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NEGOTIATION NEWS: PRESIDENT TRUMP’S GOOD COP / BAD COP ROUTINE


 “You are fake news!” That’s the charge Donald Trump used to dismiss CNN’s Jim Acosta … Afterward the incoming White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, rapped Acosta for the exchange, telling the reporter that if it happened again, he’d be thrown out.

Like presidents before him, Trump acts as both bully and beau, beating up journalists one moment and then wooing them the next. 

Read the full story from U.S. News.

Ah, the good old, “Good Cop / Bad Cop” routine. While historically this particular negotiation tactic requires a plurality of participants, in this particular case, the President is taking both roles for himself. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.

But the tactic itself is amazingly effective. It’s no secret that law enforcement officials are acutely aware that “Good Cop / Bad Cop” is one of the strongest team tactics available. One of them takes the role of the adversary, the intransigent. That’s the one who gets right down in the other one’s face and tells them exactly what they think of them and the horse they rode in on. Then, the nice one steps in – the closer – the one who makes you feel he’s on your side. After the abusive behavior of the first, the suspect is much more likely to respond favorably to the second. Deals are made; cases are solved, often due to this one negotiation tactic. Car dealers use this tactic all the time.

And then there are the business applications of the “Good Cop / Bad Cop” tactic. One might be taking a cue from my kids when they were little: Blame Someone Else. In other words, shifting the blame for the root cause of the contention onto the shoulders of someone else within your organization. This has the double result of lessening the tension in the situation, and it also places you in the position of being the good guy.

Another is that the GC/BG tactic can be used to make your desired outcome look more favorable when compared to the alternative. For example, if a negotiation reaches an impasse, the “bad cop” can demand something out of the range of possibility, and then the “good cop” intervenes with a more reasonable offer (which appears far more reachable when compared to the alternative).

Here are a couple of ways to counter the GC/BC tactic when it’s being used on you:

1. Call the other party out

“Okay, I see what you’re doing. You’re using the GC/BC approach. But look, we’re not negotiating over a used car, here. Let’s see if we can find a solution that benefits both of us.”

2. Call out the Bad Cop

This tactic is designed to elicit an emotional response, so give it to them. Appear to get angry and denounce the behavior. Focus on the Bad Cop’s position as a reason to delay making a decision, or to indicate uncertainty of doing business with them, or even walking out, if necessary. Calling out the Bad Cop negates the advantage of the Good Cop.

The danger in using GC/BC is that it can get out of hand, especially when it passes the boundaries of the business negotiation and gets into the personal. Rudeness, sarcasm, or inappropriate remarks should be avoided at all costs. Used in moderation, GC/BC can be an effective negotiating tool when really needed.