What are Government Negotiations?
Almost everyone has faced the frustrating task of government negotiations—local, state, national, or foreign—at some point in their lives.
Whether they are applying for a building permit from their local zoning board, trying to sell software to the U.S. Defense Department, looking for approval for a merger, or planning to set up a business in Limerick or Bangalore, businesspeople confront a unique set of challenges when dealing with government negotiations.
When you’re negotiating in the private sector, you typically have alternatives to making a deal. These alternatives give you the ability to walk away if you aren’t happy with what the other party is offering. By contrast, a government agency or employee may be the only negotiating partner you’ve got.
But even though the government may have more power, it does not necessarily have the upper hand. You can increase your power in government negotiations by teaming up with others in your position.
As an illustration, consider the logic behind labor unions. When bargaining with management, individual employees are in a weak position. A company negotiating with employees one at a time can credibly threaten to hire someone else if an employee demands too much.
By contrast, unions allow employees to bargain collectively and thereby eliminate the source of their weakness. By negotiating collectively, employees avoid competing against one another; instead, they cooperate.
You can do something similar by forming a coalition. When weak parties join a coalition, they avoid destructive competition with one another and, by pooling their resources, gain strength in negotiations with stronger parties. In addition, a coalition defuses a common adversary’s ability to pit one weak party against another or to credibly threaten to walk away.
To learn more and discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table, download this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.
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