Multiparty Negotiations - Explained
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What are multi-party negotiations?
A multi-party negotiation consists of a group of three or more individuals, each representing his or her own interests, who attempt to resolve perceived differences of interest or work together to achieve a collective objective.
Types of multi-party negotiations involve:
- agencies, and
- inter-group relationships.
Next Article: Manage the various stages of a multiparty negotiation Back to: NEGOTIATIONS
Unique Attributes of Multi-Party Negotiations
The differences between two-party negotiations and multiparty negotiations, which make multiparty negotiations more complex, challenging, and difficult to manage, are as follows:
- Number of Parties - Multiparty negotiations have more negotiators at the table.
- Informational and Computational Complexity - With multiparty negotiations there are more issues, more perspectives on issues, and more total information are introduced.
- Social Complexity - The social environment changes from a one-on-one dialogue to a small-group discussion. As a result, all the dynamics of small groups begin to affect the way the negotiators behave. How the process evolves may depend on the motivational orientation of the parties toward each other. Social pressures may develop for the group to act cohesively, yet the members are in conflict with each other and cannot be cohesive unless they can find an acceptable solution.
- Procedural Complexity - More complex than two-party negotiations in that the process they have to follow is more complicated.
- Logistical Complexity - Physical distance can affect how much the parties trust each other, the ways they interpret unclear or ambiguous behavior of the other parties, and the willingness to continue negotiation with each other as a conflict resolution strategy. This distance, whether physical or psychological, seems to affect how parties make sense of and interpret what others are doing and whether signals are interpreted as indications of cooperative or competitive behavior.
- Strategic Complexity - In a group negotiation, complexity increases significantly. The negotiator must consider the strategies of all the other parties at the table and decide whether to deal with each of them separately or as a group. The actual process of dealing with each of them usually evolves into a series of one-on-one negotiations, which can have several consequences. First, these exchanges are subject to the surveillance and audience dynamics. Second, negotiators who have some way to control the number of parties at the table may begin to act strategically, using this control to serve their objectives. Third, negotiators can explicitly engage in coalition building as a way to marshal support.
How do multi-party negotiations affect the negotiation process?
Key challenges of multiparty negotiations include:
Approaches to trading off with the other party include:
Circular Logrolling - This is used n group negotiations. It consists of trade-offs that require each group member to offer another member a concession on one issue, while receiving a concession from another group on a different issue.
Reciprocal Trade-offs - A trade-off fashioned between two parties where each gives up one thing in exchange for making gains on another issue.
Voting and Majority Rule
A voting principle providing that a majority (usually constituted by 50 percent plus one) of an organized group will have the power to make decisions binding on the whole group.
Problems with voting and majority rule include:
Condorcet paradox - A result of group voting that demonstrates that the winners of majority rule elections change as a function of the order in which alternatives are voted upon.
Impossibility theorem - A theorem stating that the derivation of group preference from individual preference is indeterminate if certain conditions prevail.
Strategic Voting and Misrepresentation - A situation in which a negotiator misrepresents his or her true preferences so as to gain advantage over the other party.
Consensus Agreements - Consensus decision-making is a group decision-making process in which group members develop, and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole.
Consensus may be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution, one that can be supported, even if not the "favourite" of each individual.
Private caucusing - These are side meetings between individuals (rather than the whole group) to discuss interests or procedures in the negotiation. This private meetings cause of breakdown in communication among the non-caucusing individuals.
Biased interpretation - When individual heuristics or predispositions affect the interpretation of information in a manner not common to the other negotiators.
Perspective-taking failures (the curse of knowledge) - The tendency for people who are privy to information and knowledge that they know others do not possess to act as if others are indeed aware of it (even when it is impossible for the receiver to have this knowledge).
Indirect speech acts - Ways in which people ask others to perform tasks or acts that require extra cognitive steps on the part of the listener in order to understand the communicators intention.
Multiple audience problem - The difficulty that arises when a sender needs to communicate with a certain recipient in the presence of another person (or people) who should not be able to understand the message.
Important Practices in Multi-Party Negotiations
Key tactics to employ (or practices to avoid) for multiparty negotiations include:
- Counterparty awareness - Know who will be at the table
- Manage information and systematize proposal making - This will avoid tunnel vision, which is the tendency for people in group negotiations to underestimate the number of feasible options and alternatives available.
- Use brainstorming wisely (brainwriting) - A brainstorming session in which group members write their ideas individually at the same time.
- Develop and assign process roles - Strive for equal participation
- Persistence - Stay at the table
- Points of Agreement - Allow for some points of agreement, even if only on process.
- Dividing the Pie - Avoid the equal shares bias
- Avoid the agreement bias - When negotiators focus on reaching common ground with the other party and are reluctant to accept differences of interest, even when such acceptance might create options for joint gain.
- Avoid sequential bargaining - When you discuss one issue at a time.