Business Studies: Research Paper on the Negotiator

The Negotiator


            Negotiation is an interface process between parties that are in a conflict or have some differences, and they are willing to reach to an amicable agreement that will hold. Pienaar and Spoelstra (1999), define negotiation as the exchange of information through dialogue, and developing strategies and techniques to foster a continuous relationship between the conflicting parties. Saner (2008), describes negotiation as an all around activity that identifies differences and involves specialized techniques to remedy the differences and strengthen a partnership. Therefore, negotiation is a process that incorporates the element of continuity before reaching an effective solution. In a conflict, each party feels obliged to pin point or accuse the other for causing the disagreement. This brings dividing differences, and the two conflicting parties fail to work harmoniously and most often lead to a deadlock. According to Pienaar and Spoelstra (1999), a good negotiator establishes a deal that will present a lasting co-existence to both sides. In this context, this paper outlines the negotiation concepts that can be delineated from the movie, “The Negotiator.  The film portrays the ways in which negotiation can end a severe conflict if practiced by a specialized agent.

Movie Summary

            “The Negotiator” was released in 1998 and the starring includes Samuel L. Jackson (Roman) and Kevin Spacey (Sabian), and F. Gary Gray as the director. In the movie, the protagonist (Roman) is a top police negotiator who is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit. For him to survive, he has to face overwhelming odds and play tricks to prove his innocence and nab the real crime perpetrators. The protagonist is a qualified hostage negotiator, but he turns out to be a hostage taker in a move to clear his name. Sabian, who is a neutral person and also a negotiator, is introduced to the scene to bring the situation under control. However, things do not turn out easy, but through a combined effort between the two, the real masterminds of the conspiracy are eventually revealed. The movie is a thriller that has rigid pace and a combination of suspense, action flick, and negotiation concepts that bring out the viewing flair.

Purpose of the Study

            Conflicts are caused by various reasons in a business environment. A manager is expected to possess the skills of apprehending conflict and differences within the organization to ensure all staffs work in harmony. Sometimes, managers are bombarded with extreme conflict cases that force them to hire an external expert to arrest the situation. Negotiation is employed in any partnership to ensure there is continued co-operation (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). In connection to this, the main purpose of this study is to identify common causes of conflict in an organization and measures that reduce differences from the movie, “The Negotiator”. The film explains the common culture of unhealthy co-existence between bosses and their juniors and individualism among co-workers.

The Negotiator

Movie analysis

            Introduction: Lieutenant Danny Roman is the top police hostage negotiator who has freshly married and is celebrating his recent success. Amidst his celebration, he is approached by his colleague Roenick, who warns him about funds embezzlement in the department, but he does not produce the name of the perpetrators. Roman feels moved by the issue and decides to take up the matter in his own hands. Both Roman and Roenick have common interests which are fighting corruption in the police unit. According to Saner (2008), common interests bring parties together in a common ground with similar goals and objectives. In this case, negotiation does not involve two people, but it involves people teaming up to negotiate against a common problem. At this moment, there is a clear positive relationship between Roman and Roenick against a common problem. Pienaar and Spoelstra (1999), describe the purpose of teaming up as coming to an agreement on issues that concern a group of people collectively. However, the relationship between Roman and Roenick does not last for long because Roman is summoned via his pager to meet Roenick for a meeting. On arrival, he is received by shocking news where he finds Roenick shot dead and a few seconds later, the police arrive on the crime scene and they identify Roman as the principal suspect. The police unit makes the public believe that Roman committed murder and as a result, Roman is excommunicated from the police unit.

            Conflict: Roman’s relationship with Roenick is short lived with the allegations breaking down Roman’s rapport with his friends and Roenick’s wife. Conflict can lead to betrayal and disloyalty among friends and family members. Roman’s friends strongly believe that he committed the charges and as a result, they dessert him, rendering him to a life of solitude and depression. However, a good negotiator is always motivated and works until he/she obtains the end results, Roman decides to pursue justice and complete the mission he had started with Roenick. These events results in a dysfunctional conflict to deter Roman from investigating the conspiracy in the police department.  Dysfunctional conflict refers to any confrontation that is set to hinder a group from achieving its goals and objectives (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). Cheldlin et al (2008), asserts that dysfunctional conflict appears when two parties are competing for specific interests. Dysfunctional conflict brings out individualism among the self-centered persons. For instance, Niebum the head of the Internal Affairs Division is assigned the Roman’s case and he proceeds to conduct a search in Roman’s house where he frames him to the conspiracy. Niebum claims to have found some bank documents, which belong to Roman, indicating an account deposit equal to the misappropriated funds for the disabled. The conflict between Roman and Niebum arise because Niebum wants to cover the conspiracy and instead pin Roman to the crime. Niebum is a selfish character who portrays the highest level of individualism in the film by using his authority to suppress his juniors and colleagues.

