Good Cop/Bad Cop

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation with two or more participants on one team, you’ll notice one partner acting very cordial and empathetic, where the other partner is extremely temperamental and demeaning. The “bad cop” threatens you and probably declares that there is “no reason to continue conversations.” Once you begin to fear that you might lose the deal, the “good cop” swoops in to assure you that all is not lost and if you can just be reasonable, perhaps you can both find a resolution. The object is to coerce you into believing that the “good cop” is on your team, and thereby get you to provide additional information or even make concessions that you would not have otherwise made.

This is yet another tactic to manipulate you. Watch out for the good cop/bad cop scenario as it can lead you down a dangerous path in poor negotiation skills.

  • Call their Game – Smile convincingly and say, “This feels a lot like good cop/bad cop.  I do not want to get caught up in games like this.  We have serious issues facing us, and if both of you are needed to make a decision, I suggest you get him back in the room.”
  • Ignore the Bad Cop – The Good Cop/Bad Cop tactic only works if you allow the bad cop to get you to lose your focus.  Let the bad cop expel his energy so you can move forward and focus on the business at hand.
  • Terminate the Session – Turn to the good cop and tell him that it is obvious that the other person is too upset to carry forward. This should get the good cop to attempt to convince you to stay and you should thereby be able to regain control.

While it may be tempting, going “toe-to-toe” with the bad cop is usually not an effective way to manage this technique.  Even if you are able to quiet down the bad cop, going into attack mode will likely cause you to lose your focus.  The other side will use this loss of focus to get you to reveal information or make concessions that you may not have done if you had been able to maintain a more focused approach.

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