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Fight last-minute negotiation demands

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Some negotiators try to extract an extra concession at the last minute. If that happens, ask yourself, “Do I understand why they want this extra concession?”

Max Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor and management consultant, was advising a corporate client in a high-stakes negotiation. The deal involved granting another company access to its intellectual property.

The leaders of the two companies reached a handshake agreement—and then instructed their respective attorneys to hash out details and prepare the contract for both parties to sign. Soon after, the other side suddenly demanded access to additional intellectual property.

Bazerman’s client was mystified. It wasn’t clear why the other side cared so much about wanting broader access to certain intellectual property. Meanwhile, a $100 million contract was left dangling as Bazerman’s client grappled with the new demand.

Then fate intervened. An executive at Bazerman’s client’s firm opened an email from the other side and realized that he was accidentally copied on an internal note. Reading an email that he was never meant to see, he learned that the other side was already violating his firm’s intellectual property rights and committing criminal acts. It dawned on Bazerman that the other side was trying to cover up wrongdoing by shifting the spotlight onto a fuzzy, out-of-the-blue demand for future use of intellectual property.

The lesson: When someone issues a last-minute demand that comes out of nowhere, stop and assess whether they’re trying to misdirect you from paying attention to what’s truly important.

— Adapted from The Power of Noticing, Max Bazerman, Simon & Schuster.

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