Negotiations in the lab

Nov. 22, 2022

Last month, MLO staff attended the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) Annual Meeting and Expo in Phoenix, AZ. The in-person conference was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 and held virtually due to COVID-19. This year, there were 1,855 attendees and 195 exhibiting companies. The conference provided numerous plenary and breakout sessions over three days, and ample opportunity to walk around the expo hall to learn about the latest technology, innovations, and patient care improvements.

One of the sessions I attended was called “Negotiating in a Hostage Session: Tips to Keep Your Lab Financially Solvent During COVID-19 and the Next Pandemic.” In this session, Donna Wolk, MHA, PhD, shared her experience with developing a business plan and acquiring negotiation skills above and beyond what she had before in order to get the extra money for her lab during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Wolk serves as the Division Director for Molecular and Microbial Diagnostics and Development in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Geisinger, an integrated healthcare delivery network in Danville, PA.

Dr. Wolk shared with the audience that she began her self-training by reading three books:

  • Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on it by Chris Voss
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

If you are not already familiar with these books, I have summarized them below.

Never Split the Difference is a handbook of negotiation principles written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. The book is a comprehensive guide to negotiation theory and strategy and aims to provide readers the tools needed to negotiate successfully. Voss explains that people have two basic emotional needs—to feel secure and to feel in control. Successful negotiators are those who understand these two needs and use them to identify their counterparts’ real desires and fears.

Crucial Conversations argues that many problems are caused by how people behave when they disagree with others about high-stake, emotional issues. Organizational performance and the quality of relationships improve significantly when people learn the skills to handle crucial conversations effectively. This book teaches individuals to be persuasive, not abrasive and the skills needed to master high-stake conversations.

The Four Agreements’ premise is that there are four agreements that bring back our personal power and reverse failure and accepting “the way it is.” These agreements are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word: Say only what you mean, speak with integrity, stop internal negative self-talk.
  2. Don’t take anything personally: Others see the world with different eyes; nothing they think about you is really about you—they’re dealing with their own issues.
  3. Don’t make assumptions: These cause misunderstandings between people. Be aware, ask questions, communicate.
  4. Always do your best: Let go of the past, don’t judge your past behavior, keep trying if you fall short.

Perhaps one or all of these books will be helpful to you as they were for Dr. Wolk.

I welcome your comments and questions — please send them to me at [email protected].