Negotiation: Engagement Styles (Part 1)

Norb Slowikowski / April 2017

In last month’s article, I presented a point of view describing the three basic dimensions of personality: social, emotional and cognitive. Each personality dimension described a personal orientation that affects the way a person deals with potential conflict.
In the next two SuperVision articles, I will cover the different engagement styles of negotiation. There are low engagement styles and high engagement styles. We will start with low engagement negotiation styles.
The low engagement style involves four types: compromise, rob, accommodate and withdraw.

This style is a push to reach a reasonable resolution. It follows the idea of “split the difference”—getting half is better than none. In this situation, each party gives up something of relatively equivalent value. A compromise works best when each party agrees to use the style for a quick resolution. It is based on a basic acceptance of the current conflict and a deep desire to solve the issues rather than keep the conflict alive.
Key factors of this style include the following:
    •    Quick resolution.
    •    A “fallback” position.
    •    Avoid engagement in a potential negotiation.

This involves the use of high-pressure tactics, which may be unethical. One party dominates the discussion and forces the other side into agreement by offering something that appears to be beneficial in the short-term but ultimately is only good for the person who is dominating the session. The robber does not have a problem with applying pressure to make the other party agree to what is clearly an unfair outcome.
Key factors of this type include the following:
    •    Unfair outaccome/Appears fair.
    •    High pressure tactics.
    •    A “perceived” reward.

This mode forces a rapid capitulation to the demands of the other party. The accommodator doesn’t care about the outcome or the issues at hand, but does care about the relationship over the long term. The person employing this style often loses any perceived power and comes to be ignored by other parties, often until a loss of respect occurs. Not only does the accommodator care about the relationship with the other party, this person also wants to avoid the highly interactive context of a true negotiation.
Key factors of this low engagement style include the following:
    •    Classic “cave-in” approach.
    •    Signals weakness.
    •    Sets up other party to take advantage of the situation.

A withdrawal happens when one party literally walks away from the negotiating process. The person in charge of one side of the negotiation sacrifices personal interests in addition to the reason why they are meeting as well as the interests and needs of the other party. The party who engages in withdrawal feels that the negotiation session is not worth the time and trouble and as a result, it ends in failure—a lose/lose outcome. Or, it can be used as a stalling tactic to gather more information for the next session.
Key factors of this style include the following:
    •    Short-term strategy—costs occur to both sides.
    •    Fallback position—not prepared.
    •    Could be a good temporary solution.
    •    May abandon their position.
This is a good beginning of all the ways one can act in a negotiation or conflict situation. Next month, we will finish the list and delve into high engagement negotiation styles.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email