Why Do Managers Resist Facilitation?

By — on / Business Negotiations

Adapted from “Bring Talks Back on Track with Facilitation” by Lawrence Susskind from the September 2006 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.

There are three major reasons that managers are reluctant to seek the assistance they need.

1. The Fear of Appearing Incompetent

Sometimes “running a meeting” can mean nothing more than formulating an agenda and raising each item in turn.

If your group is made up entirely of your direct reports, this approach might work. But when you’re simply a titular chair, with no authority over group members, negotiation management requires joint problem-solving skills.

These include knowing when and how to divide or combine issues to create value, when to encourage preparatory work away from the table, and when and how to insist that naysayers offer alternative proposals that everyone can accept.

2. The Fear of Looking Weak

Sometimes people view having another moderate one’s negotiation skills as a sign of weakness.

As a result, the negotiator worries that other alliance members may perceive her as weak and will think they can walk all over her if she “abdicates control” to a professional facilitator.

His self-image as a manager rests in large part on his ability to face down others whenever disagreements arise.

In the past, his company has rewarded this ‘warrior’ behavior.

Better to lose with style than to ‘cave in’ and be saddled with a reputation for weakness.

3. The Fear of Losing Control

Sometimes there are questions over how much control a facilitator will have.

Sometimes a negotiator’s greatest fear is once she turns over the gavel to an outsider, she will no longer influence the outcome of the group’s debates.

A negotiator’s influence over the agenda of a meeting can be substantial when she has the chair position, including control over the ‘air time’ each participant receives, the spin put on group decisions, and even the substance of these decisions.


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