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Don't Fear This Hardball Tactic - Higher Authority - A Five Step Guide

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

navigate this hardball tactic Like a Champion

You walk into a car dealership, eagerly eyeing a row of shiny new vehicles. A smiling salesperson approaches you, guides you through a test drive, and answers all your questions.

Convinced you've found your next car, you sit down to discuss the price. After much back and forth (read haggling), you feel like you've reached an agreement. But wait, the salesperson pauses and says, "Let me just run this by my manager real quick."

Sound familiar?

This is a classic example of the "Higher Authority" tactic in negotiations, and it does extend beyond auto sales. So, how do you navigate around this? Let's dig in.

Middle age mad on a life size chess board
Photo by Zoe Holling, Unsplash

The Hardball Tactic of "Higher Authority"

Imagine sitting through hours of negotiation, thinking you're getting somewhere, only to be told that the person you've been negotiating with doesn't actually have the final say. It's frustrating, to say the least. Essentially, this tactic aims to wear you down, hoping that after a long discussion, you'll be more willing to make quick concessions.

An experienced manager I once worked under had a compelling mantra: "Don't negotiate with peons." While the phrasing might initially strike you as harsh, the core message is sound—focus your negotiation efforts solely on the individuals who have the power to make decisions. Anything else is simply a diversion that wastes time and energy.

Identifying the Decision-Maker: Start with Curious Probing

To avoid getting stuck in the "higher authority" loophole, identify the decision-maker right at the outset of the discussions. Engage in some detective work; it's perfectly okay to ask directly who will be making the final call on the negotiation. You could ask, "Do you have the authority to finalize this deal?" or "Is there anyone else we should include in these discussions?" or "Do you have signature authority for this deal?"

Navigating the Hardball tactic: Preemptive Measures

One simple trick to avoid falling for the higher authority tactic is to make it perfectly clear that you will not make a concession unless the deal is ready to close. You can phrase it politely but firmly, asking something along the lines of, "If I make this concession, are we able to close this clause or finalize this deal?" Make sure you receive a commitment before you proceed.

Remember the "higher authority" tactic is designed to be draining, both emotionally and time-wise. By doing some homework to identify the decision-maker and being explicit about your own boundaries and expectations, you can navigate this hardball tactic easily.

One note about using it against someone, usually it works if it is a short term relationship. However, if you need to build a longer lasting relationship, using this tactic might sour that possibility. So be cautious before using it.

In a salary negotiation, if your manager uses it, you might question if your manager has your best interests at heart. It might also be time to evaluate the culture and fit for your long term growth.

The Long-Term Impact of the "Higher Authority" Tactic

On Using this Hardball Tactic in Short-Term Relationships

While the "Higher Authority" tactic can be effective in one-off or short-term relationships—where the immediate gains can overshadow any lingering bad taste—it's essential to consider the potential downsides when the relationship is meant to be ongoing.

On Using this Hardball Tactic in Long-Term Relationships

In situations where a long-lasting relationship is the goal, like ongoing collaborations or a productive workplace, the "Higher Authority" tactic can cause discord. Essentially, it sows a seed of mistrust that might germinate over time, questioning the integrity and transparency of the relationship. Over time, this can lead to diminished cooperation, lower morale, and decreased productivity, which are detrimental to any long-lasting partnership.

Evaluating Your Manager and Workplace Culture

If you find yourself on the receiving end of the "Higher Authority" tactic, particularly during a salary negotiation with your manager, you may want to evaluate whether your manager truly has your best interests at heart.

Is It Time for a Cultural Fit Reassessment?

If the "Higher Authority" tactic surfaces during a salary or performance discussion, it might also be a good opportunity for you to reassess your fit within the organizational culture. Does the environment allow you to achieve your long-term career goals? When hardball tactics like these are employed, it might signal that the organization leans more toward short-term gains, possibly at the cost of employee satisfaction and retention.

Proceed with Caution

In summary, the "Higher Authority" tactic does offer short-term advantages. But if you have a long term relationship at stake, you would not want to use it. Proceed cautiously if you're considering using this hardball tactic yourself, and treat it as a red flag if it's used against you in situations that require mutual trust and long-term commitment.

When you are ready to bravely fight for the salary you deserve, get this training (it's free!), "Know Your Worth and Fight for It: 7 Simple Steps to Negotiating the Job Offer of Your Dreams," This course offers practical strategies to help you discover your leverage, navigate challenging questions, and be prepared for unexpected obstacles.

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