Abstract

It is no surprise that the successful manager resolves conflict effectively and negotiates artfully and skillfully. This is particularly true in as independent, multi-professional and multi-institutional an industry as healthcare, and especially pertinent at times of rapid change, competition, uncertainty and unprecedented professional insecurity.

For these reasons, Harvard School of Public Health's seminar "Negotiation and Conflict Resolution for Health Care: New Skills and Changing Models" makes a major impact. Fast-paced, experiential and relying heavily on participants' feedback, Leonard J. Marcus, Ph.D., reinforces our attributes and challenges our performance. Professor Marcus, founding director of the Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Harvard School of Public Health, is also author of Renegotiating Health Care - Resolving Conflict to Build Collaboration, upon which the seminar is based and a copy of which each participant receives.

When you step back and look at the process of negotiating, it is dynamic and intricate - a theatre of personalities, histories, skills, attitudes, stakes, mind-sets, purposes, politics, time pressures, consequences and resolution. Presented in a seasoned and personal way, Marcus offers a variety of constructive ideas for your own "theatre" and that of your organization. He presents effective tools for understanding conflict, negotiating differences and creating a workable balance among those who deliver, administer and oversee healthcare.

Negotiation and conflict resolution are essentially about people: what they say and do, and how they feel and react, and the complex, and sometimes fluky, interactions that occur in the course of elaborate and highly consequential decision-making. The novelty of this seminar is that, while it instructs and illustrates, it also reminds us of the inherently human aspects of negotiation. It focuses on a resourceful and valuable jujitsu for those collaborating in the vital everyday work of healthcare.

The philosophy of the seminar encourages gain/gain resolutions, creating a positive fit and approaching negotiation as an exchange of tangibles (resources) and intangibles (recognition) - in other words, it has to be a two-way street. The one-day seminar (compared to the extended five-day course) is divided into four sections - conflict analysis, negotiation and framing, negotiation analysis, and mediation and conflict resolution. Negotiation and framing, for example, is one of the most powerful sections, particularly when Marcus elaborates on the notion of reframing to spur negotiation.

What he means by this is that when negotiations hit a standstill, there is another vital role for you to play: catalyst. And, the catalyst to revitalizing negotiation is reframing. Marcus defines reframing as a process of shaping congruity between two parties while maintaining your key objectives through a repertoire of rephrasing, more active listening, acknowledgement and behavior modification.

How do you get the reframing process started? Marcus suggests humour, social interaction if possible, bringing in an outside neutral, placing new consequences on the table and, if necessary, presenting a revised offer.

These methods and others are brought to life throughout the seminar, and they are placed into pragmatic terms with case studies and group interaction. That's why I have graded the seminar an A+.

About the Author

Joe Mapa is Executive Vice-President & Chief Operating Officer, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto