Distributive Negotiations

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to negotiate for something important, whether it was a job offer, a business deal, or even deciding on a family vacation destination? Negotiation is an inevitable part of life, and mastering the art of negotiation can significantly impact the outcomes we achieve.

Let’s say you’re sitting across the table from a potential employer, discussing your salary package for a job you’ve been eyeing for months. As the conversation progresses, you realise your interests are not entirely aligned with theirs. You want to secure the best possible compensation package for yourself, while they aim to keep costs down for the company. How do you navigate this negotiation successfully?

In this blog, we’re delving into distributive negotiation examples. We’ll explore what it means, how it differs from other negotiation styles, and most importantly, how you can leverage it to your advantage in various real-life scenarios.

What Is Distributive Negotiation?

Distributive negotiation is a type of negotiation where parties aim to divide a fixed resource between them. This could be money, property, or any other limited asset. Unlike collaborative negotiations where both parties work together to create value, distributive negotiation is more competitive in nature.

In a distributive negotiation, each party tries to claim as much of the resource for themselves while conceding as little as possible to the other party. It is like a game of tug-of-war, where one side’s gain is directly linked to the other side’s loss. This style of negotiation is sometimes referred to as positional or competitive negotiation.

The primary goal of distributive bargaining is to secure the best possible outcome for oneself, even if it means the other party doesn’t fare as well. It’s all about maximising your share of the pie within the fixed resources’ confines.

What Is The Distributive Negotiation Style?

The distributive negotiation style is characterised by its competitive approach and focus on claiming value for oneself. In this negotiation style, parties typically adopt a “win-lose” mindset, where one party’s gain comes at the expense of the other party.

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Key features of the distributive negotiation style include:

  • Assertiveness: Negotiators in distributive negotiations are assertive in advocating for their interests and objectives. They are not afraid to push for what they want, even if it means taking a firm stance against the other party.

  • Limited Concern for Relationship: Unlike collaborative negotiation styles, distributive negotiators prioritise their individual goals over maintaining a positive relationship with the other party. While cordiality may be maintained, the primary focus is on achieving the best outcome for oneself.

  • Competition: Distributive negotiation is inherently competitive, with each party vying to secure their most favourable terms. Negotiators may employ various tactics to gain leverage and outmanoeuvre the other party.

  • Fixed-Pie Perception: Parties in distributive negotiations often view the available resource as a fixed pie that must be divided between them. This perception can lead to a zero-sum mindset, where one party’s gain is perceived as the other party’s loss.

6 Strategies To Utilise In Distributive Negotiations

Navigating distributive negotiations requires a strategic approach to ensure favourable outcomes. Here are six effective strategies to guide you through the process:

6 Strategies To Utilize In Distributive Negotiations

1. Anchor High

Begin the negotiation with a bold opening offer or position. Setting a high anchor establishes a favourable reference point for the rest of the negotiation. This initial stance can influence the other party’s perceptions and expectations, potentially leading to more advantageous terms for you. Remember, anchoring high doesn’t mean being unrealistic; it means starting the negotiation with confidence and conviction.

2. Make Concessions Strategically

While distributive negotiations are inherently competitive, it’s crucial to carefully consider concessions. Rather than conceding too quickly or too much, strategically offer concessions tailored to extract reciprocal concessions from the other party. This selective approach to concessions helps maintain your bargaining power and prevents you from giving away too much too soon.

3. Leverage BATNA

BATNA, or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, is your fallback option if the negotiation fails to produce a satisfactory outcome. Understanding and leveraging your BATNA can significantly strengthen your position in distributive negotiations. By knowing your alternatives and the other party’s BATNA, you can negotiate with confidence, knowing that you have viable alternatives if the current negotiation doesn’t meet your needs.

4. Use Information Asymmetry

In distributive negotiations, information is power. If you’re in possession of information that the other party lacks, leverage it to your advantage. Whether it’s market data, industry insights, or proprietary knowledge, asymmetrical information can give you a competitive edge and influence the negotiation. However, avoid exploiting information unfairly or unethically, as it can damage trust and jeopardise the negotiation process.

5. Focus On The Bottom Line

Stay focused on your bottom line and prioritise your interests throughout the negotiation. While it’s essential to be flexible and explore potential compromises, avoid compromising on fundamental needs or objectives. Maintaining clarity about your priorities and boundaries allows you to steer the negotiation towards outcomes that align with your goals.

