Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

June 2018

Administrative Professionals event teaches negotiating skills

Bina Malhotra In her off time, Malhotra enjoys traveling the world and performing as a jazz singer. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS welcomed dozens of staff and administrators to Rodbell Auditorium April 25 for its annual Administrative Professionals Day event. This year’s workshop, “Winning with We,” taught attendees about the importance of quality negotiating skills when solving complex problems in the workplace.

“In every organization, there are those who write the mission and those who make that mission a reality,” said workshop instructor, Bina Malhotra, from BKM & Associates. “As administrators, we are the glue that connects the decisions made by leadership to the success of the overall organization.”

As a 24-year veteran of human resources, Malhotra serves as a consultant on matters of performance, organizational development, and alternative dispute resolution, among others.

Addressing interests, not positions

Throughout her two-hour talk, Malhotra stressed the importance of understanding the interests of others rather than their positions. She then used those differences to distinguish between two key negotiation styles — positional bargaining and interest-based bargaining.

“Positional bargainers take a stance in a negotiation, be it a hard stance or a soft stance, then set out to seize their goal with as little compromise as possible,” Malhotra said. “An interest-based negotiation involves looking behind a person’s position to the interests that inform it.”

session attendees in groups During the session, attendees were divided into groups and given a fictional scenario that required them to identify interests and positions. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Malhotra gave an example of a local community seeking to protect a historical landmark being threatened by a construction project.

“Do you think the politician tasked with making this decision cares more about the construction project or getting re-elected?” Malhotra asked. “As the negotiator representing the community, your goal should be to seek an outcome that benefits her constituents as well as your own.”

Celebrating a legacy of excellence in the workplace

Chris Long Long began the morning with opening remarks. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Administrative Professionals Day celebrates the work of secretaries, administrative assistants, and other office professionals for their contributions to the workforce. The day marks the highlight of Administrative Professionals Week, an annual observance honored by companies around the world during the final week of April.

Dubbed National Secretaries Week in 1952 by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Charles W. Sawyer, the observance was retitled Professional Secretaries Week in 1981 before receiving its current name in 2000.

“As federal employees, we work in a time when we’re asked to do a lot more with a lot less, and yet the NIEHS mission marches on,” said NIEHS Executive Officer Chris Long. “That’s a huge testament to the folks who comprise the institute’s administrative workforce. Much of what we do here, including the science, wouldn’t be possible without you all.”

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)


Two-person teams At the end of the session, attendees in two-person teams were asked to conduct a fictional negotiation. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Attendees According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 4 million secretaries or administrative assistants make up part of the U.S. workforce. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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