WWYD Best Alternative: Comments

WWYD – Best Alternatives / Plan B:  Comments

al-standing-istockBob’s Best Alternative may not be as strong a he thinks.  He may be financially comfortable, but most of his goals and priorities have been about developing his current project, and of controlling a company.  He doesn’t worry too much about finances — but he should be worried about other things.  There is probably more time pressure on him to bring his product to market than he realizes.  And if this is his best shot at starting his own business, then he has to acknowledge that he has limited opportunities.  Unless he has another tech expert waiting in the wings, his Plan B is not as strong as he seems to think.

iStock_000016879571XSmallAl is also a bit off track about his Best Alternative.  His existing job can’t be the Plan B to his number one fear — which is losing his job.  His fear of risk is actually leading him to the riskiest of all possible behaviors — holding on to false hope and not facing up to the true risks he is living with.  His Best Alternative in the short term is to stay where he is — but he needs to take direct action to create a new alternative in the mid term.

What can Bob do to worsen Al’s Best Alternative?  And why would he want to?

A negotiator is more effective when his Best Alternative is RELATIVELY high compared to his counterparty.  The best way to ensure that is to raise your own range of options — either by expanding your resources or giving yourself more options by finding new potential counterpaties.  But in the short term, another possibility is to LOWER the range of options open to your ounterparty.  Bob’s plan looks better as Al’s situation deteriorates.  What an do that?

Hire another programmer.   No, not in this situation.  If Al were already committed to the idea of signing with Bob, then Al could improve his position by developing new resources and abilities.  It’s questionable how much leverage he’d get from hiring a programmer who he couldn’t really supervise.  Since Al is still not committed,  Bob’s move would be counter-productive since it makes the start-up less attractive if he felt he was in competition with the new programmer — an gives him more power if the programmer recognizes Bob a his boss.

Let Al’s company know he is looking.  Yes, this would definitely undermine Al’s Best Option and could make Bob look better – in the short term.  This is a highly competitive and coercive  move, however, and could lead to conflict in the longer term.  But it could be very effective, and is a good example of how lowering the other person’s alternatives can enhance your own position.

Bob can take courses and raise his knowledge — but this would only be effective once Al has already committed to the partnership.  Like option 1, it would probably backfire in the short term as it would threaten Al with loss of control in the new business.

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