Being a Jerk is Easy, but It Won’t Get You What You Want
/ Author: Dennis Perrin
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Being a Jerk is Easy, but It Won’t Get You What You Want

“Adversarial unionism is easy—it’s much easier to tell each other to go to hell and fight than it is to practice cooperative unionism,” said Dick Heinen, former CLAC executive director, many years ago. 

The cooperative model, which CLAC strives to practice, takes time, discipline, and a lot of patience.

It starts with interest-based negotiations. Sounds like a snore-fest, but really what that means is that you express your proposal as an interest, not as a position, and you explain to the other party why you are asking for something, rather than simply demanding it. 

This ensures that both sides really understand what the other is looking for, so that appropriate solutions can be found. 

For example, one theme I see constantly in collective bargaining is that money is assumed to be the solution for most problems, when many of these problems can’t actually be solved by money. 

During one set of negotiations, we were trying to get the employer to agree to higher compensation for employees who were being forced to work overtime. As we became less positional and more interest based in our bargaining, we were able to explain that the real issue was one of fairness in how staff were selected to work overtime. More money is always a wonderful thing, but it would not have truly solved this issue. Fixing the processes around the distribution of overtime was the solution. 

Interest-based negotiation also helps to maintain and strengthen relationships, rather than tear them down for a few short-term gains. 

I’m convinced that CLAC members have greatly benefited from this practice over the years and have reaped greater rewards than they would have under an adversarial model. In recent years, I’ve also seen other unions and organizations adopt the interest-based approach, and am excited that more workers are reaping its benefits. 


How to Come To Win-Win Solutions

  • Interest-based negotiation can be used in all areas of life. So how can you practice it?   
  • Don’t pretend to know the other person’s intentions. Go in with an open mind.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Express your interest clearly and rationally.
  • Listen with the intention to understand.
  • Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to conclusions—instead, ask them to clarify comments you don’t understand or that don’t sit well with you.
  • Try to see things from the other person’s point of view.


Interest-based negotiation doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Like forming a new habit or exercising, it takes work and requires hours of practice before it starts to become natural. Even then, you never fully arrive, and will have to force yourself back into it. However, it’s always worth it, because it builds stronger relationships and fosters a better environment. 

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