Negotiating WISE wins with a powerful government agency
told to Matt Golosinski,
Kellogg World editor
This account was reported by a Kellogg School Class of 2005
graduate who wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive
nature of the negotiations.
"It is almost impossible
to hold a position of power over the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS). My green card application had been repeatedly
and inexplicably transferred from one office to another within
INS for more than four years," said the Kellogg School graduate.
Until employing the WISE threats strategy, the alum's efforts
to accelerate the application process or even obtain an update
were met with frustration. Through the use of WISE threats,
however, this person created and leveraged various sources
of power to secure a much-needed green card.
"To make progress
on my case and understand the reason for the delay, I needed
to determine the exact problem with my file," the graduate
revealed. Unfortunately, the INS maintains an information
advantage over applicants by withholding most information
about an applicant's file and providing only the most rudimentary
updates. "Realizing I needed to gain some leverage, I contacted
the local U.S. senator's office. Since this senator's agenda
included immigration reform, I knew I had a chance to build
The Kellogg alum
explained to the senator's assistant that if they could help
the INS identify which office the file should go to, they
could save the agency resources by letting the senator's office
investigate the matter, rather than assigning the task to
an already overworked INS officer.
The INS agreed.
The senator's office
discovered that the agency had assigned the wrong tracking
number to the graduate's file, resulting in it being matched
with the wrong candidate. "By persuading the senator to engage
the INS so that the agency perceived mutual gains, while also
furthering my own agenda, I obtained my case information in
two weeks, rather than the months it would otherwise have
taken," recalled the alum.
INS ended up eroding some of its informational advantage by
providing a letter that explained and apologized for their
mistake. Their error had cost the individual a two-year delay,
and now represented a great source of negotiations power to
expedite the file's processing.
"Any blatant and
emotional threat, however, was going to prove ineffective,"
noted the alum. "To further my own interests, I needed to
make a threat that was: not emotionally driven; did not incite
a counter-threat that dwarfed mine; and did not cost me more
than it cost the other side." The threat had to motivate,
not punish, permitting the INS to save face, so my solution
focused more on the positive outcomes of compliance and merely
hinted at any negative consequences.
This person again
engaged the senator's office to issue the threat, remaining
somewhat insulated from negative consequences and coaching
the senator's assistant on what to say taking into account
the core elements of WISE threats. The script assumed this
format: "Since the INS has realized that it has made a significant
mistake with this client's case, I suggest that you assign
the file to an officer immediately. This way the INS can show
that it takes these matters seriously, which is contrary to
popular belief. Additionally, if you do not assign the case
to someone right away, the fingerprints and background checks
that you performed on this client last year will expire and
you will have to repeat that all over again." By being exact
in the communication, the INS was made aware of the benefits
of compliance and the potential negative consequences of non-compliance,
thereby targeting their interests. "In the end, the strategy
worked: The INS assigned my file to an officer immediately."
concluded with a post-settlement settlement. Although the
file had been assigned, it most likely only made to the bottom
of an enormous pile. It could not hurt to request the file
be moved to the top of that pile.
the senator's office, I offered an additional incentive: if
the INS liaison could expedite my file, I would write a personal
letter of appreciation to the INS." This appealed to the liaison
because the local INS office could demonstrate service improvement
and it would also help the liaison personally by enhancing
her image in the eyes of her superiors.
"Three days after
this negotiation, my case was approved!"