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Donald E. Conlon, Robin L. Pinkley and John E. Sawyer

Although the negotiation literature highlights how useful a “real” BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement) can be in negotiations, there are also a variety of situations where negotiators rely on uncertain, probabilistic, or outright imaginary alternatives and act in negotiations as if these alternatives actually exist. In this chapter, we introduce the concept of a “phantom BATNA” which we define as an alternative with an uncertain likelihood of ever becoming concrete or “real.” We develop a taxonomy of such BATNAs in terms of their availability (certain versus uncertain) and their probability (ranging from 0% to 100%), and propose that the form of a phantom BATNA and the way in which one presents such information can lead both the possessor of the BATNA and their opponent/partner in negotiation to see the holder of such a BATNA as more or less empowered. We discuss how the same BATNA information can be presented or communicated in two different ways—in terms of frequencies and in terms of percentages—and argue that the decision to cue people in terms of frequencies versus percentages can influence judgments of power in negotiation, and more importantly, influence the outcomes of negotiation. Finally, we discuss some ways to mitigate the potentially deleterious effects on outcomes that can result when opponents overplay their relative power position in negotiations.