When two parties negotiate a written agreement, one partner usually does the drafting. We'll let Donald be the drafter, and we'll call the Other partner Olivia. Here are some deceptive techniques available to drafters. See "Extrasensory Deception: I," Point Lookout for October 22, 2008, for other deceptive negotiation tactics.
- The non-redraft redraft
- Donald agrees to drop language cited by Olivia, but in redrafting, he inserts new language that has the same effect, albeit somewhat more artful. He then presents it as a serious attempt to address Olivia's concerns, and he might even say, "Shall we move on to the next section?"
- Donald's behavior is a deception, intended to suggest that Olivia's concerns were addressed, when they were not. The more clever operators might even materially weaken Olivia's position.
- The bonus
- Donald agrees to add language Olivia requested, but he also inserts conditions that weren't requested, and which erode the effect of the requested language.
- This deception is related to the Non-Redraft Redraft, but it applies to the requested addition of new language, rather than to the revision of existing language. It can be more subtle because the bonus changes might have been inserted elsewhere.
- Unexpected revisions
- When Donald returns with the redraft, he's made the changes that were discussed, but he's also made some unrelated changes that weren't discussed. During the walkthrough, he omits any mention of the unexpected revisions, or mentions them only in passing. He pressures Olivia so as to limit the time she has to contemplate their impact.
- Unless Donald is a master of pressure, this tactic can be risky for him. If Olivia discovers what he has done, she'll probably cease trusting him, and that might lead her to review the entire document. To limit this risk, Donald might try the next tactic, Late Delivery.
- Late delivery
- When Donald sends Olivia the latest draft about 40 nanoseconds — or even an hour — before their next meeting, he might be trying to deprive her of any real opportunity to review it.When one negotiation partner
discovers a deception by
the other, Trust is threatened
- A reasonable response to Late Delivery is "We have to reschedule." Olivia can say, "I just received it, and I need to review it," but that does open her to Donald's feigning offense or using some other pressure tactic. Sometimes it's more fun just to say, "I have to water my begonias."
Perhaps the most powerfully deceptive tactic for drafters is Seizing the Drafting Role. If negotiations begin with Olivia sending Donald a draft agreement, he can respond by returning the agreement without citing any objections, but re-written to his own satisfaction. He has thus seized the drafting role without Olivia's consent, and without explaining what he has done to the agreement. Olivia can point this out, but he surely already knows. Since this tactic is a strong indication that the negotiation will be difficult, Olivia might consider her time better spent watering her begonias. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Ethics at Work:
- Workplace Politics vs. Integrity
- A reader wrote recently of wanting to learn "to effectively participate in office politics without
compromising my integrity." It sometimes seems that those who succeed in workplace politics must
know how to descend to the blackest depths, and still sleep at night. Must we abandon our integrity
to participate in workplace politics?
- Dubious Dealings
- Negotiating contracts with outsourcing suppliers can present ethical dilemmas, even when we try to be
as fair as possible. The negotiation itself can present conflicts of interest. What are those conflicts?
- Extrasensory Deception: I
- Negotiation skills are increasingly essential in problem-solving workplaces. When incentives are strong,
or pressure is high, deception is tempting. Here are some of the deceptions popular among negotiators.
- Personnel-Sensitive Risks: I
- Some risks and the plans for managing them are personnel-sensitive in the sense that disclosure can
harm the enterprise or its people. Since most risk management plans are available to a broad internal
audience, personnel-sensitive risks cannot be managed in the customary way. Why not?
- Personnel-Sensitive Risks: II
- Personnel-sensitive risks are risks that are difficult to discuss openly. Open discussion could infringe
on someone's privacy, or lead to hurt feelings, or to toxic politics or toxic conflict. If we can't
discuss them openly, how can we deal with them?
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- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.