Difference Between Distributive and Integrative Negotiation Strategies

Difference Between Distributive and Integrative Negotiation Strategies
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Negotiation strategies have gained a significant amount of attention from management practitioners owing to their conflict resolving attribute. There are two main approaches to negotiations based on the stance adopted by the negotiating parties – distributive and integrative. To choose the most apt strategy for a particular situation it’s important to understand the difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies. Let’s take a look at what each of these two strategies entail and we’ll have a fair idea of when to use each.

Distributive Negotiation Strategy

This strategy is also popular as ‘the fixed pie strategy’, since this involves allocating shares of a finite resource among the negotiators. With limited resources for the taking, every negotiating party views every other party as an adversary and this is well reflected in the debate over the allocation of shares. Every party tries to put its best foot forward to grab a bigger chunk of the resources. Along with that, it’s important for the negotiating teams to have a good idea of the competitive position of the other negotiators. This will help when the actual debate on who should get how much begins. In essence, this negotiation strategy requires acting defensive and reserved.

Integrative Negotiation Strategy

The Collaborative Nature

This is quite a contrast to the above strategy as this involves a joint initiative that will prove beneficial to all the negotiating parties. The negotiators do not build up on how much they will receive; rather all efforts are directed at increasing the total payoff through mutual cooperation. Since this negotiation strategy is based on common interests and joint efforts of all the parties involved in the negotiation, each party perceives the others as friends and collaborators.

Distributive vs. Integrative Negotiation Strategies

The short notes above, on both the strategies, bring out the apparent difference between the two, to quite an extent. Nonetheless, we have here a list of the major differences between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies.

  1. Distributive negotiation ends up in a win-lose situation where some parties stand at an advantage and the others lose out. On the other hand, integrative negotiation creates a win-win situation for all the parties.
  2. Distributive negotiation is competitive in nature and requires that every party views every other party as a competitor, while integrative negotiation is collaborative in nature and all the parties negotiate on friendly terms, acting as allies to one another.
  3. Integrative negotiation works as a conflict management tool, whereas distributive negotiation intensifies the conflicts further.
  4. In distributive negotiation every negotiator focuses on meeting his personal interests, regardless of the loss the others may have to face. In contrast, integrative negotiation focuses on mutual interests of all the parties and thus, comes up with constructive solutions that will be beneficial for all.

When to Use Distributive vs. Integrative Negotiation Strategies?

The list of differences between these two negotiation strategies finally brings us to the most important question – which strategy should be used in which situation?

Considering the varying approach of these two strategies, distributive negotiation is best used when you have some strong advantage points and you’re in a good position to bargain. Contrary to this, integrative negotiation will be most beneficial in situations where your position is not strong but you still want to win something in the bargain.

Another determinant you can use for choosing the right negotiation strategy is whether the bargaining resource is limited or unlimited. If it’s limited you’ll certainly want to grab a bigger piece of the pie and thus, adopting the distributive strategy may be more advantageous.

It’s also advisable to look at the long term scenario and see whether you want a friendly or a competitive relationship with the other negotiators. If it’s just a matter of one deal and you think you will never need any sort of help from the other negotiators in the future – distributive negotiation is the way to go. However, when long term dependability among negotiators is noticeable, integrative negotiation strategy is the safest choice.

The end result of a negotiation is dependent completely on the stance the negotiators adopt, thus you must understand the difference between distributive and integrative negotiation strategies to make the right move on the negotiation table.


1. www.negotiations.com/articles/negotiation-types/

2. www.uwlax.edu/faculty/ross/module3/integrative-1.htm

3. www.crinfo.org/CK_Essays/ck_distributive_bargaining.jsp

4. www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/distbarg.htm

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