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What are ethics in negotiations?

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What are ethics and how are they implicated in negotiations?

Ethics are broadly applied social standards for what is right or wrong in a particular situation, or a process for setting those standards. Ethics grow out of particular philosophies, which purport to define the nature of the world in which we live, and prescribe rules for living together. Discussion of business ethics frequently confuse the following terms:

  • Ethical – defined as what is appropriate as determined by some standard of moral conduct.
  • Prudent – wise, based on trying to understand the efficacy of the tactic and the consequences it might have on the relationship with the other.
  • Practical – what a negotiator can actually make happen in a given situation.
  • Legal – what the law defines as acceptable practice.

People in and out of organizations are routinely confronted with important decisions about the strategies they will use to achieve important objectives, particularly when a variety of influence tactics are open to them. These decisions frequently carry ethical implications. The major ethical questions that arise in negotiation can be worked out through consideration of these questions:

  • What are ethics and why do they apply to negotiation?
  • What questions of ethical conduct are likely to arise in negotiation?
  • What motivates unethical behavior, and what are the consequences?
  • How can negotiators deal with the other party’s use of deception?

Commonly understood approaches to ethical reasoning include:

  • End-Result ethics The moral rightness of an action is determined by considering its consequences. This is commonly referred to as “the end justifies the means”.
  • Duty ethics – This views ethics as resulting from the rules in place or applicable to the individual or situation.
  • Social Contract ethicsThe moral rightness of an action is determined by the customs and norms of a particular society or community.
  • Personalistic ethicsThe moral rightness of an action is determined by conscience.

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