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Ethicsand Negotiations

Section1: Ethics and negotiations

Applicationof ethics in negotiations is difficult given the large number oftwists that crop up as the negotiating parties try to satisfy theirown interests. This intensifies the controversy about ethical groundsof common tactics (such as lies, puffery, and deception) innegotiations. Although partakers of this debate provide reasons fortheir beliefs, there are four basic principles (including the goldenrule, Universalism, utilitarianism, and distributive justice) thatcan be used to judge ethics behind different arguments. Using theseethical criteria, there is no defense for common tactics (such aslies) that can stand the ethical test. For example, there is noethical perspective that defends lying during negotiations, but theyall suggest that lying is a means of achieving self interest (Reitz,Wall &amp Love, 1998). The present paper will provide a detailedargument of Reitz, Wall &amp Love (1998) and Jacobs-May (2012) and acritical evaluation of their ideas about the application of ethics innegotiations. Effective negotiations go hand in hand with ethicalbehavior because ethics lead to the establishment of a relationshipof trust between the negotiating parties.

Section2: Arguments and conclusion made by Reitz, Wall &amp Love (1998)

Effectivenegotiations, especially those that pertain to business are guided byrules and deviation from the rules by any of the parties to thenegotiation leads to violation of ethical principles. According toReitz, Wall &amp Love (1998) there are criteria that can be used todetermine whether the tactics used in negotiation are ethical or not.First, the golden rule holds that one should do as they would loveothers to do for them. Secondly, the Universalism theory holds thatone should not use other people as a means to a given end. Third, theutilitarian perspective holds that people should choose actions thatmaximize happiness to a greater number of people. Fourth, theprinciple of distributive justice is based on the notion that peoplebecome better off because their actions.

Theanalysis of the four ethical criteria shows that most of the tacticsused by business negotiators are unethical and defenseless. Forexample, lies are considered as a means of enhancing one’s interestat the expense of the co-negotiator and cannot be defended under anyof the four principles. Reitz, Wall &amp Love (1998) states that theattempt to justify lies as a way of preventing more harm as cannotapply in business transactions because there is no greater harmanyway. Puffery, which is the exaggeration of the value of someitems, is widely used by business people as an effective tactic fornegotiation, but in essence it is a tinted form of lie. The fact thatpuffery contradicts the other negotiates leads to its considerationas an unethical practice under similar criteria as lies. Deceptioninvolves making of false promises and violates the principle ofUniversalism by taking advantage of the vulnerability of othernegotiators. It also fails the golden rule because no one would liketo be given empty threats and false promises. The tactic of weakeningthe opponent often involves the use of lies and deception toundermine or lower their self esteem. These actions are considered asunethical under the four sets of criteria.

Althoughmost of the tactics used by negotiators are considered to beunethical, the four criteria seem to be either neutral or support thetactic of strengthening one’s position in negotiations. This isbecause increasing one’s own strength does not cause direct harm toother parties in the negotiation, but it gives them an opportunity toenhance their strength as well (Reitz, Wall &amp Love, 1998). Theethics behind the practice of nondisclosure is determined by thenature of the information withheld by a party to the negotiation.This means that nondisclosure is unethical if it can harm the otherparty. Exploiting information to be used in negotiation isconsidered ethical provided that the information is obtained throughlegal means. Ethical criteria permit parties to the negotiation tochange their mind provided that their actions are agreeable to bothparties and do not break the law. Distracting the other party in anegotiation is acceptable if the distracting party does not includeother unethical practices, including puffery, lies, and deception.The golden rule and the Universalism criteria provide the suitablegrounds for judging the tactic of maximization. Under the goldenrule, negotiators should be permitted to pursue their interests aslong as they would desire their opponents to do the same (Reitz, Wall&amp Love, 1998). Under the Universalism, negotiators are practicingethical if they push to maximize their interest to a level where theyfeel that the well being of the opponents is being endangered.

Reitz,Wall &amp Love (1998) concludes that ethical negotiations are bothmorally right and profitable to the negotiating parties. Given thepresent business environment where negotiations are inevitable, it isworth for business people to practice ethics because ethicalnegotiations will help negotiators in finding the process better forthem.

Section3: Arguments and conclusion made by Jacobs-May (2012)

Trustbetween negotiators is one of the most important factors that helpthe opposing parties to achieve ethical negotiations. Jacobs-May(2012) dismisses the notion among the majority of the negotiators whothink that success in a given negotiation depends on their ability todeceit. The author instead holds that the difference betweensuccessful and unsuccessful negotiators is determined by theircapacity to avoid misleading their opponents. This implies thatnegotiators have a duty to ensure the negotiation process leads to afair conclusion to all participants. The author uses the ethicalguideline provided in the ABA Model Rule 4 of the California Law togive examples of instances (including exaggeration of the negotiatorsstrength and weakening the opponent) that subject negotiators to therisk of practicing unethical tactics. In addition, the use ofadversarial bargaining is unethical and ineffective. This means thatpracticing empathy and assertiveness makes negotiators moreeffective.

Developinga relationship that is based on trust between negotiators leads to amutually beneficial agreement and maximization of value for allparticipants. According to Jacobs-May (2012) trust betweennegotiators enhances their cooperation, tendency to seek solutionsthat satisfy both of them, and positive interactions among them. Thisis achieved in cases where negotiator is willing to sacrifice part ofpersonal gain with the objective of ensuring the other party gets afair outcome. It means that each party to the negotiation has theduty of ensuring that unfair outcome does not occur to the opponent.Jacobs-May (2012) draws from neurological perspectives to suggestthat the development of secure social bonds among the humans(negotiators in this case) is fundamental and enhances theircooperation. This perception is also upheld by economic models thatattribute the need for human beings to be fair to others to theircapacity for emotional feelings. The author concludes that ethicalbehavior in negotiation is rewarding and it fosters cooperation andcollaboration, which leads to better outcomes for a given negotiationprocess.

Section4: Discussion

Itis generally accepted that ethical behavior is necessary innegotiations. However, ethical negotiations are a rare occurrence inreal situations. The two articles considered in the present studycontain the details of unethical tactics that commonly used bynegotiators, especially in the field of business to maximize theirinterest at the expense of their opponents. This means thatnegotiators fail to practice ethics, not because they do not itsbenefits, but they choose to be unethical with the objective ofpursuing their own interests. Unethical negotiators have littleconcern about the affairs of the interest of their opponents, butonly mind about their gains at the end of the negotiations. Forexample, negotiators who deceits the opponents and misguides theirdecision process fail to consider the effect of wrong decision on theother party.

Inconclusion, establishing and adhering to certain rules helps thenegotiator in exercising ethical negotiation. However, this requiresthe parties to sacrifice their own interest and ensure that theoutcome of the negotiation process leads to an outcome that is fairto both participants. Although there are many tactics negotiators mayuse and subject themselves to the risk of being unethical, the fourcriteria (golden rule, Universalism, utilitarian, and distributivejustice) provide the simplest interpretations that negotiators canuse to determine the ethics behind their actions. In addition,practicing ethical negotiations help negotiators in establishingrelationships that are based on trust, thus fostering cooperation andcollaboration with their opponents. Therefore, ethical negotiation isprofitable and benefits both the negotiators and the opponents.


Jacobs-May,J. (2012). Ethics: Ethical negotiations. TheRecorder,136 (37), 1-2.

Reitz,H., Wall, A. &amp Love, M. (1998). Ethics in negotiation: Oil andwater or good lubrication? BusinessHorizons,1, 5-14.