The Mumbai Job - A Strategic Negotiation and Conflict Management Case - by Madhuranath R

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This is a small case written by me to understand and appreciate the concepts of Strategic Negotiation and Conflict Management. The case is followed by my own Written Analysis of the Case (WAC) to help appreciate some of the points to be considered in this case analysis.

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The Mumbai Job - A Strategic Negotiation and Conflict Management Case - by Madhuranath R

  1. 1. SNCM Case: The Mumbai Job It was a cloudy day in Bangalore when I got the email. The weather was cool andpleasant and I had just finished my lunch. The email changed the complacence and deepsatisfaction in my mind. The mail was sent via the most popular online professional networkwhich had become the most used website by headhunters and job hunters. September 2010 wasnot exactly the peak hiring season as the global economy was still showing no signs of recoveryfrom the recession; and I was not actively looking for a job. So, I was pleasantly surprised to seean email from a big firm in India which sought to talk to me about an open position they had inMumbai. Little did I know how much that one email would change the next few years of my life! I thought for a while about the invite and decided to “give it a try”. After all, I hadnothing to lose if I didn’t make it through the first round of interviews. But secretly, I knew Iwould go all the way to the final round because I was an expert in a proprietary technologywhich was used in just 3 companies across India and I was the best trainer in that field. This wascemented by a line in the job description which required “training experience is a must”. So, atthe back of the mind, I was just curious to know “what am I worth in the market today?” Thus,began my story which ended with the first salary negotiation of my life.About the Company L&T Infotech is a subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which is the largestEngineering and Construction Company in India. L&T has a dominant presence in Indiasinfrastructure, power, hydrocarbon, machinery and railway related projects. It was featured 4times in the Forbes Fab-50 list as one of the best public companies in the Asia Pacific region. Inrecent years, L&T has expanded its global presence and international projects contributed 9% ofits overall order book for the 2010–11 period. Originally founded as L&T Information Technology Ltd, as a wholly owned subsidiary ofL&T, the firm was renamed to L&T Infotech and run like an independent company. It is a globalIT services and solutions provider based in Mumbai, India, and is ranked #8 in Indian ITcompanies in 2011-2012, NASSCOM. The company has 39 registered offices in 22 countries. This is what I found out during my initial research about the recruiting company.Naturally, I prided on receiving an impromptu offer from such a big and reputed firm which wasadmired internationally. So, my positive response to the email was a natural outcome.The Job Application Process: the first step My affirmative response to the email fetched quick response mails from the companyrecruiter. Subir, the Recruiting HR, wanted me to submit the latest copy of CV for review.Since I had not been searching for a job, I did not have a ready copy my CV. So, I sat down tocreate a new one that captured my 5 years of experience at Infosys. I took four hours to puttogether my CV with all the relevant project details and acquired competencies. Then I sent it toSubir and waited for the response. Within few hours I got another email from Subir requesting me to fill up an online jobapplication form. I was thrilled as this meant that my profile was shortlisted for furtherprocessing and that someone had already reviewed it. The dance had just begun! Author: Madhuranath R
  2. 2. SNCM Case: The Mumbai JobThe Job Application Process: the second step The first telephone call from Subir was the second step of my job application process. Hesounded very friendly and warm over the phone and I guess that is something all HRs areexpected to be at any time of the day or night. However, he seemed more genuine in his talk. Hewanted to get some basic information and clarifications about the online form that I hadsubmitted on their website. During the discussion I mentioned that my permanent residence wasin Bangalore and that I had worked for the same company since the time I graduated with a B.E.in Computer Science and Engineering. At that point, he asked me the reason I was progressingwith this job application. After all, I had not switched job in 5 years which was unusually longfor an average employee in the IT industry. Also, he was concerned whether I was open torelocating to Mumbai from Bangalore; Bangalore was considered the best location for ITprofessionals and the weather in the city was the best across the country. In essence, my logic inprocessing this job application was not clear to him. I could clearly understand his concerns. Probably, I would have asked the same questionsif I had been in his place. So, I assured him that I was making this change in job after sufficientthought. I was cocooned in a safe job where I had made a good name since the initial years. So, Iwanted to break out of this comfort zone and explore what I am really worth in an unbiasedenvironment. Also, relocating would put me further out of my comfort zone and I was not evenconversant in the language spoken in Mumbai. So, it would be another kind of learningexperience which would challenge me both professionally and personally. Subir seemed to likewhat I said and he frankly expressed his happiness to continue with my job application process.The Job Application Process: the third step The second call from my prospective employer was also the first call from my futuremanager. The appointment for this call had been fixed over an email conversation with