In a recent CBSSports.com article, Mike Freeman reported the meetings between NFL owners and players have changed to a polite environment where “jokes are exchanged… Handshakes are commonplace. So are smiles and chit chat;” much different from the previous “primordial days of disgust and hatred.”
This is a good sign and an indication the parties are taking a more problem-solving approach to resolving their dispute. Problem-solving is characterized by strategies and tactics focused on building trust, strengthening relationships and promoting an atmosphere where the parties can work together to find a mutually satisfactory solution.
Problem-solving is best used when you have or will have an important future relationship with your counterpart, when the negotiation is complex and involves multiple issues and when options are present for the parties to creatively add value to the deal. All three of these factors exist here.
For problem-solving to work, however, both parties must reciprocate. If one side implements a competitive approach, they can game the other side’s attempts to problem-solve. In collective-bargaining negotiations, this can generate anger and distrust and often leads to impasse.
Time will tell whether the parties here can avoid this pitfall and conclude a successful deal.