Lessons in Negotiating From Airbnb’s Alex Dagg

After two decades representing employees—including holding top roles at the union UNITE and the NHL Players’ Association—Alex Dagg has taken her policy and negotiating chops to Airbnb. The short-term rental platform’s new Canadian policy lead explains what taking on a huge responsibility at an early age taught her, and why accomplishments matter more than loyalty.

Long-time labour leader Alexander Dagg named Airbnb's Canadian Policy Lead (CNW Group/Airbnb)

Alex Dagg. Photo: CNW Group/Airbnb


“When I was 12, I had a paper route in Peterborough, Ont., where I grew up. I’d bike around delivering the Peterborough Examiner. I had to collect money from subscribers, too. There was one house that had this big, scary dog that used to chase me off their property. I have a lot of sympathy for letter carriers because of that experience.”


“I was a union leader for a long while, and the first time I bargained a collective agreement on my own was scary. It was with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which no longer exists. I wasn’t even 30 years old. I had studied this stuff in school, but until you get in the field and do it, you don’t really know what it’s like. It was scary knowing whatever I did would have an impact on hundreds of people and their ability to earn a living. It’s a lot of responsibility, and I found it helped to be really conscious of that. It got a little easier over time.”


“I worked for someone who always had personal favourites, which created a very negative environment. It was all about loyalty, not about what you could do or achieve—not the kind of environment someone like me thrives in. You want to encourage people to be their best, and to do that you need to respect accomplishments above pure loyalty.”


“I don’t mean to sound hokey, but my best bosses have been the members of the unions I’ve worked for. As a union leader in an employee organization, like the NHL Players’ Association, you’re really working for the members. I was accountable to them, and I really enjoyed that, whether they were factory workers or NHL stars.”


“The interview process for my job with Airbnb was an awesome experience. I talked to people from all over the world who have different roles within the company. There were so many Skype calls! It was incredibly revealing of how committed everyone is to doing the right thing and to building this new way of travelling and supporting people when they homeshare. That energy and passion really made me want to work here.”


“When I was with UNITE, the second union I worked for, I was promoted to executive vice-president of the international union. I was the first woman, and the first Canadian, in that role. That meant a lot to me. For many years, I had worked in areas where there weren’t a lot of women—in collective bargaining and manufacturing settings, for example—which brought lots of challenges. So to get that recognition felt really good.”

This article is from the October 2016 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!


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