The Negotiator Magazine

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Negotiation as a Paradigm for Business
Ethical Negotiations Lead to Ethical Businesses

Steven P. Cohen

At the end of the day, business is about exchanging things of value with others in order to meet the interests of the companies involved. Whether trading widgets or services, the bottom line to any business is to earn a profit while exchanging goods for payment or other receivables needed for business operations. The process of negotiating ethically, then, is a paradigm for good business.

Good business, like ethical negotiation, furthers and strengthens relationships of both the business and personal variety. Keeping all stakeholders in mind can be a tremendously practical way to bring about a result that meets the test of a successful negotiation: an agreement the parties are committed to fulfill.

Stakeholders are the folks with whom we may not have a direct relationship but to whom our negotiation results have some significance. Keeping the stakeholders in mind is critical for reasons of greater significance than simply the immediate contract in hand; we all have an obligation of stewardship in our dealings with other people, whether in our professional lives or in our roles as members of the business community, to treat others with respect.

In negotiation, those who think only of themselves are generally known as positional bargainers. Positional bargainers take the “my way or the highway” approach and view the process as a confrontation from which they intend to emerge as the winners. This implies that others will emerge as losers and is the exact sort of thinking that has been sending corporate leaders to ethics committee chambers. Following this thinking down the chain of command, and you will see that it also sends companies into bankruptcy, marches employees to the unemployment line, and drives the US economy into the tank.

Harming the US economy means that other stakeholders and other economies in the global marketplace are likely to suffer damage as well. Simply put, a troubled global economic state can be the result of positional bargaining and selfish negotiations.

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