This is how to remain ethical with hard bargainers

two caricatures with one lifting a sign stating "ethics" on one end and the other with his had on the sign on the other end

With the advent of artificial intelligence ethics is taking on additional importance. The Harvard Program on Negotiation identifies five principles for consideration. Linda Fisher in her book, 7 lenses, Learning Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership offers seven lenses of ethical responsibility. A question is how can these principles and ethical responsibilities be applied to negotiations? When working with principled negotiators the ethical principles and ethical responsibilities seem to be very practical. What about when needing to address hard bargainers that don’t seem to have principles and ethical responsibilities?


What are five principles for consideration?


According to the Harvard Program on Negotiations these are:

Principle 1. Reciprocity:

Would I want others to treat me or someone close to me this way?

Principle 2. Publicity:

Would I be comfortable if my actions were fully and fairly described in the newspaper?

Principle 3. Trusted friend:

Would I be comfortable telling my best friend, spouse, or children what I am doing?

Principle 4. Universality:

Would I advise anyone else in my situation to act this way?

Principle 5. Legacy:

Does this action reflect how I want to be known and remembered?

These make a lot sense. The golden rule states to treat others as I would like to be treated. The platinum rule says to treat others as they would like to be treated. The platinum rule takes the golden rule another step forward by asking the question of how the other party wants to be treated, rather than assuming they wanted to be treated as I would like to be treated. This is especially important in cross cultural negotiations.

How would you feel if what you did was shared widely? Whether this was done in a public forum with social media, be it with your family, friends, associates and considering your spiritual perspective. If these sources knew not only about the decision you made, but also the why behind that decision, what might that mean? How comfortable would you be with the end result? With what you knew, would you advise a trusted friend or family member to act this way too. What does this say about you? What does it say about how you want to be remembered? These are all valid principles for consideration.


Seven lenses of ethical responsibilities and ethical principles


In her book, 7 Lenses, Linda Fisher Thornton provides seven lenses of ethical responsibility. These are profit, law, character, people, communities, planet and greater good. In a nutshell what do these each entail? You have to make a profit to stay in business. Is the focus to avoid penalties rather than honoring principles legally? Do you need to reach beyond that? Are your decisions grounded in solid moral principles and values focusing on integrity? Can others see this by how we act? Are you an example for others? Do you have concern for others? Do you respect differences? Are you aware of your biases? Are you aware that your unconscious biases do more harm than your conscious biases? Are you concerned about caring for others and not doing harm? In what ways do you show concern for communities, help those in need, and serve others in society? Do you respect life and the planet? Is the way you do business sustainable? In the long term are you oriented towards the greater good? In what ways is what you are doing benefiting society and future generations in order to make this world a better place?

These are the major ethical statements and responsibilities raised in 7 Lenses. These give you a lot to think about.

Linda Fisher Thornton’s has 14 guiding principles to lead with a moral compass. These are:

  1. Demonstrating personal congruence
  2. Be morally aware
  3. Stay competent
  4. Model expected performance and leadership
  5. Respect others
  6. Respect boundaries
  7. Trust and be trustworthy
  8. Communicate openly
  9. Generate efficient and ethical performance
  10. Think like an ethical leader
  11. Do good without doing harm
  12. Work with mutually beneficial solutions
  13. Protect our planet for future generations
  14. Improve our global society for future generations

These all sound good. We may be able to justify much of what we do. However, what happens when we encounter an unethical hard bargainer at the negotiating table?


Ethical decision making with a hard bargainer in a negotiation


From my book, Peaceful Resolutions, Chapter7 on the Art of Negotiation there is a Negotiations Strategies table. This table compares soft bargainers, hard bargainers and principled negotiators by 14 categories. This in part is an excerpt from this table:

Category                            Hard Bargainer                                Principled Negotiator

Goal                                    Success                                            Resolution

Relationship                       Adversaries                                        Problem solvers

Technique                           Make threats                                     Explore interests

Objective                            Victory                                                Wise outcome

Insist on                              Position                                              Compromise using objective criteria

Focus                                 Position                                               Interests

Outlook                              Distrust                                                Trust but verity

Contest of will                    Prevail                                                  Resolution based on standards

Pressure                            Apply pressure as necessary              Yield to logic and principle

Process                              Hard on people and problem              Soft on people / hard on problem

Tactics                                Demand concessions                         Separate people from problem

Options                              Demand one sided gains                     Invent options for mutual gain

Brainstorming                    Search for acceptable answer             Develop options to evaluate later

Bottom line                         Mislead as to bottom line                    Avoid having a bottom line

From this table what can you tell? You can tell that the hard bargainer is all about me, what’s in it for me, and I want to make sure my position is sustained if not in full nearly in full. What about the principled negotiator? You can see a willingness to dig deeper, to understand, to listen, to explore interests, to focus on the problem, and to look for ways to enhance mutual improvements. So, what does this have to do with ethics related to responsibilities and principles?

Everything. Understand where you are coming from. Understand where the other party is coming from whether they be a hard bargainer, a principled negotiator or somewhere in between. Regardless, stay focused on your own ethical responsibilities and principles. You may be able to reach an agreement. Maybe you won’t, but if you don’t is this really a contract you want in your future anyway? Give this some thought the next time you enter into a negotiation and consider your ethical responsibilities and principles. This may allow you to not only negotiate a better deal. This may allow you to feel much better about the negotiation and the end result too.


About the author


Mike is a professional speaker, mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert. Is conflict blocking your results? You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]