Negotiation can be a tricky skill to manage. Solid negotiation tactics can not only help a company achieve short-term success but also forge long-lasting partnerships and business relationships. Unethical negotiation tactics, however, ultimately harm the company, even when they seem to have positive results. If you allow these behaviors to continue unchecked, they will not only diminish the effectiveness of your team as a whole, but also ultimately harm your organization’s reputation.
Why Do People Use Questionable Negotiation Tactics?
Negotiation can be difficult, but that does not mean it is ever acceptable to delve into ethically questionable territory or use abusive negotiation tactics. Unfortunately, some professionals use these tactics for a number of reasons:
- The “power motive” encourages people to exercise power over others to gain prestige or personal power. An individual may engage in questionable negotiation tactics simply for the personal satisfaction of obtaining power over the opposition.
- The “competitive motive” encourages people to outperform their competition. Some professionals may feel compelled to win at any cost, including using deceptive or abusive negotiation tactics.
- Survival can encourage an individual to use whatever means necessary to close a deal if doing so helps keep the individual in their job or a company afloat. If an organization has hit dire circumstances, this might compel some members of the organization to engage in questionable negotiation tactics.
These are just a few of the most common motivations behind some individuals’ decisions to employ marginally ethical negotiation tactics. If your team relies on negotiation skills on a regular basis, keep an eye out for any of the following negotiation tactics. These situations could ultimately become great opportunities for retraining or coaching on proper negotiation technique.
Negotiation Tactics to Avoid
Your team’s negotiation skills should rest on an ethical foundation of proper modern training and a commitment to advancing the organization’s goals in healthy, respectable ways. Stay alert for any marginally ethical or questionable negotiation tactics, including:
- Competitive bargaining. Although this negotiation style is largely considered ethical, it is mostly used in situations where the customer-client relationship isn’t considered a long-term investment. Placing customers in a win-lose situation or presenting them with a “take it or leave it” stance does nothing to foster long-term relationships and may instead cultivate resentment.
- Emotional manipulation. Intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the opposition to secure a superior bargaining position is underhanded and reflects poorly on your organization. You should strive to prove the value and benefits of what you have to offer rather than try to back the opposition into a corner out of fear, shame, or guilt.
- Duping someone into agreeing to your terms is not a successful negotiation, it is a successful deception. Always ensure your team represents your organization’s products, services, and bargaining position accurately. Never leave out key details or misrepresent what you have to offer, otherwise the opposition will simply feel taken advantage of and will probably never do business with your organization again.
- The decoy. A negotiation decoy is essential the practice of making a big deal out of one aspect of your discussion that ultimately doesn’t matter much in order to draw attention away from your true aim. Encourage your team to be straightforward in their negotiations, arguing from positions of strength while remaining committed to offering real value rather than hoping a distraction will dupe the opposition into agreeing to their terms.
- Red herring. A red herring in the negotiation world is simply an illogical argument that sounds believable, something to throw the opposition off your “scent” and lulling them into a false sense of security. Do not allow your team to bluff or attempt to throw off the opposition by introducing distractions. Doing so only harms the reputation of your organization, so encourage honest and straightforward bargaining at all times.
- Cherry picking. This tactic involves aggressively and systematically scanning the terms of a deal and highlighting those found agreeable and pointing out those found to be disagreeable. This is an attempt to exercise power over the opposition, causing them to second-guess their most desired outcomes. Encourage your team to refrain from terms that imply a deal is contingent on specific items and engage in more holistic discussions instead.
- Deliberate mistake. Leaving out a crucial detail or hoping the opposition overlooks a key term of a deal is unethical, a tactic your team should avoid at all times. Duping another party into a deal after depriving them of necessary information is not a successful deal; it is simply a successful deception. It’s also one that could tarnish your company’s reputation and sully the relationship you could have cultivated with that customer. Ensure your team is always forthright will the terms of every deal they discuss, with every customer, every time.
- Backing out of a negotiated offer. Breaching a legally binding contract is illegal in most cases, but backing out of a negotiated offer before the contract is signed falls more within the realm of unethical. It may not be illegal to back out of a negotiated deal before signing, but this should only happen under extreme circumstances when there is a very good reason to avoid going through with the deal.
- Revoking an offer. This, like backing out of a negotiated offer, should only happen under extreme circumstances and in good faith. Revoking an offer in bad faith is generally viewed as unethical, so never allow your team to do so out of a desire to secure a more favorable bargaining position.
Teaching your team to avoid these tactics will help evolve their skillset and ultimately cultivate a stronger reputation for your business. The people with whom your team negotiates will respect straightforward discussions and ethical negotiation tactics.