Types of Power in Negotiation

Your negotiating power depends on both objective and subjective factors

By on / Negotiation Skills

How power operates at the bargaining table

Social psychologists have described different types of power that exist in society, and negotiators can leverage these types of power in negotiation as well.

Three main types of power in negotiation

Two types of power spring from objective features of the bargaining process.

First, power is often defined as a lack of dependence on others. This kind of power in negotiation corresponds to one’s BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. When an individual has a strong BATNA going into a negotiation, she is less dependent on the opposing party to reach her needs than she would be if she had a weak alternative or no alternative at all.


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Second, some positions, roles, and titles grant power simply due to the authority or control they exert over a wide range of important outcomes. This type of power, referred to as role power, is often found in organizational hierarchies.

There is a third form of power that you can bring to your negotiations: psychological power. In fact, it’s possible for you to have a psychological sense of power even when you lack objective power.

Professor Cameron Anderson of Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that although people differ in the degree to which they feel psychologically powerful in the world, they can create a temporary sense of power. When your confidence is low, you can give it a boost by thinking about a time in your life when you had power.

Interestingly, being powerful and feeling powerful have essentially the same consequence for negotiations. Regardless of its source, power has consistent and predictable effects – both positive and negative – on negotiations.

Adapted from “Power Plays” by Adam D. Galinsky and Joe C. Magee for the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, July 2006.

Related Posts:
Status Anxiety in Business Negotiations
How to Negotiate When You’re Literally Far Apart
Dealmaking: Top Ten Business Deals of 2013
The Deal is Done – Now What?
Better Predict Your Negotiation Behavior


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Originally published on July 29, 2013.

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