Negotiations When Others Don’t Play Fair

Negotiations When Others Don’t Play Fair

Having read this article from the Harvard Business Review Program on Negotiation entitled “How to See Through These 3 Hardball Negotiation Tactics” by Deepak Malhotra she provides insights from her book Negotiating the Impossible.  In this article she address three situations:

1.       The ultimatum

2.       Just one more thing

3.       Great, now let me check with the boss

Regarding the ultimatum she suggests simply ignore it. Why?  To allow the other party to save face having presented something in passion.  She offers that you could come back by listening with empathy and responding appropriately.

If other items are brought up she suggests this opens up both sides for raising additional considerations

For those that need to check with the boss, she notes it is important to have negotiated process up front.  Make sure you understand who the decision maker is up front.    By negotiating process up front this can be avoided.

I find all three of these suggestions to be helpful.   Upon reflection I want to offer some other ideas for your consideration from The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America

Tip 37 suggests using the RIGS model.  RIGS stands for

·                     Raise the issue

·                     Identify (or discover) Interests

·                     Generate options

·                     Seek Solutions


The definitions that follow provide background that will naturally lead one through the RIGS steps. Since a major component is identifying interests, hence the name interest-based problem solving.

Raise the Issue:

An issue is a subject of discussion or negotiation. It is the “what” of the problem to be solved. This step is critical. This step defines the problem. By active listening, providing feedback opportunities for employees (like an open-door policy, or times during the day when you welcome walk in questions. This can also be accomplished through more formal processes such as annual employee satisfaction surveys if your employer makes use of this tool. Encourage employees to come to you with a well-thought out question or concern and at least one solution to the issue. This will help you to work with the employee to better define the issue.

When identifying issues it is all right to disagree and to see that the other person is not “bad” if he or she disagrees with you. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Listen with empathy. Remember that talking about your emotions is better than acting them out.

I have worked with boards of directors on issues like this.  By using a model that states:

When you …

I think …

I feel …

Often this can clear the air and allow the other party to realize that perhaps some line has been crossed, maybe we should take a break, and we need to de-escalate the situation to proceed going forward.

Tip 43 provides insights on how to deal with difficult people

Difficult people come in many shapes and varieties. Some examples are:

  • Always critical
  • Attacking others
  • Attacking you
  • Brown nosing
  • Boss plays favorites
  • Busy buddies
  • Center of attention
  • Chatty Cathy’s (not saying this as a sexist, because guys have issues too)
  • Know it all
  • Lazy
  • Not listening
  • Obnoxious
  • Stinky
  • Too competitive
  • Undermining you

So what do you do? First, ask if you are a contributor to the problem and see if you need to change. Take a look in the mirror. If not you, then you need to take an appropriate action, because if you don’t nothing will change. So what might be appropriate actions?

  • Clearly define the situation
  • Consider various alternatives
  • Consider what might happen if you took action on those alternatives
  • Discuss this with your mentor
  • Pick the best solution

Doing nothing causes no change, so this will continue to negatively impact you. If you can live with that, chalk it up to the source and let it go.

Complaining is counterproductive and wastes time and energy – avoid this trap

Anger never solves anything

Constructive behavior

  • Confront the situation when you are calm, prepared, practiced and ready to address the person
  • Obtain feedback from others
  • Explore why the person is being difficult
  • Try to build a rapport first before addressing the concern
  • When you do determine the time is right (there may never be an exactly right time)
  • Do this in private
  • Be respectful
  • Focus on the concern or problem
  • Listen
  • Empathize
  • Work towards an amenable solution
  • Follow up after a potential solution was found
  • Reinforce good behavior with a positive acknowledgment


If you have tried all of these and you still have the concern, it is time to elevate the issue to management. Coming in with this as background will certainly help your supervisor to work with you to address the concern. To your supervisor, the key is that you tried to do this with the other party first, and you are coming in with the facts and a proposed solution.

If the situation still isn’t resolved

  • Minimize contact
  • Limit the person’s access to you
  • Consider a different position in the organization
  • Consider leaving the organization

Remember focus on the problem, don’t make it personal, don’t blame yourself and don’t blame the difficult person. We are all different, and we see things differently.

My mother gave me good advice early in life. She told me when I thought everyone else was crazy; I should stop and look in the mirror. Maybe they were, but more likely than not, it might just be me. In this context I may be a contributor, and as stated at the beginning I might need to see what I can do to make sure I am not contributing to the situation.

Hopefully you found this helpful.  If so please share this with others.  

Michael Gregory Consulting, LLC offers assistance with conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation services business to business, business to government (IRS) and within businesses.


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]