What is Distributive Negotiation?
Value claiming, also known as distributive negotiation or single-issue negotiation, involves trying to get as much of the pre-existing value on the negotiating table for yourself—and away from the other party.
In distributive negotiation, parties compete over the distribution of a fixed pool of value. Here, any gain by one party represents a loss to the other. You may also hear this referred to as a zero-sum negotiation or win-lose negotiation.
Distributive negotiation can be thought of as haggling—the back-and-forth exchange of offers, typically price offers, which the late Harvard professor Howard Raiffa referred to as the “negotiation dance.”
By comparison, in integrative bargaining, more than one issue is available to be negotiated. Whenever multiple issues are present—such as salary, benefits, and start date, in the case of a job negotiation—negotiators have the potential to make tradeoffs across issues and create value. Often, what looks like a distributive negotiation is, in fact, an integrative negotiation, as there may be additional issues you can add to the discussion.
It is true that a small number of negotiations are distinctly distributive negotiations. A negotiation over a used car, for example, may involve a single issue of price.
Still, we often overlook the fact that most negotiations allow for both collaboration and competition. Add the collaborative element of negotiation to the table, and the process becomes not only more enjoyable but also more rewarding.
The most effective bargainers in a distributive negotiation are often those who spent a lot of time preparing to negotiate. In particular, negotiators should determine their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA—what they’ll do if they don’t achieve their goals in the current negotiation. But to get to the point of creating a great deal, we typically must work with others to find new sources of value before we begin competing with them.
Find out more and discover how to refine your negotiation skills with this free special report, Salary Negotiations: How to Negotiate Salary: Learn the Best Techniques to Help You Manage the Most Difficult Salary Negotiations and What You Need to Know When Asking for a Raise, from Harvard Law School.
The following items are tagged distributive negotiation: