Dealing with dirty negotiation tricks: ‘take-it-or-leave-it’

Dirty negotiation tricks – we don’t recommend you use them but it is important to be able to deal with them, and protect yourself, when you’re up against them.

In our last post, we covered the good cop / bad cop approach. Now let’s explore the age-old ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ tactic.

The final offer…

You may have experienced this tactic in multiple forms. Some bold negotiators start with it, describing their initial proposal as their ‘first and final’ offer. More commonly though, it’s rather more subtle: after extensive back-and-forth discussion, your counterpart may indicate that if you don’t accept their last offer, they’ll end the negotiation and the deal will be off the table.

Whichever way it presents, if you’re not ready for it, it can knock you off balance, enable your counterpart to leverage your lack of confidence, and tempt you to accept their offer – even if the offer doesn’t meet your needs.
So what should you do?

Diagnose Interests – and develop options

Thankfully, there are many ways to manage a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ negotiation situation.

Some are high-risk – like calling their bluff or threatening to walk to your alternatives. While they sometimes work, they run the risk of blowing the negotiation ‘out of the water’.

Before you try one of those more risky strategies, start by simply trying to diagnose their interests – that is, their underlying needs and concerns – and then seek to jointly develop options.

In other words, you should try to diagnose why they’re resisting further negotiation. If they’re digging their heels in around a particular issue, it must mean that there are some interests that remain unmet – otherwise they’d agree with your proposal. So the key is to uncover those underlying interests and motivations.

Suppose your boss rejects your request for a raise, saying: “Here’s our offer – take it or leave it.” You should ask ‘why’ they can’t give you a raise. Maybe it’s due to their limited budget. Maybe it’s due to your performance. Whatever the reason, once you get your answer, you can look for options that address their concerns.

If the reason is based on budget, for instance, you can ask when the budget will open up or whether there are some non-financial benefits they might be willing to consider (time off, shorter hours…. ). If the reason is based on performance, discuss what it will take to earn that raise. While you might not find a solution in every case, you’ll be surprised at how often you can find options once you know what’s driving your counterpart to dig their heels in and say no.

To give yourself the best chance of a negotiation outcome that you’re more than happy with, start with a solid plan. Try our free Harvard-based negotiation planner here to get started. To learn more about interest based negotiation, we recommend the book “Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury.”

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