IPMA International Project Management Association
18 December 2017 / 8:30

Diversity in negotiation

Negotiation is the process between two or more parties that aims to balance different interests, needs and expectations in order to reach a common agreement and commitment while maintaining a positive working relationship (IPMA ICB4, 2015). Diversity in negotiation occurs in types of negotiation, skills and tactics – where culture is main factor that makes difference.

The word “negotiation” originated in the early 15th century from the Old French and Latin expressions “negociacion” and “negotiationem”. These terms mean “business, trade and traffic”. By the late 1590s negotiation had the definition, “to communicate in search of mutual agreement.” With this new introduction and this meaning, it showed a shift in “doing business” to “bargaining about” business.

Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issues. This beneficial outcome can be for all of the parties involved, or just for one or some of them. Due to globalization and growing business trends, negotiation in the form of teams is becoming widely adopted. Teams can effectively collaborate to break down a complex negotiation. There is more knowledge and wisdom dispersed in a team than in a single mind. Writing, listening, and talking, are specific roles team members must satisfy. The capacity base of a team reduces the amount of blunder, and increases familiarity in a negotiation (Sparks, 1993). Acording to IPMA ICB4 standard, negotiation is a competence related to people and describes how to reach results that are both in the interest of the project, programme or portfolio an acceptable to other parties.

According to Forsyth (2010) there are 3 types of negotiators. This three basic kinds of negotiators have been identified by researchers involved in The Harvard Negotiation Project. These types of negotiators are: soft bargainers, hard bargainers, and principled bargainers.


These people see negotiation as too close to competition, so they choose a gentle style of bargaining. The offers they make are not in their best interests, they yield to others’ demands, avoid confrontation, and they maintain good relations with fellow negotiators. Their perception of others is one of friendship, and their goal is agreement. They do not separate the people from the problem, but are soft on both. They avoid contests of wills and insist on agreement, offering solutions and easily trusting others and changing their opinions.


These people use contentious strategies to influence, utilizing phrases such as “this is my final offer” and “take it or leave it.” They make threats, are distrustful of others, insist on their position, and apply pressure to negotiate. They see others as adversaries and their ultimate goal is victory. Additionally, they search for one single answer, and insist you agree on it. They do not separate the people from the problem (as with soft bargainers), but they are hard on both the people involved and the problem.


Individuals who bargain this way seek integrative solutions, and do so by sidestepping commitment to specific positions. They focus on the problem rather than the intentions, motives, and needs of the people involved. They separate the people from the problem, explore interests, avoid bottom lines, and reach results based on standards independent of personal will. They base their choices on objective criteria rather than power, pressure, self-interest, or an arbitrary decisional procedure. These criteria may be drawn from moral standards, principles of fairness, professional standards, and tradition.

Researchers from The Harvard Negotiation Project recommend that negotiators explore a number of alternatives to the problems they face in order to reach the best solution, but this is often not the case (as when you may be dealing with an individual using soft or hard bargaining tactics) (Forsyth, 2010).

IPMA ICB4 standard (2015) advises following negotiation skills to be adopted by project managers for successful negotiation:

  • Identification of desired outcomes
  • Assertiveness and drive to reach desired outcomes
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Persuasion
  • Establishing and maintaining trust and positive working relationship

Project managers need to apply negotiation skills throughout the project life cycle. Early on in a project, as requirements are being captured and initial plans produced, the project manager may need to balance the time, cost, quality and scope requirements of the project and negotiate with stakeholders. As resources are mobilised or procured, the project manager will need to negotiate internally with line managers who ‘own’ the resources and conduct more formal contract negotiations with potential providers. As the project progresses, conflicts will arise. The project manager will need to negotiate solutions to conflicts, whether they are informal or contractual. In some environments, there may be specialist support available. It is important for project managers to know when to ask for help from, for example, the HR or legal departments within the host organisation.


Forsyth, D. R. (2010) Group Dynamics, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Negotiation Etymology, Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved May 11, 2014.

Sparks, D. B. (1993) The Dynamics of Effective Negotiation(second edition). Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.




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Sandra Misic

Author of this post

Sandra currently works as Assistant to the IPMA President and Executive Director. Since joining IPMA in 2012, Sandra worked in FMCG sector for Procter&Gamble. She holds Master in Economics from Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. After graduation she continued at the same University the doctoral programme in Business Economics. Her particular research interest is behavioral economics.