The art of negotiation has always fascinated me. It is a skill and it can be learned.

In an article titled “The Law Of Disinterest”, I discussed the mechanism of presenting a nonchalant attitude that communicated disinterest. This places the incumbent at a disadvantage as he/she is becomes anxious about losing out.

The next technique the I want to share is the “Good Cop/Bad Cop Tactic”.

This applies especially well when you are in a tricky negotiation and you’ve reached a deadlock.

Two people need to be involved for this to work. The one person (A) becomes aggressive and argumentative and then leaves the room. The remaining person (B) now creates an atmosphere of collaboration.

He makes out like A is being unreasonable. Once he senses that the ‘victim’ (V) is feeling more comfortable, he asks the proverbial question that might take things forward:

  • B: “That guy is so unreasonable. He digs his heels in and that’s that. Is there not anything to that I can take back with me to try and persuade him?”
  • V: “Alright, here’s my final offer – I’ll go to 7 more days and that’s it!”
  • B: “Thank you – that is very helpful. But he wanted an additional 30 days. He’s a creep and a narcissist of note. Is there no way you can push it to 15-days. It seems silly to break this relationship over 7 days. With 15-days I think I can shift him.”
  • V: “I’m not happy at all and I need Board approval. You get him to agree and I’ll take it to my Board. I agree, breaking our relationship over 7 days is silly.”
  • B: “Great I’ll get back to you by Friday.”

This whole saga has been a set up. A and B have clearly managed to put V exactly where they will get their best advantage.

Another example:

You have rightfully dismissed an employee for gross misconduct and they have gone to CCMA. Your procedures were amiss and your company lost the case. The employee wants 12 months back pay.

The Bad Cop starts off angrily by saying that he thinks that this is ridiculous and he won’t pay. If forced, he will take the matter to court. He storms out leaving you with the employee and her representative.

You start off by saying “I think he is a creep. It always has to get his way! You think you have problems – I have to work with the guy every day.”


The employee’s representative says that there is not much they can do and the law must take its course.

You say “I’m so aggravated with him. He just makes my life difficult. I have to handle all the legal work and the attorney- this really is irritating. And then he wants everything yesterday!”


“I sympathise with you but it’s seem we have no other choice.

Me: “I have to start by saying this is a very long shot but, if I was able to persuade him to settle, would you accept 6 months instead of 12?”


Neither would I! And if I got him to pay you today? Remember that going legal is a long drawn out affair. You won’t see your money for at least a year.”

“Let me confer with my client in private.”

You leave the room and wait.

Ten minutes later he calls you in and says he will only agree if 10 months are paid.

You say: “You don’t understand this guy is very difficult he will never agree to 10 months.”

“Okay my final offer is seven – no less than 9 month.”

“Okay,” you say. “Let me see what I can do.”

Again, the employee and her representative have been set up.

It’s a neat strategy and it should work in most cases.

Of course, I am not suggesting that you use devious tactics to out-do unsuspecting defenceless people. These are business tactics to ensure that you obtain best advantage.

It’s part of the game! So, play it!