6. Be Prepared To Walk Away

Demonstrating that you’re willing to walk away if the other party offers unsatisfactory terms is a powerful negotiation tactic. Knowing your BATNA gives you the confidence to reject unfavourable offers and pursue alternative options if necessary. This willingness to walk away communicates to the other party that you are serious about your objectives and can compel them to make more favourable concessions to secure an agreement.

Advantages Of Distributive Negotiation

Despite its competitive nature, distributive negotiation offers several advantages that make it a valuable strategy in certain situations. Here are some of the key benefits:

Advantages Of Distributive Negotiation


Distributive negotiation can be swift and efficient, especially when quick decision-making is needed. Unlike integrative negotiation, which involves exploring multiple options and creating value, distributive negotiation focuses on reaching a deal with the available resources.


The competitive nature of distributive negotiation often leads to clear and straightforward outcomes. Since both parties are primarily concerned with claiming value for themselves, there is less ambiguity in the negotiation process.


Distributive negotiation allows parties to maintain a level of autonomy and control over their own interests. Unlike integrative negotiation, where parties may need to compromise and collaborate extensively, distributive negotiation allows each party to focus on maximising their own gains.

Risk Mitigation

By focusing on securing the best possible outcome for oneself, distributive negotiation can help parties mitigate risks and protect their interests. This is especially valuable in competitive environments where uncertainty is high.

Disadvantages Of Distributive Negotiation

Despite its advantages, distributive negotiation also has its share of disadvantages. Here are some of the key drawbacks to consider:

Disadvantages Of Distributive Negotiation

Strained Relationships

The adversarial nature of distributive negotiation can strain relationships between parties, making future collaboration challenging. Since each party is primarily focused on maximising their own gains, there may be a lack of trust and cooperation between them.

Zero-Sum Game

Distributive negotiation operates on a zero-sum premise, meaning one party’s gain comes at the expense of the other. This win-lose mentality can lead to suboptimal outcomes and may hinder the possibility of finding mutually beneficial solutions.

Missed Opportunities

Focusing solely on claiming value may result in overlooking opportunities for creating additional value through collaboration. In distributive negotiation, parties may prioritise short-term gains over long-term relationships and miss out on opportunities for innovation and growth.

Emotional Toll

Negotiating in a competitive environment can be emotionally draining and stressful for the parties involved. The pressure to secure the best possible outcome may lead to heightened tension and conflict, making it challenging to maintain a constructive dialogue.

Difference Between Integrative And Distributive Negotiation

Negotiation styles play a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics and outcomes of a negotiation process. Understanding the distinctions between integrative and distributive negotiation is essential for selecting the most suitable approach for achieving desired outcomes. Let’s delve deeper into these differences:

Difference Between Integrative And Distributive Negotiation


Distributive Negotiation approach is akin to a competitive game where each party strives to claim the largest portion of a fixed resource for themselves. Negotiators adopt a win-lose mindset, viewing the negotiation as a zero-sum game where one party’s gain directly corresponds to the other party’s loss. The focus is on maximising individual gains rather than seeking mutual benefits.

In contrast, integrative negotiation is characterised by a collaborative approach where parties work together to expand the pie and create value. Negotiators view the negotiation as a problem-solving endeavour rather than a competition. By exploring each other’s interests, needs, and priorities, parties seek to identify shared goals and craft solutions that maximise joint gains.


The primary goal of distributive negotiation is to secure the most favourable outcome for oneself, even if it comes at the expense of the other party. Negotiators focus on claiming as much value as possible within the constraints of the fixed resource, often prioritising their own interests over those of their counterparts.

In integrative negotiation, parties aim to achieve outcomes that satisfy the interests of both parties and create value beyond what was initially available. By collaboratively exploring options and trade-offs, negotiators seek win-win solutions that address the underlying needs and concerns of each party.

Relationship Focus

The competitive nature of distributive negotiation often leads to a limited concern for preserving the relationship between parties. While cordiality may be maintained during the negotiation process, the primary focus is on maximising individual gains rather than nurturing a long-term relationship.

Integrative negotiation places a strong emphasis on building and maintaining positive relationships between parties. By fostering trust, open communication, and mutual respect, negotiators create a conducive environment for collaboration and joint problem-solving. The focus extends beyond the current negotiation to establish a foundation for future cooperation and partnership.