Subir andI had moved myself to a conference room in my office to ensure I would not be disturbed. Thecaller introduced himself as Pradeep and he began the interview with questions pertaining towhat I had written in my resume. The call ended half an hour later with off-line chatter foranother 15 minutes as we had just discovered we had several common friends between us. Theconversation ended on a positive note and Pradeep expressed his satisfaction with my profiledirectly; quite unusual in a typical job application process. The second interview call was scheduled for the next day and this was supposed to be avideo call. The second round of interview had a panel on a Skype video call. Pradeep, hismanager Hitesh and Hitesh’s manager Mukesh were present in the call. Hitesh opened the callwith cursory introduction and the interview went on for 45 minutes. The interview from thesenior managers began with Broad Based Open Ended questions like the following – - Tell me something about yourself - Why did you choose to do a B.E. despite scoring very high marks in Medical Entrance? - What was your motivation to join Infosys? - What do you expect from this job at L&T Infotech? - What do you think of your performance in your career till now? Author: Madhuranath R
  3. 3. SNCM Case: The Mumbai Job There were many more such questions but the interview ended with the typical one: - Do you have any questions about the job / role / company? As the interview progressed more specific and pointed questions were asked based on myresume as well as my responses to the broad-based open ended questions. I was totally candidthroughout the interview and even cracked a joke a couple of times about the weather in Mumbaiand the pathetic traffic conditions. The 45 minutes just rushed by and I had not even realized. Bythe end of the call we were all laughing and talking like old colleagues. So, the video call endedwith a positive note for all concerned and Mahesh even appreciated me openly.The Job Application Process: the last step I had parried and danced with the recruiting company for almost 10 days by now and thiswas the final moment of truth for me – the HR interview round. Subir called me on my mobilephone and began the discussion very professionally. He was trying to curb his own friendlybanter by constantly refocusing on the “typical HR” questions that every recruiter asks. He re-stressed the points of relocation and job change and if I was really up to the task. My answers must have sounded convincing because he immediately pushed open theenvelope and asked me to name my expected salary. I was totally unprepared for this question atthat point. I had not even considered being given an option to name my price. I was not so sureabout what would be a likely “fair number” to quote. So, I just started fishing and asked him thenormal range of salary for the position for which I had been interviewed. He replied that thenumber was fairly flexible for lateral hires and that I should quote my expected number franklyas it would go through a deliberation process internally at L&T Infotech. Again I was clueless what to do. I just made some back of the hand calculations tocompute 3-4 numbers based on different percentage hike over my current salary. The percentagehikes I considered for this calculation were influenced by “my idea of fairness”. I did not knowwhat was the industry standard for a lateral hired for a similar position. I had not asked anyfriend who had shifted jobs recently. I was not even sure if there was a benchmark for this kindof a role because it was such a niche expertise sector that there was not much talent available tofill this position. So, I used a rough estimate of 50% and quoted that is my minimum expectation.To my surprise, the HR showed no surprise or shock. He just said that he will discuss thisnumber with his higher ups and the recruiting division before responding.The Job Application Process: the final call for boarding It was almost 15 days after my last call with HR that he called me back. It was on aSunday and I already had a weird feeling. The HR was in his usual chatty mood and startedasking about my family, about my job in Bangalore and what I was planning to do in Mumbai. Atthat point I knew I had bagged the job! I was very excited and I continued the conversation. Thenhe revealed that my offer had gone through with the senior management and that I would bereceiving the offer letter on Monday. He also mentioned that they had offered 10% more thanwhat I had quoted as my expected salary. He then congratulated me and welcomed me on board;more as a personal friend rather than a professional HR recruiter. Author: Madhuranath R
  4. 4. SNCM Case: The Mumbai Job Written Analysis of the CaseSituation Analysis It is very clear from the case that the candidate was not at all prepared for this entire jobapplication process right from the beginning. Fortunate, as he was, to get a call out of the bluefrom a large and reputed company, he must have taken some time off to think about theprobability of such an event occurring on a day-to-day basis to an average IT professional. TheIndian IT industry has a huge demand for IT professionals and the abundance of engineeringcolleges assures a steadily increasing supply of hundreds of thousands of engineers every year.Most of the graduates are not competent to start on a job immediately on entering the industryand this necessitates extensive training and orientation programs in the top companies. L&T Infotech was one such popular recruiter who conducted campus recruitment drivesin hundreds of engineering colleges across India and the graduate hires would undergo a 3-monthtraining and orientation program at company expense. Naturally, L&T Infotech wanted tomaximize the returns from this training program and ensure quick increase in productivity. So,the position for which the candidate was being considered was a business critical role. If he hadunderstood this