Based on some statement of a book (the 7 habits of highly effective people), a friend told me that every win-win negotiation implies that the outcome is fair for both parts, and that fairness was a basic pillar for win-win negotiations.

I argued that win-win situations imply maximizing the outcome for both parts, but don't necessarily need to be fair.

Could anyone give me an explanation or an example to clarify that?


About people asking what's the definition of fair, I would say: Agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable. (source)

  • I suspect it depends a lot on how you define "fair". Do you mean "each side got the same amount (by some objectively-measured standard) out of the deal", or "each side was similarly satisfied by the deal", or what? Apr 22, 2015 at 17:13
  • Without a definition of "fair" this is merely an opinion question.
    – MCW
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:56
  • Thought by whom to be right or acceptable? If there were agreement on what was thought to be acceptable, then the negotiations would be over before you could ask this question. Negotiation only happens when the parties don't agree on what might be right or acceptable.
    – MCW
    Apr 24, 2015 at 12:08
  • Sorry, the book didn't specify
    – Joanvo
    Apr 26, 2015 at 16:58
  • 1
    As currently written, this question is not about the field of project management as defined in our help center.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    May 12, 2015 at 21:12

3 Answers 3


Fair is in the perception of the beholder. Win-win negotiations assume that mutual goals have been exploited to the degree possible, mutually benefiting both parties, and the relatively fair concessions were made by both parties on those goals that are not mutual. And, finally, it assumes the deal was better than your alternative, your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). If these conditions were met, the deal is objectively fair no matter the walk away perception of any one of the parties. That said, the walk away should be consistent with the actual fairness of the deal but that would depend on the negotiator's personality and disposition.


Regarding negotiations, fairness is usually not attached to the negotiation result but to the negotiation process:

  • Were all information accessible by all parties?
  • Were unfair manipulation techniques involved?

Having this, not all win-win situations have to be considered as fair by the negotiations parties.

By the way, win-win could be considered as loose-loose because all parties have to agree on a compromise dropping their (at least parts of) goals (I'm not absolutely sure but I think I got this from Rita's PMP Prep)...


By my opinion you are talking about the same. What is a fairness? For me situation when both part will get maximum of outcome from negotiation is rather fair. The problem is that this is just my opinion :-) Let me explain.

Let's imagine abstract negotiations involving two people (Mr. A and Mr.B). Following completion of negotiations, each party will receive abstract valuable points.

Let's assume, that there are 3 possible finals:

  • 1) Mr. A: 5, Mr.B:5
  • 2) Mr. A:10, Mr.B:4
  • 3) Mr. A:3 or Mr.B:8.

First, let look at these possible finals in the context of "fairness". What of whese finals we can call "fair"?

Mr. A may think that result of first final is not fair, because in second final he will get five times more, than Mr. B will lose. Mr. B may think the same (but he will compare result with third final).

And, obviously, Mr. A and Mr. B will will not call "fairness" third and second finals, respectively.

Outside observer may think that second result is most "fair", because in that case total outcome is biggest.

Who of them are right? I don't know.

Now, let look at these possible finals in the context of "maximum outcome for both part".

It's easy. Only first result satisfy this constraint.

So, problems of win-win negotiations is that assumed that all people have the same objective definition of fairness. I am a subjectivist and I think that fairness has no objective definition at all. On the other hand "Maximum outcome for both part" have no this problems.

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