Negotiating by email poses a set of challenges that one doesn’t often encounter in face-to-face negotiations.
Without the benefit of seeing your counterpart’s body language, what one person might intend to be a straightforward request, the other might perceive to be rude.
A legitimate delay responding to an email offer by one party might be construed by the other as a dirty negotiating tactic. If the subject matter being negotiated has an emotional element, the lack of seeing the other party’s facial expression could lead to big misunderstandings.
Nevertheless, sometimes it’s necessary to negotiate via email.
People travel. Big projects get passed to new managers. A client requires a quote over the weekend.
To offer students the chance to hone their email negotiation skills and discuss some of the unique dynamics of these negotiations, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School’s Clearinghouse developed “Fie’s Agent,” a role-play simulation that’s negotiated exclusively via email.
In addition to offering students the opportunity to practice their online negotiation skills, “Fie’s Agent” also explores substantive negotiation lessons such as how to balance relationship, substance, and process concerns to exploring contract drafting as well as integrative and distributive bargaining concepts.
“Fie’s Agent” is a contract negotiation between the Women’s World Cup star Ama Ata Fie and her agent Kofi Mwenchena. Three years ago, the previously unknown Ghanaian forward Fie emerged as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the world.
Mwenchena, the Ghanaian sports agent, has represented Fie for the past six years, even before she surfaced as one of the world’s most popular and successful football stars. Fie and Mwenchena signed an official contract six years ago, just before Fie was drafted to a Ghanaian club team. Mwenchena’s contract with Fie has now expired, and the two have not yet been able to agree on terms of a potential new contract.
Free agent negotiations begin in less than one week. Fie is still in Brazil completing some marketing obligations for a company and Mwenchena is back in Ghana. The two parties must try to finalize their contract negotiations via email.
Learn more about the role-play simulation “Fie’s Agent” and download a free copy at the Program on Negotiation’s Clearinghouse.
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