As many of you know, I am writing a book on negotiation which leverages my work as a trainer and lecturer in negotiation, along with my personal experiences in negotiation. It is a fascinating subject which seems easy on the surface, but is very difficult to practice.
The other day in my consulting practice I confronted an unethical negotiator. After much discussion I had secured an agreement in principle with the owner of a small business. Something was a little odd about the interaction, but I ignored my intuition. It was a small project and it was really going to be more of a favor on my part since the opportunity came to me on a referral from a good friend. I also knew that I could be a big help to this small firm—it was obvious that the business owner needed my assistance.
After we had structured an agreement, the other party decided to reopen the discussion in an attempt to amend the terms in his favor. Honestly, this caught me by surprise since I had already rearranged my schedule and had started to gather the appropriate resources to begin the project.
This was my mistake since I had ignored my intuition and had presumed that he would play fair. Instead, my client figured he could improve the deal at the last minute by haggling and playing tough with me.
I calmly responded that I would not agree to this tactic and that I would need to stick with the terms originally negotiated. He became angry and walked on the project. He basically told me I was an idiot not to play ball with him. I offered him my best wishes.
What my almost client did not understand is that I will not do business with unethical people. End of story. Life is short and I see no reason to spend my valuable time with people who cannot keep their word. While it may be true that I may miss out on a project now and then because of this conviction, I do sleep well at night.
In retrospect, I probably should have listened to my internal compass in the first place and declined to bid the job. Also, I should have reconfirmed the agreement a second time with him to insure that everything was acceptable. Was this last minute nibbling request totally unreasonable? Not really, but it was the manner in which he pursued it. It was audacious, rude, and unethical.
I feel great about this outcome. As my old boss used to say, “Not everyone gets the honor of being our customer”.
John Bradley Jackson
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