common approach used by Argentineans executives is firstly, to discuss all the points and, secondly, then grant concessions, since they believe that knowing all about the agreement will enable them to grant some concessions to the other side. More than 70 percent agreed on reaching an agreement in this way.
Here are the reasons they want to discuss all of the points in advance:
- There exists certain mistrust about the final agreement.
- It is better to observe everything and then follow-up with a discussion.
- The discussion of every point is not conducted in a schematic manner.
- The two sides discuss all of the points, agree on the big picture and then focus on the details.
Argentineans are not schematic, nor organised as the Germans. According to Slate Emily (1994), Germans concentrate on one task and exclude all others until the task at hand is finished. However, she argues that French businesspeople enjoy the stimulation of being involved with several projects at once, and this is a shared characteristic with Argentineans.
In the past fifteen years, it was very difficult to attend a meeting where all the objectives and issues were well defined. It was unusual to present executives with clear ideas by using videos or audio-visual presentations. However, today this is changing and this change is of great significance and importance to the negotiation environment.
Discussion of the majority of the points and then making concessions is the most common practice for Argentinean negotiators. The executives interviewed described the Americans as “very schematic” and said that they tend to rule the direction of the negotiation. Moreover, some executives asserted that in certain circumstances they prefer to come to an agreement focusing on each and every point, but these executives are in the minority. Their strategy depends on the necessity to solve particular issues first, so as to then define the broader issues in the negotiation.
Flexibility in the negotiation
An Argentinean works towards short-term results because society is continuously confronted with immediate problems. This generates a flexible attitude on behalf of Argentinean businessmen. Moreover, the change in political climate and the current economic and financial difficulties create obstacles to pursuing long-term objectives in the business environment. Morrison et al (1997) stated that in years past Argentines said that their country was “blessed by resources but cursed by politics.” They emphasized that the land’s abundant natural resources should have made it one of the world’s wealthiest nations, but poor leadership kept Argentina in turmoil for decades.
Many years under a closed economy contributed to the fact that small- and medium-sized companies did not consider foreign trade as a viable option. The complexities involved in foreign trade were considered far too challenging for these companies. This is one of the reasons for the scarcity of Argentinean products in certain international markets. An executive affirmed, “Argentina is learning to do business and to have an exporting mentality. We also have a young democracy and we are just now opening ourselves to the world.”
According to Pruitt and Rubin (1986), Fisher et al (1991), and Lewicki et al (1994), in the negotiation process both (all) sides must be firm but flexible. In the interviews, more than 85 percent of businessmen asserted that with more power, one could be less flexible. Managers stated that “if you have more power, there is no need for flexibility.” However, more than 92 percent affirmed that inflexibility might not be advisable. It is important to be flexible when negotiating with an Argentinean manager.
One of those interviewed expressed an interesting opinion that “in practice, flexibility occurs because of power, but it should take place because of interests.” Only 30 percent of the executives said that flexibility should take place because of interests and not power.
- The most important qualities identified by Argentinean executives for being an effective negotiator are as follows: First, to have an analytical mind and the ability to solve problems. Second, good self-control, especially when it comes to emotion. Third, the ability to express ideas verbally. Fourth, the ability to prepare and plan. Fifth, the ability to gain the respect and confidence of people one is dealing with.
In order to meet influential people, relations and favors are commonly used. It is advantageous to attend the table of negotiation by recommendation. This will help with the conversation and the process of the negotiation.
It is important to be aware of the danger of stereotypes. Accordingly, Breslin (1989) recommends that individuals be aware of the fact that they may be guilty of stereotyping or victimized by it. However, because styles of business negotiations vary substantially around the world, it is important to take cultural differences into account when meeting clients, customers, and business partners across the international negotiation table (Graham and Cateora, 1999). In addition to cultural factors, negotiators’ personalities and backgrounds also influence their behaviour. In any negotiation, it is important to be sensitive to the ideals of the other culture as well as the perceptions, fears, types of behaviour and circumstance of those with whom the negotiator is dealing.
Generally, research has found that Argentineans are more informal negotiators and are able to keep the lines of communication open, are uneasy with extended silences, and show a great deal of emotion during the negotiation. They try to build long-lasting personal relationships, but are only concerned with short-term business objectives. Finally, most Argentineans prefer to go alone to the negotiations and to use persuasive tactics without accepting the first “no” reply.
Sentiments, emotions and feelings should be carefully measured at the time of negotiating with an Argentinean. Furthermore, according to Ertel (1999), negotiators in general face a problem when a relationship cannot be restored through concessions, though a setback in the negotiation should not be considered a test of the relationship.
Finally, after this extensive research, the author concludes that knowing different traditions in which people communicate and negotiate are important. However, it is also important to recognize that in the field of international negotiation people from all over the world are in some ways similar and in every negotiation each individual wants to feel that at least s/he will win. According to Fisher et al (1991), people everywhere are similar to one another; they want to be loved, care about the respect of others and do not like to feel taken advantage of.
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