Knowing the norms of ethics and negotiation can be useful whether you’re negotiating for yourself or on behalf of someone else. Each ethical case you come up against will have its own twists and nuances, but there a few principles that negotiators should keep in mind while at the bargaining table.
By asking yourself the following questions, you can illuminate the boundaries between right and wrong at the negotiation table and in the process discover your own ethical standards:
Principle 1. Reciprocity:
Would I want others to treat me or someone close to me this way?
Principle 2. Publicity:
Would I be comfortable if my actions were fully and fairly described in the newspaper?
Principle 3. Trusted friend:
Would I be comfortable telling my best friend, spouse, or children what I am doing?
Principle 4. Universality:
Would I advise anyone else in my situation to act this way?
Principle 5. Legacy:
Does this action reflect how I want to be known and remembered?
Doing the right thing sometimes means that we must accept a known cost. But in the long run, doing the wrong thing may be even more costly.
If you want to learn more about ethics and negotiation, read the following resources:
What If We Have the Same Social Motive at the Bargaining Table: When two people share the same motivation, they may fall commit the same mistakes and reinforce each other’s failures. In this article, we evaluate a labor negotiation in which the chief management negotiator withholds information about revenue projections, while the labor leader holds back details about workforce sentiment. With impasse the result, it helps to be aware of when you’re negotiating with a fellow individualist or a fellow cooperator, your goal should be to overcome the inherent flaws of your orientation (to identify your negotiating style – please read “Identifying Your Negotiation Style”).
Trust in Negotiations – Trust takes time to develop but negotiators rarely have time to build strong relationships with their counterparts so instead a cautious approach is undertaken in order to protect yourself from a bad deal. In this article, the argument for taking risks during a negotiation with a counterpart that you do not know is explored and the benefits and pitfalls of this risk-taking approach are delineated.
Beware Your Counterpart’s Biases – After a failed negotiation, it’s tempting to construct a story about how the other side’s irrationality led to impasse. Unfortunately, such stories will not resurrect the deal. In the past we have encouraged you to ‘debias’ your own behavior by identifying the assumptions that may be clouding your judgment. We have introduced you to a number of judgment biases – common, systematic errors in thinking that are likely to affect your decisions and harm your outcomes in negotiation.
Strategies for Negotiating More Rationally – In past articles, we have highlighted a variety of psychological biases that affect negotiators, many of which spring from a reliance on intuition. Of course, negotiators are not always affected by bias; we often think systematically and clearly at the bargaining table. Most negotiators believe they are capable of distinguishing between situations in which they can safely rely on intuition from those that require more careful thought – but often they are wrong. In fact, most of us trust our intuition more than evidence suggests that we should
Which negotiation principle is most important to you? Let us know in the comments..
Adapted from “Ethics and Negotiation” by Michael Wheeler for the March 2004 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.
thank you for encouraging me to be better trainer on negotiation
A number of interesting ideas here, Michael.
You write: “After a failed negotiation, it’s tempting to construct a story about how the other side’s irrationality led to impasse.”
I think the obverse is also important. When you succeed, it is equally tempting to construct a story how rational you were.
Thank you very much for your daily blog. It is always interesting. According to Ethics and Negotiation, I try to keep in mind the fact that the world is really small and that at any time I could meet my opposant in negotiation. So, I also keep in mind that I would be able to look at him in his eyes, calmly, sincerely, frankly, even if sometimes we desagreed strongly. I should never have to change my course to avoid someone beacause I am not proud of the way I negociated.