Negotiating Tips, Negotiation Strategies, Business Negotiation February 16, 2011

Filing a Missing Person Report

There are unethical tactics sometimes used in negotiations—business and diplomatic---called the Missing Person Maneuver. What it is, quite simply, is that the person with final authority to make a decision goes missing. Nobody is sure how to find him or her.

Why would someone go missing?

  1. To stall a final agreement in order to lower the aspiration level of the other party
  2. To break off the negotiations permanently
  3. To make a better deal with another party using the deal struck in the current negotiation
  4. To learn more while retaining the option of this particular negotiation

When someone goes missing, the effect on the negotiation can derail the agreement and make everyone tense. Often, the party left waiting is desperate to close the deal and may prefer to lower the price (or make other concessions) when the missing party finally appears.

Guard against this tactic by understanding the other party’s authority structure BEFORE negotiating. Get organizational charts or other explanations in writing.

However, if the other party's person of authority goes missing, there are countermeasures available. A few are:

  1. Put a time limit on your offer
  2. Consider walking away.
  3. Test to see whether an agreement can be reached in spite of the missing person

What do you do if the person with authority goes missing? Please share your best tactics in the comments.

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