Unsuccessful Cross Cultural Negotiation - Mexico

This video demonstrates an unsuccessful cross cultural negotiation you may encounter during your military career. Once you view this video, see the successful negotiation and what you could do to ensure mission success while negotiating across cultures.
Video Transcript

[Major Diaz] Gentlemen, would you like to join us for some lunch?

[Captain McKown] Oh thank you, sir, we ate before we drove over.

[Narrator] While arriving early to a negotiation meeting with their Mexican army counterparts would seem like the right thing to do, in this case captain McKown and Lieutenant Franklin have interrupted lunch. This illustrates a lack of preparation and understanding that this could be viewed offensively.

[Lieutenant Franklin] I'm sorry?

[Major Diaz] Try some flautas, they are delicious.

[Lieutenant Franklin] No thank you.

[Narrator] Captain McKown and Lieutenant Franklin continued to offend Major Diaz by not accepting his offer to join them for lunch. Captain McKown should have been a little less focused on business in order to accommodate this gracious gesture by the Major. In the Mexican culture, business meetings such as these quite often take place after a shared meal.

[Captain McKown] It was actually something we needed to discuss with you.

[Second Lieutenant Rivera] Is there a problem with your interpreter?

[Captain McKown] Yes unfortunately we need to--

[Narrator] This request to replace an interpreter is a touchy subject and should have been handled in a more tactful way. Also, by not bringing an interpreter to the meeting, Captain McKown and Lieutenant Franklin made the faulty assumption that everyone would be able to communicate in English. The lack of preparation regarding these two points sets the stage for an unsuccessful meeting.

[Captain McKown] We need to make sure the things are being done correctly and efficiently. Moving forward we need to have you confirm the training schedule that we--

[Narrator] Captain McKown is being too direct here and is too focused on the tasks of the negotiation, rather than taking the time to build rapport by engaging in meaningful conversation and getting to know his counterparts.

[Second Lieutenant Rivera] --Benito Juarez, vientiuno de marzo.

[Major Diaz] Gracias teniente--

[Narrator] A proper preparation for a negotiation is key to its overall success. Captain McKown and Lieutenant Franklin failed to recognize the national holiday and how important that is to the family and culture of their Mexican counterparts. Even though this became a conflict in the schedule, empathy and tact should have been used to illustrate their understanding of this important tradition.

[Major Diaz] Unfortunately, this is non-negotiable. [...] Captain McKown, as I've already mentioned to your leadership, much of this training is already--

[Narrator] By not spending the proper time and effort to prepare for the meeting and to build rapport, Major Diaz is not open to hearing the options provided by Captain McKown. Had Captain McKown taken a more collaborative approach from the beginning this may have been a more successful negotiation.

[Captain McKown] Right. However this is simply standard US Army protocol. [...] NORTHCOM which will take time and could--

[Narrator] Overall Captain McKown and Lieutenant Franklin did not take the time necessary to prepare for this negotiation with their Mexican army counterparts. They failed to recognize important cultural considerations that could have helped them relate to and build rapport with Major Diaz and Second Lieutenant Rivera. Ultimately the US soldiers did not achieve their negotiation goals because they were too direct and task-focused. Had they focused more on building the long-term relationship and taken a more indirect approach they might have achieved a more successful outcome.