            A good negotiator contemplates the other side’s position and strategy so that he or she can figure out the best way to exercise negotiation (Cheldlin et al, 2008). In connection to this, Roman engages in preliminary investigations to unearth the reasons that made Niebum connect him to the murder of Roenick. The process of negotiation involves downplaying or losing confidence with the opposing side and building self trust (Cheldlin et al, 2008). Self trust requires the negotiator to face all odds and challenges in pursuit of the truth and identifying verifiable grievances. This helps in eliminating doubts and suspicion, but seeking factual reasons that caused the conflict. For this reason, Roman storms Niebum office demanding explanations about any connection with the conspiracy and setting Roman up where Niebum denies the allegations. As usual, the conflicting party will deny the allegations and instead accuse the other for defamation and disrespect. According to Saner (2008), when a guilty partner in a conflict is confronted, the ultimate response he or she gives is always a denial. As a result, the negotiator is supposed to be prepared because he/she may not have total discretion of the other side’s outcome. Roman and Neibum conflict at this point reaches the distributive negotiation stage. In this level, each party argues in its favor without minding the other. In distributive negation stage, every party wants to emerge the ultimate winner, which is against the negotiation objectives. On the contrary, the negotiation seeks to reach an agreement amicably without any party crying foul. Cheldlin et al (2008), suggests that distributive negotiation stage is very crucial in a negotiation process within a conflict. Since negotiation is a process, at some point each side feels more aggrieved than the other resulting to distributive negotiation.

            Mediation Stage: After Roman storms into Neibum office, Neibum turns out to be uncooperative and that is when he decides to take him hostage. He captures his Neibum’s personal assistant Maggie, police commander Frost and the other two fellows. Within a few minutes the building is under siege with police surrounding the building including Roman’s unit. Since Roman is a qualified negotiator, he employs his cognitive skills and demands Sabian, who is another top negotiator, to be summoned so that he can negotiate for the hostages. Sabian comes from a different city and he is not connected to the embezzlement case, hence Roman believes he will be neutral in that particular case. According to Saner, for people to reach an agreement over issues in which they disagree, they must have some means of influence to foster behavioral change (2008). Sabian begins by persuading Roman to release the hostages and his demands would be listened to in exchange. Persuasion is a communicative behavior intended to change, modify or shape the responses and recipient’s attitude (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). It is a vital component of negotiation, which anticipates enhancing a behavioral change. When a conflict reaches the mediation stage, the negotiator has to be persuasive to extract opinions from the conflicting parties and encourage behavioral change. During persuasion, the negotiator should not use force, intimidation or coercion to modify the conflicting parties’ attitude (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). Sabian observes those rules, although he does not convince Roman who clearly understands the consequences of giving in at this point. However, the police unit despises Sabian’s method claiming that he failed to arbitrate his own case with his daughter and his wife; therefore the police agreed upon storming into the construction and force Roman to release the hostages.

