Determining Ethical Behavior in Negotiations

Cite this article as:"Determining Ethical Behavior in Negotiations," in The Business Professor, updated October 22, 2017, last accessed July 4, 2020,

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How can negotiators determine and calibrate ethical behavior?

When evaluating whether negotiation strategies and tactics are ethical, begin by assessing the economic, legal, and equitable influences on the decision:

  • Determine the economic outcomes of potential courses of action.
  • Consider the legal requirements that bear on the situation.
  • Assess the ethical obligations to other involved parties regarding what is “right and ‘just and fair”.

Once you have a thorough understanding of the economic, legal, and equitable influences, choose a course of action based upon:

  • the results you expect to achieve;
  • your duty to uphold appropriate rules and principles;
  • the norms, values, and strategy of your organization or community; and
  • your personal convictions.

The following approaches (questions) can be used to gauge whether a course of action is ethical.

    • The Front-Page testHow would I feel if the course of action I am considering were reported on the front page of the local newspaper or blog?
    • Reverse Golden RuleHow would you feel if the party did to you what you are thinking about doing to them; putting yourself in their shoes?
    • Role modelingWould you be proud about other people looking up to you? Would I advise others to do this?
    • Third-party advice – What is the opinion of a neutral third party regarding whether the action is ethical? Do not tell them what side your on.

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