Negotiation Tactic #59 – The Threat

Summary: Warning that there will be an unpleasant outcome if a satisfactory deal cannot be reached.

The Threat is one of the most pervasive tactics utilized by counterparts who cannot achieve their goals or resolve their differences through normal one-on-one communication.


A manager suspends an employee for one week for insubordination. The employee responds, “You had better think twice about what you are doing to me. When I leave here, I’m going to file a grievance with the union.” Or, “I’m calling my attorney.”


The manager might ask questions to gain information that would clarify exactly why the employee feels the need to contact a lawyer or file a grievance.

For example, the manager might respond, “Of course, you have the right to contact an attorney or a union representative. How will that help you in your current situation?”

A second effective counter would be the tactic of Focusing on the Future. The manager might ask, “What do you feel we could do differently next week so we don’t encounter this problem again?”

Note that we are not saying that employees should not utilize the law to rectify wrongs, or that union members should not file a grievance when management has dealt unjustly with them. What we are saying is that these tactics take time and money. We are also saying that when the goal is to build long-term win-win relationships, resolving a negotiation without beginning a lawsuit or filing a grievance is better—if the issues can be satisfactorily resolved without these alternatives.

Have you used or encountered this tactic in your negotiations? If so, how’d it go?

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