            Cheldlin et al (2008) divides conflict resolution into three key pillar frameworks for analyzing and resolving conflict. The first pillar includes identifying the causes and the conditions of the conflict; the second one involves conflict intervention and the last one is implementing the intervention design identified. Sabian at this point had managed to identify the causes and the conditions of the conflict placing him in the second pillar of intervention. His methods were disputed by the other police unit and preceded without acknowledging his profession. The police units perceive that Sabian is unqualified and that his methods are not viable to bring the situation under control. He finds himself in cat-and-mouse duel with Roman and a row over influence between him, local cops, and the feds who disagree over his tactics. Apparently, Perception occurs in the heat of battle between Sabian and the local cops where they create vague assumptions about the negotiator and view him as an opponent (Saner, 2008). Saner (2008) continues to say that, a principled negotiator is not distracted by failure in his or her first attempt, but pressures for rational outcomes in the best interest of both parties. Sabian decides to look for an alternative way of solving the conflict since persuasion failed. Every character in this scene is hard pressed to find out what is happening to the hostages, but Roman blocks the entrances, destroys surveillance cameras and makes the situation more complicated. On the other hand, Sabian suffers a setback because the two parties are not willing to participate in an amicable solution. When the two conflicting parties refuse to sit down and participate in collective bargaining, the negotiation process faces a challenge that can only be remedied by identifying an alternative plan. Neibum and his unit are unwilling to negotiate with Roman because they are directly involved in the funds saga, and if they give in, Roman will triumph against their wish. Therefore, an interment negotiation crops up because the police unit disputes Sabian threatening the relationship between the conflicting parties. An interment negotiation leads to the absence of a critical player signaling an indirect negotiation, which does not yield results (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). In such a situation, the negotiator should be willing to give away anything so that he can find an outcome. The negotiator may develop indirect measures to break down his or her strategy within the range of the set objectives so that fruitful agreements could be reached.

As Sabian moves toward a solution, Roman on his side manipulates some of his hostages and he manages to peruse into Niebaum’s computer where he discovers recordings of wiretaps. Additionally, he discovers that the computer contains his preceding discussion with Roenick before he met his death. By this moment, Roman discovers that Roenick was an informant who was investigating the conspiracy saga and he handed his report to the IAD. Neibum clearly understands that only Roman who knows about the report and getting rid of him will solve the problem. When Niebaum sees this, he admits that he was involved in the embezzlement of funds and that he accepted bribes to cover some criminals.  Roman and Neibaum interests become interdependent since Roman requires Neibum evidence and Neibum survival depends on the Roman’s decision. For a productive negotiation to occur, the participants must be dependent on each other to have their needs satisfied collectively (Lewicki et al, 2010). However, the negotiator, Sabian, had been overruled and the situation now poses unpredictability of the outcome. The police unit is in to haunt Roman, and Sabian motive is to save Roman and bring the situation under control. Sabian, Neibum and Roman experience common ground issues are relevant to the problem at hand, but they fail to agree upon. Each party is aiming to achieve individual objectives single handedly rather than stagnating in the futile process of trying to resolve (Lewicki et al, 2010).

            Conclusion: Nebium is eventually killed before he reveals where he had hidden the evidence and before he names the ringleaders in the conspiracy. FBI orders a full-on assault and Sabian sacrifices to enter into the building and warn Roman of the impending attack. Furthermore, the other hostages gain trust with Roman and are willing to help Roman out of the situation though it was a difficult task ahead. The characters create a mutual trust which is triggered by the unfortunate experience they endure together. On the other hand, Sabian trusts Roman since he portrays to be a dependable person who does not create surprises. Surprises can take any form depending on the conflicting party’s personality; for instance, a sudden shift of demands and conditions (Koh, 1996). Sabian rushes into the building and uses disguise to rescue Roman who is under siege by the FBI. He gives Roman confiscated police clothes which Roman uses to walk out of the building. Sabian enhances a positive relationship with Roman due to the validity of their positions and he gives him an opportunity to establish his innocence. The results of the relationship between Sabian and Roman sire increased trust and it abolishes tension between them. However, they have not triumphed yet because Frost and three other members of Roman’s old squad follow them who reveal themselves as fraudsters and Roenick’s killers. After some confrontation Sabian shoots Roman and pleads with Frost to spare him and he will destroy the evidence in turn. Frost admits that he committed the alleged crimes but other police overheard the confession through Sabian’s radio. He discovers that it was a hoax and Roman was not actually dead and he attempts to kill himself but he is unsuccessful.

            The film ends with the two negotiators as the ultimate winners, although they face quite a number of challenges. Human violence and conflict is quite difficult to control or prevent but negotiation can accomplish the mission of controlling conflict (Lewicki et al, 2011). Although the two conflicting parties do not reach an agreement, the end results are substantively acceptable. The problem is eventually solved and all the sides gain an insight of the funds misappropriation saga.

