• Jonathan E. Pearl

Negotiating with Jack Donaghy from 30Rock

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Jack (from TV’s 30 Rock show) is a big-time TV exec. struggling to negotiate down the pay of his baby’s Nanny.

You can see the whole clip on YouTube:

Despite Jack’s extensive skills in the field of negotiation the Nanny successfully uses the knowledge she has about how much Jack values her to prevent her pay being reduced. She has clearly done her homework, and she is clearly prepared to walk away.

Meanwhile Jack makes several errors: creating an unfavourable anchor, letting his emotions get the better of him, and being unprepared with alternatives if his first play doesn’t go down well. It doesn’t.

The nanny knows that Jack needs someone else to take care of the kid whilst he is getting his well-earned sleep. The nanny knows her value, and so has power in the negotiation.

The Nanny clearly knows how to play hardball. Nanny services are not something you ask a stranger in the street to do for you. Your Nanny is looking after the most precious thing you have in the world. So, the Nanny knows not to negotiate against herself. She asks Jack….“so what do you want to do?” This puts pressure on Jack to come up with a solution. Jack hasn’t made any alternative plans, so he gives in and agrees to the full amount of pay the Nanny has demanded.

The Nanny, staying silent creates an uncomfortable moment which Jack interprets this as an outright rejection – although she never says she rejects it, and nor does the Nanny threaten what she might do. She says very little and keeps her cool, and her game-face on. Jack retreats from the negotiation, scared the Nanny might walk away from the table.

Jack also makes some silly negotiation mistakes…..

First: the Nanny makes the first, and extreme, offer. Yukle (1974) found that the more extreme your first offer is (as long as it is in your favour) the more successful you will be in the negotiation. Galinsky & Mussweiler (2001) explored the role of first offers in negotiations. Across three experiments, whether it was the buyer or seller who made the first offer, the person who made the first offer obtained a better outcome. In addition, Galinsky & Mussweiler found that first offers were a strong predictor of final settlement prices. By signing a check with an amount he didn’t intend to pay before the negotiation had even begun Jack anchors that amount as something he is willing to countenance. This high anchor, which was set by the Nanny to start with it makes it harder for Jack to drive down the price, even when he has thought out a better negotiation strategy.

Second: Jack lets his love for his baby rule the deal. A good negotiator should stay neutral so that their emotions do not negatively influence the negotiation. Easier said than done, right? Jack also starts to get frustrated and angry when he realises he is not making progress in the negotiation. Feeling and showing these emotions also hampers his negotiation abilities. Negative affect has been found to hinder individuals in negotiation situations in many ways (Forgas, 1998). In addition, showing your frustration or anger will only work in your favour if the opponent is in a weaker negotiation position. In this case, the Nanny has established that she is in pole position.

Finally, even though Jack has had some time to work on his strategy, he obviously hasn’t explored all his alternatives – there must be friend and family who would help out in an emergency? By not having this second source childcare on hand Jack is like putty in the Nanny’s hands.

Are you talking to ME?!


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