context early the process would have concluded with even better outcomes.Understanding the BATNAs and interests The entire job application process was an orchestrated dance of negotiation. Thenegotiation started at the point of responding to the mail and writing the CV. Clearly, thecandidate wanted to convince the resume reviewers with a document that negotiated well andwas sweetened to meet their interests. In this case, the candidate seemed to have an innateunderstanding of what recruiters in that industry expected as he had worked very long in thatindustry by then. So, without having to think about his BATNAs and “interests” he was able tocook up a convincing document; probably his experience negotiated better than his write up. The BATNA for the candidate was really low; even zero. He had not been kicked out ofthe company and he held a job in a reputed organization where he had made his name. So, evenif the candidate failed this job application process he had nothing to lose. However, the recruiterhad a higher BATNA; in fact, a very significantly high BATNA. As mentioned in the case, thecandidate was an expert in what he was doing and very few people in the entire country did whathe was doing. So, he was in a niche where talent was not common-place unlike the overall ITindustry. If the candidate appreciated this point about the company’s BATNA, he would haverealized that there was a lot of value to be captured from this negotiation. Instead, he opted tolook at it as a hit-and-miss game where he did not even realize the true “win” of the game. Clearly the company’s interests were to improve productivity, maximize returns on freshrecruits and setup a Center Of Excellence that would sustain this process in future. All thesecarried tremendous monetary and long term value for the organization. These interests could notbe met easily by a cost equivalent to the annual salary being offered to the candidate. Not onlywould it bring cost benefits, it would add to the topline by positioning the company as a bettersolution partner in a niche technology (due to the setting up of the COE). So, we can see that thecompany’s interests and BATNA were very high in this case and the candidate did notunderstand these concepts of SNCM at that point in time. Author: Madhuranath R
  5. 5. SNCM Case: The Mumbai JobEvaluating the outcome of negotiation The candidate was offered a salary hike of slightly more than 50% over his current salary.A study of the salary hikes offered to lateral hires between 2002–2012 shows that the industryaverage was slightly more than 100%. Obviously, the candidate had been short-changed. He hadnot done enough research about the industry, company, or the job application process. Otherwisehe would have realized “where his heaven is”. In this particular case, maybe he could have askedfor an even higher salary because of the lack of quality talent in the niche knowledge sector. The candidate was also not considering the relocation factor. He was shifting from apermanent residence low expense city to a metropolitan with much higher cost of life.Additionally, he did not negotiate upon the factors of compensation like joining bonus, relocationexpenses reimbursement, travel expenses and additional metropolitan allowances. He was justfixated on one “position”, the salary number, and even there he was totally under-informed.Naturally, the company was happy to hire him for a slightly better value on his “position” thatcame across as a “generous” offer to the candidate. If only the candidate had had sufficientknowledge about the negotiation process and the underlying need for researching well, he mayhave been able to strike a much better deal that would be a true measure of his real value. Thus,we can conclude that the outcome of this negotiation process was a “Lose to Win” for him.Recommendation for a future Job Application Process Based on the behavior cited in this case, it is clear that the candidate does not do muchresearch on the prospective recruiters and targeted companies. He needs to put down a roadmapto each job interview process. The first step is to identify what is the industry and type ofcompany he wishes to work for. Then do a basic research on the company culture, go throughtheir website and also read comments/blogs by people who have worked there in the past.Usually they provide insights into the organization behavior and culture better than a propagandatool like the company website or Wikipedia. The second step is to research the average salary figures for similar roles and similarskills. There are numerous websites such as www.payscale.com, www.glassdoor.com,www.salarykhoj.com, etc. which collect voluntary information from both recruiters andemployees to generate statistical values of salaries for different positions, companies and skills.This should give a clear idea about what to expect when asked to “name a salary figure”. The third step is vital when the job application process has proceeded beyond the initialrounds of screening. Try to contact someone in the company who is working currently in thesame role or division and ask for some information about the project requirements and culture.Usually, these conversations will help the candidate to understand the real “interests” of thecompany when they are negotiating to hire you. If these interests are understood clearly, it willbe easy to understand our approach and “position” during the negotiation. Finally, remember that you have reached the final round because you are a compellingcandidate for the company. So, do not hesitate to capture value at this point. But, since this isalso a negotiation that results in a long-term association as the outcome, it is critical to not pushthe limits too far while claiming the value; because the relationships matter as much as theresults of the outcome of this negotiation in the job application process. Author: Madhuranath R

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