How to deal with Shafters

I was talking to a colleague recently about collaboration and we were lamenting how hard it is to stay in collaborative mode all the time. He said: “if I think they are a shafter, I go straight for the money – e.g, “sounds like we are now consulting and if so, my fee is…”.

It reminded me of the book “The New Negotiating Edge”, by Gavin Kennedy, who talks about red (shafting) and blue (collaborative) behaviour. Certainly many of my course participants want to know what to do when they have to deal with “shafters”.

The classic response pattern in game theory is “tit for tat”, which somehow got a bad name where I came from. Maybe it got overridden by the catholic mantra “turn the other cheek”, which a buddhist monk once described as strange behaviour. He said “I don’t understand this strange behaviour. If someone throw a rock at me, I duck”.

In essence tit-for-tat means: start co-operatively, then match the behaviour of the party you are negotiating with. If they behave co-operatively, so do you and if they behave competitively, so do you.

For more ideas, here’s a good article about how to deal with ‘shafters’ of all varieties.

I also like Kennedy’s guidelines which show how to respond to red behaviour with red behaviour but without making things too much worse – by making your response conditional. If you make an offer and the person says they want something extra, then you respond, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t a part of my original offer, so we are now talking about a different agreement. I’ll happily do the extra if you do <state your condition>.”

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