Negotiation strategies in the context of asymmetrical political relationships when planning educational programs for adults
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The purpose of this study was to explore the negotiation strategies that adult educators used to plan educational programs for adults in the context of asymmetrical political relationships. The following research questions guided the study: First, in what situations do adult educators experience asymmetrical power relations at the planning table? And second, what negotiation strategies do adult educators apply to negotiate planning issues with other, more powerful, stakeholders? A qualitative study was conducted; ten women and two men ranging in age from the 30s to the 60s were interviewed by using an in-depth and semi-structured format and the critical incident technique. The 12 participants were from nine different organizations distributed over five different geographic locations in Georgia, including Athens, Atlanta, Covington, Gwinnett, and Kennesaw. Data analysis was based on grounded theory and revealed the following two findings. First, organizational hierarchy, cultural norms, and individual credibility were major themes influencing the participants—program planners—so that they felt that they did not have enough power at the planning table. Second, a total of six strategies were identified under two main themes—exercising power and ceding power—when an asymmetrical political relationship occurred in the planning process. The strategies for exercising power include building relationships, establishing credibility, and facilitating information flow, and the strategies for ceding power include going along with a questionable decision, observing to learn, and leaving the table. Five conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study. First, asymmetrical political relationships result from an array of complex interacting factors—organizational hierarchy, cultural norms, and individual credibility. Second, the major conflicts in the planning process result from differences between organizations’ adult education ideology. Third, relationships play a key role in negotiation. Fourth, making strategic decisions about exercising or ceding power is central to negotiation in asymmetrical political situations. Fifth and finally, win-win theory is the most strategic stance when negotiating in asymmetrical political situations in terms of the following three negotiation theories—game theory, win-win theory, and fairness theory.