Is Bluffing During Negotiations Unethical?
Business practises' produces the ethical dilemma of bluffing negotiation tactics. As with any philosophical question about moralities there are two sides of the argument, one side arguing that it is ethical to bluff during negotiations and another side arguing that it is not ethical. Arguing on the side of yes it is moral to bluff in certain situations during negotiations is the University of California’s ethical philosopher Fritz Allhoff with her unique position. Also in support of gray area of bluffing during negotiations is James Lawrence providing legal guidelines supporting negotiators barging for their best interest. Finnally, Murrmann, also contributes to the argument in support of the bluffing negotiators. On the other side of the debate, is ethical scholar Chris Provis’s detailed examination of the moral implication of bluffing during labor negotiations, arguing that bluffing during labor negotiations is immoral.
The ethical debate on buffing during negotiations became a popular discussion after an article published in 1968. The Harvard Business Review published the article “Is Business Bluffing Ethical?” written by Albert Carr. Carr’s opinion is that bluffing in business is a strategy. The article compares business with poker and differentiates business with ethics of morality and religion (Provis, C., 2000, p.145).
Using deceit or misleading information to gain leverage during negotiations is not ethical. Provis bases his argument on the importance of trust in business relationships. He believes that bluffing during negotiations causes a negative atmosphere for business (Provis, C., 2000, p.145-158). Provis builds his argument on a relationship standpoint. Using deceitful and misleading communication creates a negative relationship that reduces business productivity.
Bluffing During Negotiations is Ethical
Bluffing during negotiations has become the norm in many industries. Alhoff introduces her argument with a familiar scenario about the used car salesman negotiation. The used car buyer insists on a low price. Then the used car, salesman insists on a higher price. Both parties are bluffing to try to barter the best deal for their economic position. Finally, when the negotiations close both parties settle at a price somewhere between the two breaking points (Allhoff, F., 2003, p. 283-289).
James Lawrence describes the three types of lying as outright lies, misleading or incomplete statements and lying by omission. Laurence also explains the best ethical practises as observed by a law practitioner (Lawrence, J., 2014, p. 35-58). Lawrence also provides guidelines in each of the three categories of lying that demonstrate the difference between lying and bluffing. Bluffing allows negotiators to put their best foot forward and encourages negotiations.
Alhoff also mentions on key decision making point in the ethical issue of bluffing during negotiations. If information is not relevant to the negotiation is it deceitful to omit the non-relevant information?
After an examination both sides of the bluffing during negotiations dilemma I have come to form my opinion that in certain situations bluffing is the morally right thing to do. Is it deceitful to put your best foot forward in order to gain economically?
In situations where bargaining is the business norm, it is expected that I bluff about my breaking point in order to negotiate. During negotiations it is expected that I can give or reduce my expectations. In order to be able to give and offer flexibility during negotiations I am required to bluff when setting my initial breaking point. Bluffing during negotiations has become a societal norm.
Alhoff carefully described the difference between bluffing and deceit during business negotiations. Bluffing about a price you want and lying about your credit are two very different situations. Bluffing allows a negotiator to put their best foot forward. There is a clear difference between bluffing and deceit.
My conclusion is that bluffing during negotiations is not unethical. Bluffing during negotiations encourages critical thinking, collaboration and negotiations that create the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Bluffing encourages critical thinking and deeper communication in order for both parties to benefit from an agreement. Bluffing during negotiations encourages negotiators to critically examine the offer being negotiated. Bluffing is the backbone of negotiation and the societal norm in North America. I have learnt that there is a great deal of value behind the analogy of business negotiations and games. Bluffing is just part of how the game of business negotiations is played. Applying a greater good theory to examine the ethical dilemma of bluffing during negotiations determines that bluffing is an ethical business practise. The greatest good comes from negotiations that have been critically examined by all negotiators. If people never bluffed during negotiations there would be no need for critical thinking. It is my opinion that bluffing during negotiations serves the greatest good for all parties; by encouraging critical thinking and collaboration bluffing during negotiations creates the best possible outcome.
Allhoff, F., (2003). Business Bluffing Reconsidered. Journal of Business Ethics 45(4), 283-289.
Carson, T. L., Wokutch, R. E., & Murrmann, K. F. (1982). Bluffing in Labor Negotiations: Legal and Ethical Issues. Journal Of Business Ethics, 1(1), 13-22.
Lawrence, J. L. (2014). Lying, Misrepresenting, Puffing and Bluffing: Legal, Ethical and Professional Standards for Negotiators and Mediation Advocates. Ohio State Journal On Dispute Resolution, 29(1), 35-58.
Provis, C., (2000). Ethics, Deception and Labor Negotiation. Journal of Business Ethics. 28(4), 145-158.