Ethics and Negotiation: Choosing the Right Person

Ethics and Negotiation: Choosing the Right Person for the Job Encouraging ethical negotiations is at the heart of Gazi Islam's latest work. The professor, from Grenoble Ecole de Management, delves into this topic in order to help us understand how to avoid questionable practices, such as manipulation and retaliation, during future business talks. The results of his work to understand how to achieve open and honest negotiations is based on two psychological factors: trusting your counterpart and competitiveness.


To better understand the behavior of negotiators, Gazi Islam and other researchers studied 298 Brazilian professionals. Participants in the study were preparing an MBA and averaged 36 years of age. The goal was to understand the use of "questionable practices" such as pressuring your counterparts, obtaining information fraudulently and reaching your goal by any means necessary. "We didn't want to focus on the morality angle, instead we focused on understanding these questionable practices and how people react to them. We approached the question using two psychological factors, trusting your counterpart and having a competitive personality." explains Gazi Islam.

More trust and less competitiveness

The study demonstrated that the more negotiators put trust in their counterparts, the more severely they would judge unethical behavior. On the other hand, more competitive players, who are focused on winning, take such behavior for granted. In this case, "When the end justifies the means, a negotiator has no misgivings about using questionable practices." adds Gazi Islam. When negotiators place their trust in a partner however, they help establish a less aggressive relationship by assuming the opposing party will also follow ethical rules.

Understanding the context

Personality is not the only factor. "The context also has a strong influence. Thus when a negotiation is tense or when one party is not in a position of strength, there will be a tendency to use more questionable practices." observes Gazi Islam.

Achieving ethical negotiations: a balancing act

"If the personality of an 'ethical' collaborator was enough to guarantee non-aggressive negotiations, then it would simply be a question of choosing the right person. On the other hand, if the context was enough to control the situation, it would simply be a managerial issue. However, it is in fact the combination of these two that allows for the best chance at ethical negotiations." concludes Gazi Islam. In other words, to successfully choose the right negotiator for a given situation, managers have to weigh all the factors that influence a particular situation.

One conclusive fact we can take away from this study is the clear indication that if an individual admits to a willingness to use unethical practices, then they consider these practices to be in fact "normal." Therefore, overcoming such behavior first requires us to change the mentalities of potential negotiators.