May 2016 | Negotiation & Persuasion
We often think of them in terms of governments and unions: small groups of sometimes unlikely partners join together as a coalition to exert bargaining power over a more formidable adversary. Politicians, laborers, and even college professors make headlines when they use coalitions effectively.
But when it comes to corporate negotiations, this powerful tool is often neglected. “Coalitions can play an important role in many negotiations,” says Wharton professor Cade Massey, “but even seasoned negotiators rarely think to use them.” Massey, who teaches in Wharton’s week-long Executive Negotiation Workshop: Bargaining for Advantage®, explains that it’s not surprising since the topic is mostly overlooked in negotiation literature and research. “Coalitions don’t get talked about or written about enough, but they can strongly influence outcomes. In the program, we offer concrete prescriptions for using coalitions more productively, and participants have many opportunities to practice with a diverse group of peers. They’re relevant to so many negotiations that you need to be thinking about it all the time.”
Specifically, Massey explains four ways to create and use coalitions the next time you’re preparing for a negotiation:
Ultimately, Massey says if you don’t do the groundwork, you won’t have a coalition — and you’ll be at a disadvantage. “You should ideally be sitting at the table with two or three coalitional partners in the room. If you’re not, be aware that other people are. If you think no one has talked about the issues behind the scenes and formed coalitions, you are already behind.”
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