Deliberately planting false information in a negotiation to mislead the other party is unethical. The plant could happen a number of ways too, and it’s important to be on the lookout for it.
This can happen a number of ways and I’m going to discuss the most common two that you need to be on the lookout for and how to make sure you don’t get caught by them:
1. The Rumour Mill Plant
The rumour mill can be dangerous, and if it is active, there are some negotiating parties that would use the rumour mill to affect your future negotiations. The most common way the rumour mill plant is used is for the unethical party (party 1) to deliberately plant false information about the competition of the other party (party 2) having lower prices. This is done to change party 2’s perception of their strength in a negotiation and force them into making a concession. Once the rumour is planted by party 1, it circulates through the rumour mill and eventually finds it’s way to the party 2. By the time it reaches party 2, they are getting messages (usually from multiple sources) that their competition has significantly lower prices than them and are participating in negotiations with party 1. This creates anxiety in the mind of the party 2 and what usually follows is a concession in the next negotiation they have with party 1.
2. The Sales Meeting Plant
The sales meeting plant is more common than you may think and can be used deceive the other party. If party 1 is selling to party 2 in a sales meeting and they are sitting at a table or desk together, party 2 may plant false information in the meeting that party 1 cannot avoid viewing. This information may be planted to mislead party 1 into thinking any number of things. Sometimes it’s on a piece of paper, sometimes it’s in a whisper that’s said too loud, and sometimes it’s as obvious as being on a white board behind party 2. The most common way the sales meeting plant is used, is to have the false information on a desk, just visible enough so that party 1 cannot avoid seeing it. Often it reveals false information of the names of companies participating in a competitive negotiation (the competition of party 1). This is information is used to deliberately mislead party 1 into thinking there is significantly more competition than they originally thought and to lure them into thinking they need to be a lot more competitive.
But How Do You Make Sure You Don’t Get Caught?
The easiest way to avoid falling into these traps is to have discipline in your negotiation process around facts. Your negotiation should only ever be influenced by facts, not opinion or conjecture or rumour. These tricks are deliberately set up to lure you into a position of weakness to reveal information, make a concession, or pull out of the negotiation and they can be powerful methods to damage your negotiations.
Unethical negotiations don’t happen often, but they happen enough that you need to know how to protect yourself against them.