Ethics In Negotiation


Since a real-world model for ethics in negotiations doesn’t exist (yet), there is a lot of room for ethical ambiguity that can be easily exploited.  Since negotiation is an essential part of life, understanding the norms of ethics and negotiation can be incredibly useful when you are negotiating for yourself on behalf of someone else. Whether you’re negotiating your salary at work, a contract with a vendor, or even deciding on where to eat for dinner with your friends, negotiation plays a key role in many interactions we have on a daily basis.

While getting what you want out of a negotiation is always the ideal outcome, it’s important to do so in an ethical and responsible manner. Unethical behavior and negotiation strategies can have legal consequences and damage relationships.

In this post, we’ll explore the concept of ethical standards in negotiation and discuss some best practices to ensure you’re approaching your negotiations in a responsible and respectful way.

Negotiation Ethics: What Is Ethical Behavior?

First, let’s define what we mean by ethics. Ethics can be defined as a set of principles that govern behavior and decision-making.

When we talk about ethics in negotiation, we’re referring to the principles that should guide our behavior and decision-making when attempting to reach a negotiated agreement with someone else.

While the exact principles may vary depending on the situation or negotiation context, some common themes include honesty, respect, fairness, and responsibility.


One of the most important ethical considerations in negotiation is honesty. It’s essential, to be honest about your goals, intentions, and limitations when coming to the bargaining table.

This means not making false claims or promises, withholding information, or using manipulative tactics to get what you want.

While there might be a significant temptation to stretch the truth or hide certain information to gain an advantage, doing so is not only unethical but can also damage your credibility and reputation in the long run.

Ultimately, negotiating in good faith and being honest about your interests and limitations is the most effective way to build trust and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.


Another important ethical consideration in negotiation is respect. This means treating the other party with dignity and showing consideration for their needs and interests.

Even if you fundamentally disagree with the other party or find their position unreasonable, it’s important to approach the negotiation with an open mind and a willingness to listen and understand their perspective.

Disrespectful behavior, such as shouting, insulting, or belittling the other party, can quickly escalate the situation and make it impossible to reach a resolution that satisfies both sides.

Instead, try to approach the negotiation with empathy and respect even if you don’t agree with everything the other party says.


Fairness is also a key ethical consideration in negotiation. Negotiations should be conducted in a way that is fair to both parties and takes into account the interests and limitations of each side.

This means avoiding tactics that are designed to take advantage of the other party or unfairly shift the balance of power.

Some common examples of unethical behaviors and negotiation tactics include making extreme demands, failing to acknowledge or address the other party’s concerns, or using threats or ultimatums to force compliance.

Instead, try to approach the negotiation with a focus on finding common ground and working together to reach a solution that benefits both parties.


Finally, responsibility is an important ethical consideration in negotiation. This means taking responsibility for your actions and the impact they have on others.

While it’s important to be assertive and advocate for your needs and interests, doing so should never come at the expense of the other party or result in harm to them or anyone else.

It’s also important to be aware of the broader impact of the negotiation and consider the implications for other stakeholders, such as customers, employees, or the community.

Ultimately, negotiating responsibly means recognizing that you have a duty not only to yourself but also to the other party and the wider community.

Ethical Negotiation Best Practices

So, how can you ensure that you’re negotiating in an ethical and responsible manner? Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be prepared: Before entering into a negotiation, take the time to clearly define your goals, interests, and limitations. This will help you avoid making false claims or promises and allow you to negotiate with confidence.
  • Listen actively: Approach the negotiation with an open mind and a willingness to listen and understand the other party’s perspective. Active listening can help build trust and foster a more collaborative negotiation process.
  • Be honest: Avoid making false claims or promises, and be transparent about your interests and limitations. Honesty is essential for building trust and reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.
  • Treat the other party with respect: Show respect for the other party’s needs and interests, even if you disagree with them. Avoid disrespectful behavior and focus on finding common ground and working together towards a solution.
  • Be fair: Conduct the negotiation in a way that is fair to both parties and avoids unfair negotiation tactics such as extreme demands or ultimatums.
  • Take responsibility: Recognize that you have a responsibility not only to yourself but also to the other party and the wider community. Consider the broader impact of the negotiation and take steps to minimize harm to others.

Final Thoughts

Ethics in negotiation is an important concept that should guide our behavior and decision-making when attempting to reach an agreement with someone else.

Honesty, respect, fairness, and responsibility are some of the key ethical considerations that should be kept in mind when negotiating.

By following best practices such as active listening, honesty, and respect for the other party, we can negotiate in an ethical and responsible manner that builds trust, fosters collaboration, and leads to mutually beneficial outcomes.

It’s important to note that the concept of ethics in negotiation is not always straightforward. In some cases, there may be tension between different ethical considerations or difficulty in determining what is fair or responsible in a given situation.

For example, while it’s important, to be honest, and transparent in a negotiation, there may be certain situations where revealing all of your interests and limitations could put you at a significant disadvantage.

Similarly, while it’s important to be fair to both parties, determining what constitutes fairness can be difficult when there is a power imbalance between the negotiating parties.

In these situations, it can be helpful to seek out the advice of a third party or mediator who can provide an objective perspective and help facilitate a more balanced negotiation process.

Mediation can be particularly effective in situations where there is a high degree of conflict or where the parties have very different perspectives or interests. By working with a mediator, you can ensure that the negotiation process is structured in a way that is fair, transparent, and respectful to both parties.

Ultimately, ethics in negotiation is about approaching the negotiation process with a mindset of collaboration, respect, and responsibility.

By focusing on building trust, finding common ground, and working towards a solution that benefits both parties, you can negotiate in a way that is not only ethical but also effective.

If you want to learn more about ethical negotiation, mediation, or alternative dispute resolution, contact ADR Times for educational resources and courses.


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