Tips On Avoiding Turf Battles When You Negotiate With Multiple Parties

Negotiators need to know how to reach agreements during a group negotiation
Negotiators need to know how to reach agreements during a group negotiation
Image Credit: Jakub T. Jankiewicz

Let’s face it – negotiating is not an easy thing to do. If you want to make it even harder, then instead of just negotiating with one party, invite multiple parties to the same negotiation. When this kind of negotiation is going on, turf battles – heated conflicts over territory, control, rights, or power -are all too common. It is possible for a turf battle to arise over any type of scarce resource in a group negotiation. When anticipating a group negotiation, we tend to view the other groups as inferior to our group on many dimensions, including intelligence, competence, and trustworthiness. How should a negotiator handle situations like this?

Create A Shared Identity or Goal

Negotiators need to take action at the start of a negotiation. When a group negotiation is starting you need to use your negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to discuss the overarching goal you share with members of the other group or groups. This may take some effort on your part in order to discover what common items are that the various groups hope to get out of the negotiations.

You will want to emphasize long-term rather than short-term concerns, cooperation rather than competition, and group discussions rather than private caucuses. When the various parties discuss their constituencies’ needs, work to integrate these concerns with the needs and interests of other members of the organization.

Take The Time To Separate Important from Sorta Important Issues

When we enter into a negotiation, most of us bring so-called “core values” that we believe are nonnegotiable, such as welfare, religious beliefs, political views, or personal moral code. Turf wars can be particularly unsolvable when they center on issues that groups of negotiators consider to be sacred. But research suggests that many of the issues negotiators consider sacred are actually pseudo-sacred. That is, the issues are off-limits in some conditions but not all conditions.

Studies have shown that negotiators who have a weak BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, are more likely to reach agreement on a seemingly sacred issue as compared to those with a strong BATNA. When parties lack power, they feel motivated to compromise on moral principles that they may have previously found nonnegotiable. This suggests we may need to take a close look at some of the issues we consider sacred. Before you dig in your heels in a group negotiation, take the time to thoroughly analyze the decision not to negotiate. Are there any benefits you might gain from the group negotiation that could allow you to honor your principles in a different way?

Use The “GRIT” Strategy

The GRIT model stands for “the Graduated Reduction in Tension.” The goal of the GRIT model is to increase communication and trust between groups in order to de-escalate tensions and hostility. Begin by communicating your desire to reduce conflict by making a small, one-sided, and public concession to the other group.

If the other group ignores your concession, follow it up with additional small concessions. The concessions should be designed to capture the attention of the other party, invite reciprocation, and begin a “peace spiral” that will lessen tension. If the other group decides to escalate the conflict, you should maintain the ability to respond in kind. In group negotiation, we sometimes think we should not make more than a single unreciprocated concession because we might be perceived by one of the other sides as weak and desperate. What we need to realize is that making multiple minor concessions may be the kind of attention-grabbing move that is needed to demonstrate goodwill and bring groups together.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiating is tough work and if you choose to engage in a principled negotiation that has multiple parties involved in it, things just got a lot tougher. What can easily happen if you have multiple parties trying to negotiate is that there can be conflicts over turfs – everyone wants to own their part of something. If we want to have any hope of being able to reach a deal with multiple parties, then we’re going to need to come up with a plan for dealing with negotiations like this.

When you find yourself in a negotiation like this, one of the first things that you have do to is to create a shared goal that everyone can rally behind. Make sure that it is a long-term goal that reflects what the backers of each of your groups really want. When multiple groups start to negotiate, it can appear as though there are some issues that a given group will never give up. However, a bit of investigating may reveal that many of these issues are things that turn out to not be so rigid. Because there can be a great deal of tension when multiple groups try to negotiate, using the GRIT strategy and making small concessions is a great way to start to defuse the tension and move people towards making a deal.

Often the deal that we can strike with multiple parties at the same time are the most valuable deals for us. Instead of having to engage in multiple negotiations with multiple parties over time, we can gather everyone together and attempt to come up with a single deal that meets everyone’s needs. No, this is not an easy thing to do. However, if we can follow these guidelines we stand a good chance of being able to pull it off and create a deal that everyone can live with.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What is the best way to find out what kind of shared goal could be adopted by everyone who is involved in a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we go looking for new ways that we can be successful during a negotiation, we are often looking for the “next big thing”. We’d like to find a modern negotiating technique that perhaps we’ve not heard of before. However, it turns out that if you really want to expand your negotiating toolbox it might serve you better to spend some time taking a look at something that is actually very old: bartering.