Adapted from “Are You Prepared for Dirty Tricks?” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, August 2010.
Should you simply refuse to negotiate with someone you know has lied to you?
Consider the results of a 1998 survey of 750 MBA students by researchers Robert J. Robinson, Roy J. Lewicki, and Eileen M. Donohue. Most of the students felt it was acceptable to lie about their bottom lines, make inflated opening offers, and feign emotions such as anger, elation, or disappointment. However, the students condemned other tactics, such as lying about key facts, bad-mouthing one’s counterpart to others, bribery, spying, and bluffing.
These results suggest that you will sometimes encounter negotiators who feel comfortable lying to you. To reduce the likelihood that you’ll face deceptive tactics, try prefacing important negotiations with a discussion of ethics. Tell your counterpart that you intend to behave as fairly and truthfully as possible, and ask him to do the same. When you do catch someone in a relatively minor lie, consider discussing the matter directly to see whether you feel comfortable moving forward. If the lie is significant and trust seems beyond repair, walking away may be the best choice.