In his book Bargaining with the Devil, Harvard Professor Richard Mnookin probes the challenges and options available when negotiating with “a devil” – anyone you perceive as a harmful adversary.

“The devil” is usually a traditional “power-based” negotiator who is win/lose orientated, adopts extreme positions, makes small concessions, and uses threats as a key tactic to enhance negotiating leverage. Sound familiar?

Power or “positional-based” negotiations have dominated Australian workplace relations and remain a feature of enterprise bargaining – in a system which, to be fair, legitimises the threat and reality of industrial action.

By contrast “interest-based” negotiations, whilst not new, are rarely seen in pure form in the Australian IR landscape. Interest-based negotiations see the parties identify underlying interests and work collaboratively to formulate solutions. To its credit, the Fair Work Commission is adopting interest-based dispute resolution techniques and is inviting employers and unions to give it a try.

But assuming you are bargaining with “the devil”, what can an employer do to enhance its control over the negotiation? How does it improve its capacity to walk away from the negotiation? How do you deal with the typical power-based tactics?