Ah, ethics. We all know about them, we all know that no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we are using, we should be ethical when we are negotiating, but do any of us really know what it means to be ethical during a negotiation. I mean, we enter a negotiation with one key objective in mind – get as much for our side as possible. Where does ethics come into play when we are thinking this way? When all is said and done, do you want to feel good about what you have been able to accomplish? If so, then you had better learn how to conduct an ethical negotiation.
What Goes Into An Ethical Negotiation
When we are engaged in a negotiation, we need to make sure that we have a good understanding of just exactly what role ethics needs to be playing in our negotiations. If we don’t, then all too easily we can come across to the other side as being unethical negotiators and our reputation will be damaged. This can extend from this negotiation on to every negotiation that we have in the future.
We need to understand that every negotiation that we engage in will be unique. Each one of these negotiations will come with its own unique set of twists and turns that we could not have possibly anticipated when the negotiations first started. This will be the case no matter if we are negotiating on our own behalf or if we are conducting this negotiation for someone else. The good news is the ethical principles that we need to be following will be the same no matter what type of negotiation we are involved in. There are a set of questions that we will need to be able to answer if we want to be able to determine if we are engaging in ethical negotiating.
When we are negotiating with someone, we are treating them in a particular way. During the negotiation, you need to pause and think about how you are treating them. The question that you want to ask yourself is would I want others to treat me or someone close to me this way? If it turns out that the answer is “no”, then you are not behaving ethically. This is when you are going to want to change how you are treating the other side of the table.
Traditionally, negotiations are things that are done quietly and in private. What we say and what we do during a negotiation are by design only visible to the other side of the table. All too often what this means is that our behavior may not be the kind of behavior that we would exhibit normally in public. Because of this type of behavior change, we need to ask ourselves a question while the negotiations are going on. We need to ask if you would be comfortable if your actions were fully and fairly described in the newspaper? If you would not be comfortable with what you are saying and what you are doing being splashed all over your neighborhood, then stop doing it.
Sometimes we can convince ourselves that having a description of our behavior during a negotiation placed into the newspaper would be ok. We can get comfortable with this because nobody that we know reads the newspaper anymore and we don’t really see that any harm would come from it. However, it turns out that when we are trying to determine if our negotiating behavior is ethical, we need to ask ourselves another question that will make things a bit more personal. We need to ask ourselves would I be comfortable telling my best friend, spouse, or children what I am doing? All of a sudden we have to image the expression on their faces if they learned what we were saying and doing and why we were doing it. Now how do you feel about your actions?
Many times we view a negotiation that we are involved in as being a “once in a lifetime” event. What this means is that we don’t think that we’ll ever have to conduct another negotiation that is like this one again. This kind of thinking can lead us to behave in ways that we believe will never be repeated again. We may be able to justify our actions if we’ll only be doing them once. This is why we need to take the time to ask ourselves would I advise anyone else in my situation to act this way? If you would not tell someone to behave the way that you are right now, then why are you doing it?
There is always the idea that you may have been able to answer all of the previous questions in a way that allowed you to convince yourself that you are behaving ethically during this negotiation. However, you may just be very clever and you’ve found ways around being labeled “unethical”. Deep down inside you know that what you are doing is not right, but you just have not been able to say the words to yourself. That is where this final question comes in: does this action reflect how I want to be known and remembered? This is a big question – what is your legacy going to be? It’s not how many negotiations you won, but rather how you behaved during those negotiations that will be what is remembered about you.
What All Of This Means For You
The negotiations that we engage in can be complex and they can take a great deal of time to complete. During that time, our behavior towards the other side of the table is something that we need to be aware of. Yes, we may feel that we are moving the negotiations closer and closer to reaching the deal that we want, but it is how we are making that happen that is really the most important issue.
If we want to make sure that we are behaving ethically during a principled negotiation, then we need to take the time to ask ourselves some questions. The first question that we need to ask is if you would want others to treat me or someone close to me this way? Next ask yourself ask if you would be comfortable if your actions were fully and fairly described in the newspaper? That may not be enough and so you have to take it one step further and ask yourself would I be comfortable telling my best friend, spouse, or children what I am doing? Because of the private nature of most negotiations, we need to ask ourselves would I advise anyone else in my situation to act this way? And finally, we have to dig all the way down and ask ourselves does this action reflect how I want to be known and remembered?
No, behaving ethically during a negotiation is not always an easy thing to do. However, the repercussions of behaving unethically are something that can taint our current negotiation and follow us forward into every negotiation that we have in the future. What we need to be able to do is to ask ourselves during a negotiation if our behavior is ethical. If it is not, we will then have a chance to change it. Become aware of your behavior and make sure that you are known as an ethical negotiator.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: If you detect that you are not behaving ethically during a negotiation, what can you do to turn things around?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
When we enter into a negotiation, what we’d like to be able to do is to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to determine what the other side’s interests are and then reconcile them with our own. Successfully doing this can be quite a process. Attempting to do this can make things a bit more challenging for you. There will be times that we encounter a situation in which the other side presents a myriad of options and offers at the negotiation table. As negotiators we need to determine if this will help facilitate a negotiated agreement?