Jul 22, 2020

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Negotiating for Success: The Difference Between Integrative and Distributive Negotiation

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Negotiation in business is essential to achieving organisational goals. The strategies applied can determine whether you achieve success, or fail. Explore the different types of negotiation styles and learn to apply the correct techniques to the appropriate situation.

Distributive negotiation

This negotiation strategy is often called the ‘fixed pie strategy’, because its approach is underpinned by the assumption that there are finite resources that need to be split amongst the negotiators.1 In other words, one wins and everyone else loses, making each negotiating party view every other participant as an opponent. This highly individualistic approach to negotiation reasons that the smartest and strongest opponent wins, and the less diligent, weaker party deserves their result.2 Every party tries to win a bigger portion of the limited resource by asserting themselves as superior, and by playing to their strengths based on the known weaknesses of the other party or parties. Ultimately, this strategy entails negotiating in a defensive and guarded manner, in order to not ‘lose’ too much of the ‘fixed pie’.

Integrative negotiation

In contrast to the distributive negotiation strategy, the integrative negotiation strategy involves a mutually beneficial approach to negotiations, looking for results that are agreeable for all the negotiating parties.3 This kind of negotiation seeks to create value, rather than claim it.4 The negotiators do not emphasise how much they will receive as an individual party; instead all endeavours are focused on increasing the overall outcome through cooperation between all parties. This strategy is built on values that foster the common interests and collaboration of all involved, where each party walks away with potentially more than they would get if they fought against each other. Integrative negotiation strategies only work when fair procedures are applied, leading to fair results.5 This often means that those who come to the negotiation table do so with a mindset of the participants being partners and collaborators, as opposed to adversaries.

Key differences between the types of negotiation

Distributive and integrative negotiation strategies differ vastly from each other, and assume different sets of values, purposes, and outcomes. The main differences between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies are summarised below:6

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When to use the different negotiation techniques

Considering the vastly different approaches and outcomes of these two negotiation strategies, knowing when to select the appropriate strategy will stand you in good stead.

  • Distributive negotiation is best applied when:
    • There are advantages on your side that place you in a strong bargaining position
    • The bargaining resource is limited
    • There is no relationship with the negotiators, and it is a one-off scenario
  • Integrative negotiation works in situations where:
    • Your bargaining position is not strong and you still wish to gain something from the negotiation
    • The bargaining resource is unlimited
    • It’s a priority to maintain a healthy relationship with those involved in the negotiations

The outcome of any negotiation depends entirely on the approach and strategies selected. Understanding the difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies will help you make the right move before you reach the negotiation table.

  • 1 (Jun, 2020). ‘Negotiation types’. Retrieved from Negotiation Experts.
  • 2 Johnson, W. (Sep, 2017). ‘Difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies’. Retrieved from BizFluent.
  • 3 Surbhi, S. (Sep, 2017). ‘Difference between distributive negotiation and integrative negotiation’. Retrieved from Key Differences.
  • 4 Johnson, W. (Sep, 2017). ‘Difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies’. Retrieved from BizFluent.
  • 5 Johnson, W. (Sep, 2017). ‘Difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies’. Retrieved from BizFluent.
  • 6 Surbhi, S. (Sep, 2017). ‘Difference between distributive negotiation and integrative negotiation’. Retrieved from Key Differences.

Filed under: Business & management