Consequences of Conflict

            Conflict and aggression bring various consequences between the parties and closely affected individuals. Due to the emotional suffering caused by a conflict, it often results to group members putting aside individual differences, and they become more loyal. The groups eventually stick together, and work in harmony as a team (Lewicki et al, 2011). The conflict results to abrupt and illogical speeches, attack on the competence and intellectual ability of the individual members of the team. Bluffing at each other may cause character assassination, violent actions, office grapevine and open counterstatement of aggression. Moreover, in extreme conflict situations managers turns to an autocratic leadership disputing democracy and adopting dictation. Conflict also affects the negotiation process and can lead to a deadlock and the parties could boycott the process. In the film “The Negotiator”, both the police unit and their leaders ignore Sabian, who is a negotiator, creating a deadlock that alters the negotiation process. Adherence is another result of conflict after the negotiation process is over. Aggressive conflict leads to the opponent adhering to the requests of the aggressor out of fear or inability to cope with the conflict itself.  Similarly, human beings counter a conflict with an aggression which leads to the escalation of the conflict (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). Oyog and Sakar (1997), suggest that violent conflicts are no longer exceptional, but a reality and part of life. Managers can only learn how to cope with aggressive conflict since it is not exceptional in a workplace. In addition, conflict helps in developing communication methods because after the negotiation process, the parties will learn how to communicate effectively to avoid future conflict. The negotiator helps each side to view things from the other’s perspective, and it triggers the development of trust and problem solving process. Finally, conflict aids in enhancing logic and understanding between the parties and the surrounding environment (Pienaar & Spoelstra, 1999). When the parties are involved in a conflict, they air out their grievances and the negotiator acts as a mediator who fosters logic between the two, reaching a lasting agreement.


            Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more parties designed to resolve a perceived difference of interests and is an established form of relations of managing social conflicts (Choi, 2010). It is an inevitable activity in day to day life; for instance, labor management and trade unions are constantly negotiating about terms of employment, husbands and wives negotiate on how to run their families. Countries that engage in wars address their issues and differences through negotiation (Oyog & Sakar, 1997). Therefore, for human beings to exhibit a peaceful co-existence, negotiation must be present. A good example can be derived from the movie where Roman is betrayed by his colleagues and they falsely accuse him of committing murder. Previously, they worked as a team, but since there was a lack of efficient communication and negotiation they ended up in a conflict.

            On the other hand, conflict can arise due to limited resources either in the work place or in a country. When communities are competing for resources, they end up indulging in fierce battles that can only be resolved through negotiation (Koh, 1996). Greed is another major cause of conflict in a work environment. In the film “The Negotiator”, Neabium and his team scramble for funds that were disbursed to help the disabled in the police force. Their greedy nature conflicts with Roman’s positive ethical behavior in a tussle to protect public funds. To avoid such an incident in an organization, managers should form task groups mandated with resource oversight. The task group should provide a regular report on funds usage and this can curb conflict in the organization. Informing employees about the company’s progress can also reduce the chances of a conflict situation.

            A professional negotiator is a very important person in an organization. According to Choi (2010), an organization should be equipped with at least one specialized negotiator who can influence the attitude of employees. A specialized negotiator also develops team work by encouraging collective engagement in handling tasks. Team work improves the organizational performance and employee relationship. In addition, when a company owns a negotiator it avoids incurring extra expenses of hiring an external negotiator in case of an extreme conflict. With regard to negotiation, Choi (2010) suggests that it is the only cognitive method that can be employed to control human attitude.


Cheldelin, S., Druckman, D., & Fast, L. (2008). Conflict: From analysis to intervention. New York: Continuum.

 Choi, D. (2010). Shared metacognition in integrative negotiation.International Journal of Conflict Management, 21(3), 309-333. doi:

Koh, T. T. B. (1996). American strengths and weaknesses. International Negotiation 1(2), pp. 313-317, Brill Academic Press.

 Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B. & Saunders, D.M. (2010).Negotiation: Readings, exercises and cases (6th Ed.). McGraw Hill.

 Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B. & Saunders, D.M. (2011).Essentials of Negotiation (5th Ed.). McGraw Hill.

 Oyog, A. &  Sarkar, D. (1997, May 14). TACKLING THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF CONFLICT.Inter Press Service. Retrieved from

Pienaar, W. D., & Spoelstra, H. I. J. (1999). Negotiation: Theories, strategies and skills. Kenwyn: Juta.

Saner, R. (2008). The expert negotiator: Strategy, tactics, motivation, behaviour, leadership. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.