Negotiators Need To Find Ways To Avoid Turf Battles In A Negotiation

You goal should be to avoid conflicts and find a way to reach a deal
You goal should be to avoid conflicts and find a way to reach a deal
Image Credit: Derek Gavey

Nobody ever said that this negotiating thing was going to be easy to do. This can be especially true when you are involved in a negotiation that has to do with territory, control, rights, or power. Turf battles can arise over any type of scarce or sacred resource in a negotiation. Often in such battles, two or more groups view the other side as the enemy and its own side as above reproach. When anticipating a group negotiation, negotiators tend to view the other group as inferior to our group on many dimensions, including intelligence, competence, and trustworthiness. In addition, groups in conflict tend to see the other’s positions as more extreme than they actually are. Just exactly how should we handle situations like this?

The Problem Of Scarce Resources

When during a negotiation we use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to focus exclusively on claiming as much of a seemingly scarce resource (such as land, money, or power) as we can, we tend to view the group negotiation as a type of competition, especially when it comes to a price negotiation. As a result, it’s all too easy for self-serving and unethical negotiation tactics to be used, and collaboration and long-term thinking will be in short supply. The belief that the pie of resources is fixed typically ends up leaving value on the table. What we need are three strategies can help us reach mutually beneficial outcomes in a business negotiation between groups.

Find A Way To Embrace A Shared Identity Or Goal

When you are starting a group negotiation, discuss the overarching goal you share with members of the other group or groups. 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 parties discuss their constituencies’ needs, work to integrate these concerns with the needs and interests of other members of the organization.

Separate The Sacred From The Pseudo-Sacred Issues

Most of us have core values that we believe are nonnegotiable. Turf wars can be particularly intractable when they center on issues that groups of negotiators consider to be sacred. But research has shown that many of the issues negotiators consider sacred are actually pseudo-sacred. That is, the issues are off-limits in some but not all conditions.

In one study, pairs of negotiators who had a weak BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, were more likely to reach agreement on a seemingly sacred issue as compared to those with a strong BATNA. When parties lacked power, they felt motivated to compromise on moral principles that they previously found nonnegotiable. This suggests we may need to take a closer look at some of the issues we may consider sacred. Before you dig in your heels in a group negotiation, thoroughly analyze your 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?

Try Using The “GRIT” Strategy

A negotiating model has been created that is called the GRIT model, which stands for “the Graduated Reduction in Tension.” The goal of GRIT is to increase communication and trust between groups in order to de-escalate tensions and hostility. When you decide to use this approach, begin by communicating your sincere desire to reduce conflict by making a small, one-sided, and public concession to the other group. If the other group ignores the concession that you made, follow it up with additional small concessions. The concessions should be designed to capture the other party’s attention, invite reciprocation, and begin a “peace spiral” that will lessen tension. If the other group escalates the conflict, you should maintain the ability to respond in kind.

In group negotiations, negotiators sometimes think we should not make more than a single unreciprocated concession, lest we be perceived as weak and desperate. But at times, 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

Any time that we enter into a principled negotiation where the topic of discussion is something that is in limited supply, there is always the chance that a turf battle is going to ensure. As negotiators we realize that this is not going to be moving us to where we want to go. We need to be able to find ways to avoid conflicts like this.

If in a negotiation we are only thinking about what we can walk away from the negotiation with, then we will start to turn the negotiation into a competition. What we really should be doing is looking for a way to create either a shared identity or shared goal for the parties involved in the negotiations. We should understand that if there are any issues that are viewed as sacred and non-negotiable, this may not always be true depending on how much power each party has. Alternatively, negotiators can use the Graduated Reduction in Tension technique and make small concessions in order to lessen tensions.

The goal of every negotiation that we find ourselves involved in is to find a way to reach a deal with the other side that everyone can live with. When we are discussing limited resources, there is always the possibility that one or the other side will start to engage in a battle to win more of the limited resource. We need to have the techniques that we can use to allow the parties to move away from the turf battle and towards a deal that everyone can live with.

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

Question For You: How many concessions would be you be willing to make to start to deescalate a tense negotiation?

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