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Motivational Orientation Affects Strategic Orientation in Negotiation

2. How does “Motivational Orientation” affect a negotiator’s strategic orientation and objectives?

Basic motivations (along with other cognitive factors) influence individual behavior. They can also influence an individual’s approach to a negotiation or method for achieving a particular outcome. (See Ch. 8 – concerning “Cognitive Aspects of Negotiation” for more information on how mental processes affect negotiation strategy and execution.) Motivations dictate and can often-times be synonymous with a strategic orientation. Common motivation-based influences on negotiation practice include:

• Interests-based Motivation – This is a dominant or singular focus on furthering one’s interest in the negotiation. That is, the negotiating party places utmost importance on the interests at stake. She attempts to acquire value to the extent that it meets her needs or objectives. Interest-based motivations often lead to one of two strategic orientations – “individualistic” or “cooperative”. The individualistic negotiator prefers to maximize her own goals or objectives and is indifferent to how much the other person receives in the negotiation. The cooperative negotiator prefers to maximize equality and minimize the difference between negotiators’ outcomes. Interests-based negotiators might employ any number of tactics in furtherance of their objectives, such as: attempting to learn about the other’s underlying needs, desires, and concerns or attempting to reconcile different interests among the parties in a way that addresses their most pressing needs and concerns.

• Rights-based or Legalistic Motivation – This concerns a focus on one’s actual or perceived entitlement(s) in a situation. Restated, this approach focuses on perceived fairness. The individual negotiator seeks primarily to secure value in the negotiation commensurate with what she believes she deserves or to which she is are entitled. Rights-based negotiators apply standards of fairness, terms of agreement, legal rights, precedent (prior courses of action), or expectations based upon norms (such as societal or cultural norms) to an analysis of the negotiation scenario to determine what they deserve. Tactics associated with this motivation include attempting to convince the other party through logic or recognition of the sources of individual rights.

• Power-based Motivation – This concerns a focus on what you are able to coerce out of the other party. It focuses on belief in one’s own ability to use power to overcome the will of the other party. This is primarily a competitive disposition in which a negotiator simply tries to win or beat the other party. Power-based negotiators use tactics related to status, rank, threats, intimidation, or other power tactics to affect the other party or the situation in pursuit of their objectives.

⁃ Note: While power may be the motivating force behind a individual’s decision to negotiate, the possession of power is always a defining dynamic in any negotiation. In a subsequent section, we discuss the role of power in one’s strategic orientation.

Generally, a skilled negotiator assumes an interest-based strategy in negotiations; though, interest-based and power-based motivations can be effective in limited situations. A rights-based approach is appropriate when a party fails to fully understand the mechanism for resolving conflicts and rules at play in the negotiation. A power-based approach is most appropriate when the other party refuses to come to the table or when negotiations have broken down and parties are at an impasse; when the other party needs to know you have power or when someone violates a rule or commonality of understanding. It can also be used to effectuate social change (such as repositioning one’s self) in the relationship. Used correctly, a power-based approach can be extremely effective.

• Note: Even when employing a rights or power-based approach, use of coercion should generally relate to the other party’s interests. The rights or power involved should be clear and transparent, and any threat of power should be credible. Be careful not to allow these approaches to destroy relationships.

• Discussion: Can you think of motivations in a negotiation that do not fit within these categories? Do you see any relationship between rights-based and power-based negotiation? How do you think the motivation in the orientation affects the strategic orientation that a negotiator chooses?

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