Technology Company Saves Millions, Averts PR Disaster
After a devastating workplace death, a global technology manufacturer avoids a multi-million dollar settlement with expert negotiation coaching

Organization
Technology Solution Manufacturer   NDA In Force

Industry
High-Tech Manufacturing

Organization Information

  • More than 3,000 employees worldwide
  • Manufacturing operations in more than 10 countries
  • Annual revenue greater than $750 Million
  • Publically traded on the NASDAQ Stock Market

Business Benefits Realized

  • Saved more than $1 million by withdrawing an initial settlement offer and renegotiating.
  • Averted a potential PR disaster resulting from the deceased employee’s family accusing the company of his death in the media.
  • Prevented the violation of corporate policies, which may have resulted in serious repercussions from stockholders.
  • Created a positive outcome for the deceased employee’s spouse, children and elderly parents.
  • Resulted in positive media exposure for the company.

It was every company’s worst nightmare.  In the middle of the workday, an employee uses a handgun to take his own life in the corporate cafeteria – with a room full of coworkers there to witness the tragedy.  Unfortunately for one global technology manufacturer, their worst nightmare came true in [Year] at one of their locations in Asia.

Immediate Impacts

It didn’t take long for news of this horrible tragedy to travel through the 3,000-person organization and shake its employees and leadership to the core.  To make matters worse, the deceased employee left behind a wife, two young children and elderly parents who depended on him for their care.

Soon after the death, the company’s human resources (HR) department received a phone call from the deceased employee’s brother-in-law.  He threatened to involve the media, the government and the legal system if his exorbitant demands of a multi-million dollar settlement were not met.  He claimed the death had been related to excessive stress in the workplace, and that he had a police report to back up his claims.

The first instinct of the company’s HR department was to react based on their fear of a legal battle and negative publicity; they quickly offered to settle with the brother-in-law for $1.6 million.  However when the CEO received news of this settlement offer, he recognized a different solution was needed.  Not only was this an extremely high sum – especially in a case where the company had not been at fault – but it also violated the company’s corporate policies.  Potential problems included a costly legal battle, conflicts with the company’s stockholders and a firestorm of negative publicity.

The CEO was a coaching client of Jim Camp, global negotiation expert, author of Start With No and founder of the Camp Negotiation Institute.  In the past, Camp had coached negotiations for the company that had resulted in millions of dollars in savings.  Due to the urgency of the situation, the CEO made a late-night phone call to Camp, who immediately took over coaching of the negotiation that had spiraled out of control.

A New Approach

Camp worked quickly to put the company back in the driver’s seat of the negotiation by applying his system with thorough and precise checklists and instructed execution. He formed a new negotiation team that included high-level company decision makers and corporate legal counsel.  Then, he asked the team to define their mission and purpose.

In this case, the team established a mission and purpose of providing for the deceased employee’s family by developing a financial foundation to support them as they grieved for his loss and continued successful lives.  Camp also applied one of the key rules of the Camp Negotiation System: only deal with qualified decision makers.  For this negotiation, this meant cutting the emotionally-charged brother-in-law out of the negotiation process entirely and dealing directly with the deceased employee’s wife.

Once Camp had coached the team through laying the negotiation’s groundwork, he worked with them to build a vision for the other party.  In the Camp System, the ultimate purpose of any negotiation is to help the other party see how your proposal will benefit them.  By offering the widow spousal support, educational support for her children, parental support for her elderly parents, bereavement relief and an employee donation matched by the company, she was able to see the benefit for her and her family and gladly accepted the company’s offer.

Negotiation Creates Savings & Publicity Wins

Not only did this negotiation result in an outstanding financial outcome, it turned what would have been a publicity disaster into a significant victory.  The employee’s wife was so impressed with the company’s handling of the situation that she wrote a letter praising the company and submitted it to the local newspaper.

The employee’s coworkers were also pleased with how the company dealt with the tragedy.  A fund was set up that allowed employee donations to the deceased employee’s family to be matched by the company.  Not only were the employee’s coworkers given a way to help, they could also see their employer was just as committed to the cause.  As a result, the morale of the company was restored, creating an environment where productivity could resume and counseling for the affected employees could begin in earnest.

By relying on Camp’s expert advice and applying the Camp Negotiation System, this multi-national technology company avoided what could have easily become a multi-million dollar settlement.  In addition, they prevented a clear violation of corporate policy and the resulting firestorm among company stockholders.  Perhaps most importantly, they crafted an outcome that was in line with the mission and purpose of the negotiation: helping the deceased employee’s widow and family land on their feet.

 

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