Resource Perception

Parties in distributive negotiation perceive the available resource as fixed or limited, leading to a perception of scarcity. This fixed-pie mindset reinforces the zero-sum mentality, where one party’s gain is perceived as the other party’s loss.

Integrative negotiation challenges the fixed-pie perception by recognising the potential for expanding the available resource through creative problem-solving and value creation. Negotiators approach the negotiation with an abundance mindset, exploring opportunities to generate additional value and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

Distributive Negotiation Examples

Distributive negotiation is a common occurrence in various real-world scenarios, where parties engage in bargaining to claim their share of a fixed resource. Let’s explore comprehensive distributive negotiation examples and the dynamics involved:

Salary Negotiation

Sarah is a software engineer who just received a job offer from a tech company. Excited about the opportunity, Sarah sits down to discuss her salary. The company offers Sarah a salary that’s lower than what she was hoping for. Sarah knows her worth and believes she deserves more. So, she decides to negotiate.

During the negotiation, Sarah explains her skills and experience, showing why she’s a valuable asset to the company. She tells them about the average salaries for software engineers in the industry. The company understands Sarah’s points but mentions they have budget constraints. They offer her some additional benefits like stock options and flexible work hours to make up for the lower salary.

Sarah appreciates the offer but still wants a higher salary. So, she decides to counteroffer with a higher salary demand. She explains how her skills can benefit the company and why she deserves the higher pay. After a few back-and-forth discussions, Sarah and the company finally reach a compromise. They agree on a salary package that’s fair for both parties. Sarah is happy with the outcome and accepts the job offer, ready to start her new role with confidence.

Real Estate Purchase

John is looking to buy his first home and finds the perfect one in a nice neighbourhood. He puts in an offer to buy the house. The seller, Mary, receives John’s offer but thinks the price is too low. She decides to counteroffer with a higher price, explaining that the house has recently been renovated and is in a desirable location.

John really likes the house but is concerned about the higher price. He decides to negotiate with Mary. John asks for some time to inspect the house to make sure everything is in good condition. During the home inspection, John discovers a few minor issues with the plumbing and electrical systems. He talks to Mary about these issues and suggests either reducing the price or having the seller cover the cost of repairs.

Mary understands John’s concerns and agrees to lower the price slightly to account for the repairs. They also negotiate other terms like the closing date and who will pay for certain fees. After some negotiation, John and Mary reached an agreement that worked for both of them. John is thrilled to have found his dream home at a price he can afford, and Mary is happy to sell her house to someone who will take care of it. They shake hands and move forward with the sale.

Car Purchase Example

Emily is in the market for a new car. She visits a dealership and finds a car she likes, but she’s not sure about the price. Emily talks to the salesperson, who gives her the initial price for the car. However, Emily thinks the price is a bit too high for her budget.

She decides to negotiate with the salesperson to see if she can get a better deal. Emily mentions that she’s seen similar cars at other dealerships for lower prices. The salesperson understands Emily’s concerns and offers to lower the price slightly. However, Emily still feels that the price could be lower, so she continues negotiating.

During the negotiation, Emily also discusses other aspects of the deal, such as financing options, trade-in value for her old car, and additional features she would like to include. The salesperson considers Emily’s requests and offers her a better financing deal with a lower interest rate. He also agrees to increase the trade-in value of Emily’s old car and throws in some extra features at no additional cost.

After some negotiation, Emily and the salesperson finally reach an agreement that works for both parties. Emily is happy to have purchased her new car at a price she can afford, and the salesperson is pleased to have made a sale and satisfied customers. They shake hands, and Emily drives off in her new car, excited for the adventures ahead.


In conclusion, distributive negotiation is a fundamental aspect of everyday life, influencing various interactions ranging from salary negotiations to purchasing decisions. Through the examples explored in this blog, we’ve gained insights into how individuals and businesses navigate distributive negotiation scenarios to achieve their objectives while balancing competing interests.

Each negotiation presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring individuals to leverage effective communication, compromise, and strategic decision-making to reach mutually acceptable agreements. By understanding the dynamics of distributive negotiation and employing proven negotiation techniques, parties can maximise their chances of success while maintaining positive relationships and fostering long-term partnerships. As we encounter negotiation opportunities in our lives, let us approach them with confidence, adaptability, and a commitment to achieving win-win solutions whenever possible.

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