Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Divide & Conquer

Finally, some insight! The email below was just emailed to WGA writers and provides exactly the insight I've been looking for to explain why the producers seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. Basically, they're trying to wear down the writers in the hopes they break rank:

The Playbook of the AMPTP
Fellow Members,
A few years ago, I was on the WGA Negotiating Committee. As negotiations with the AMPTP were drawing to a close, I went to a dinner party where I happened to be seated next to a gentleman who until recently had been for decades the chief negotiator for the Companies in another segment of the entertainment industry. He was a wiry guy, and he had a sense of humor. When I asked him if he was the Nick Counter of that particular part of the industry, he smiled and said wryly that he thought he was better than Nick but, yes, that was a fair comparison. He said he knew Nick and admired him. For an hour and a half, sprinkled in with the small talk, he told me about his negotiating strategy. After the party, I went to my car and jotted down as much of it as I could remember. I thought it might be useful to share it with you now:
Strategy for Hardball Negotiations:
Piss off the leaders and spokespersons for the other side. A leader who loses his temper loses something in negotiations. Why?
1) Anger clouds judgment.
2) It’s human nature to want to be liked, even in a tough-as-nails negotiator. A person who loses his temper is embarrassed, usually comes and apologizes, and always gives something away to get back into the good graces of the other side.
The end game is the money, but hardball negotiations aren't about money, until the end. The real game is dividing and conquering.
* Lower the expectations of the other side, divide and conquer.
* Raise and lower the expectations of the other side, divide and conquer.
* Do everything possible to destroy the credibility of the other side’s leadership, divide and conquer.
* Use confidants and back channels to go over the heads of the stronger leaders to the softer targets. Divide and conquer.
* When you figure out the other side’s bottom line, offer a fraction. It’s surprising how many times that stands.
Sound familiar? If you examine the recent "leaks," comments, and press releases from the other side, you'll realize this is exactly the strategy the Companies are employing against us today. And why not? It's worked for them for the last 20 years! They are putting us on an emotional roller coaster by raising and lowering our expectations, attacking our leaders, trying to pit the town against us, refusing to move on the issues that matter to us, bragging about their generosity when the opposite is true, fear mongering and claiming we're going to ruin this industry – hoping we'll splinter, lose faith in and attack each other, negotiate against ourselves, and cave.
As events unfold in the next several days and weeks, we should have no doubt about what the Companies are really up to and what to expect from them. But this time, in every way possible, we must let them know we're on to them and their strategy won't work. We understand their game, our solidarity and resolve are greater than ever, and we're going to stay strong – and reasonable – until we get a fair deal.
Let's return to the picket lines every day with a powerful show of force. As Patric says, we're all in this together.
Tom Schulman
WGAW Board of Directors

Auto salesmen use a similar tactic. They hook you by various means—e.g., to prolong your wait time so you think, "Well, I've spent a lot of time here... I might as well buy something."—until they can find something which really sticks (the right car, the right price, the right dealer) and then reel you in. This tactic, however, is a two way street. I knew a customer who went to a car lot early in the day and purposefully hemmed and hawed until 10 hours later he hadn't made a final decision. His tactic was simple: "they think they're getting me to waste my time, but I'm also getting them to waste their time." Imagine you're an auto salesman spending 10 hours with a customer only to see him walk off the lot undecided. Finally, after 11 hours, he was ready to sign a check and looked up a the salesman and said, "Knock of $1,000 or I walk." They were shocked at first, but so impressed with his by-the-book 11th hour negotiating, that they offered him a job.

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