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Good Cop, Bad Cop - Right Not To Remain Silent

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07/16/2013 10:32 AM

To continue with the discussion of hardball negotiation tactics and strategies to combat them, we move to the hardball tactic of Good Cop, Bad Cop.  We have seen voluminous examples of this from Hollywood, TV shows and movies from Saturday Night Live skits to current movies (The Heat) [and of course Will Ferrell in "The Other Guys" with his spin:  Bad Cop, Bad Cop].  The Slate put together a great "Supercut" if you like visual examples.

In Good Cop, Bad Cop two or more negotiators take one of each role.  The "Good Cop" takes a sympathetic approached to the negotiations, acts like your friend and act as if they want to help you (even to the extreme of defending you to the Bad Cop).  The "Bad Cop" acts aggressive, negative, and sometimes even derogatory.  The goal is to entice the other side to make additional concessions that would normally not be made by striking fear from the Bad Cop and presenting a more trustworthy or a reasonable negotiation partner (who can save you from the Bad Cop) in the Good Cop.  Each "Cop" may negotiate at the same time or they may do so separately.  Separate negotiations sends the signal that the parties are trying to get you to provide more information to the Good Cop that you may not be willing to disclose in a typical negotiation.

So how to combat the Good Cop, Bad Cop scenario?  Perhaps the best strategy is to either #2 Ignore or #3 Identify, and then follow by #12 Add or Change Players.  Finding a way to change the players is the most effective part, though often hard to do.  To change a player on the other side, you need a reason for them to be dismissed.  Possible options are asking what each "Cops" role is in the decision making process and if one or both are not necessary to the negotiation.  Then assertively insist that negotiations are only with the true decision makers and the other(s) need to be dismissed if negotiations are to continue.  Additionally, requesting to only negotiate with one of the "Cops" may help, perhaps throw them off by requesting only to speak to the "Bad Cop".  This diffuses the incentive of the Bad Cop to be demeaning and overly aggressive because the Good Cop cannot act to minimize the Bad Cop's negative actions.  If both Cops are important decision makers, then the best strategy may be to add in your own Bad Cop to the situation and #1 Fight Fire with Fire.  Also, adding more decision makers on the "Cops" side diminishes the effect of the strategy.

The Ignore strategy is perhaps the best to get you to the Change Players approach, and is also more sly.  However, the Identify approach is also helpful in the right situation.  Especially if both "Cops" are the only decision makers in the process, by identifying the strategy the strong message is sent that the tactic will not work.  Simply state, "I see you are the Good Cop, and you are the Bad Cop."  From there attempt to change players or try another strategy such as #5 Kill with Kindness, #6 Laugh It Off, or #7 Call Time-Out then follow with #9 Stay Strong or #11 Negotiate a New Process.    Particularly in the scenario where the Good and Bad Cop are the final joint decision makers, finishing with staying strong and reiterating you are looking for an integrative negotiation or stating that you will not negotiate as long as they employ the tactic and so you will only negotiate when the tactic has ceased (#11)  tend to be the go-to options.  However, like all suggestions, when to use which strategy is best controlled by the situation and how well you know the parties and how they will react.

Have any Good Cop, Bad Cop stories?  Let us know in the comments.

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