Ethical Negotiations: A Trust-Building Approach to International Negotiations

Ethical Negotiations: A Trust-Building Approach to International Negotiations

Francisco A. Espinoza (ITESM, Monterrey, Mexico) and Norma E. Velasco (ITESM, Monterrey, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/IJRLEDM.2019010102

Abstract

Negotiators assess the trust-worthiness of their counterparts in a variety of ways. One way is to define the integrity of a negotiation by how much buyers or sellers can be trusted: “Are they lying? Do they overpromise or under-deliver?” Despite this initial assessment, negotiators cannot accurately predict business outcomes, such as actual risks, quality or satisfaction with end products/services. Therefore, trust is a key element to facilitate the negotiation process in the early stages of deliberation. In this chapter, we will explore the application of ethical values as a trust-building formula to aid in international negotiations. Furthermore, we propose a role-based, trust-building, ethical approach tailored to the negotiator's needs. Only within an ethical framework, can trust become the cornerstone of a relationship that will genuinely service both negotiating parties and society.
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Introduction

Trust-building strategies are key elements for successful international negotiations. Nevertheless, they are a double-edged sword for negotiators when an ethical perspective in business is overlooked. The popular animal fable, “The Scorpion and the Frog”, reminds us of the importance of trust-building in negotiations:

A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, both would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog then agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature. (Ellis, 2015).

Similarly, there are many real examples of negotiators taking advantage of their counterparts in business and personal situations, even at the expense of both parties. In fact, many studies have reported questionable or unethical behavior in negotiations (Shapiro, 2005; Coleman, 2014), suggesting that bad practices are not restricted to one counterpart, and both parties sometimes seek advantage by such means. When negotiators consciously want to build trust and act ethically, they might fear that their counterparts won't behave the same way (Menkel-Meadow, 2004). Hence, trust is a very important element for negotiation success, as it involves an interdependent relation between buyer and seller (Eftimie, 2012).

This article explores a role-based ethical approach applied to international negotiations in order to build trust. The intricacies of preparation, information flow, explicit bargaining, and the techniques and commitment of a negotiation are beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we focus on the implied ethical issues that all negotiators face when achieving a trustworthy negotiation. First, we will introduce core concepts and roles of negotiators; and explain ethical values as a trust-building formula to enhance the buyer-seller relationship. We will discuss how role-based ethics can help negotiators, and how trust-building within an ethical framework enhances the validity and effect of international negotiations.

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Ethical Trust-Building In International Negotiations

Trust-building is a complex process, both inside and outside a business setting, and it demands challenging capabilities of a negotiator as an individual and professional. Consequently, we need to define at least three components for ethical trust-building in international negotiations: Negotiators, Ethics and Trust.

First, negotiators need to assess the trust-worthiness of their counterparts in a variety of ways. One way is to define the integrity of a negotiation by how much buyers or sellers can be trusted: “Are they lying? Do they overpromise or under-deliver?” In these situations, both parties have freely agreed to respect and treat each other as autonomous and capable of pursuing their own ends. This is a clear example of a principle-based ethical tradition, implicit in any kind of agreement, including international negotiations where buyers and sellers cannot be simply treated as a mean to an end. Therefore, negotiators orchestrate a negotiation process considering different interests or perspectives from all parties and attempt to reach a voluntary agreement.

Given that different interests or perspectives can obstruct the negotiating process, ethics should maintain a genuine commitment to all parties towards a prima facie sale or purchase. Here, the Pareto-optimum criterion holds that there is no better solution than the one that provides higher utility without harming either negotiating party. However, because negotiators often face uncertainty about the other party's goals and intentions, only an ethical framework will allow an efficient agreement that can increase either counterpart's utility without diminishing the utility of the other (Neves, 2011).

Trust is the cornerstone necessary to achieve efficient agreements. In today's world, not everyone recognizes the intrinsic value of trust, and negotiators must be prepared to determine what trust means to themselves and others (Table 1). For example, if trust is associated with credibility, then both parties should validate their credibility over time and keep their promises. If confidentiality is the concern, then they should validate how their businesses manage non-disclosure information on both sides.

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