President Obama did it recently to Syria. Steve Stokowski made one to a bank in Maryland. And I drew my line in the sand to a hotel in Canada.
We’re talking ultimatums — a final proposition, condition, or demand; especially one whose rejection will end negotiations and cause a company to force or other direct action.
President Obama, of course, threatened use of force against Syria unless it relinquished chemical weapons. Stokowski said he’d picket the bank unless it removed some incorrectly charged fees. I promised to walk out of a hotel unless my wife received the category of room she’d reserved.
But how do you gauge whether your ultimatum will succeed? Here are a few guidelines:
If you can’t escalate to a higher level
President Obama issued his challenge to the President of Syria. I made mine to the weekend desk clerk (the only staff person available). Stokowski did it to the highest available managers. In each case, escalation to a higher level was not possible or practical.
When the person to whom you are appealing refuses to escalate your complaint or says he or she really is the last resort and says ‘No,’ they might be implying ‘take it or leave it.’ That’s one reason to consider an ultimatum, but isn’t enough to immediately issue one. There are additional requirements.
If the other party can give you what you want
When you’re considering an ultimatum, pause and consider whether the other party can honor your request. Do they have the authority? Are you dealing with a part-time overnight desk clerk or with a manager? Is a replacement item available? Is another room actually available? Is the person authorized to erase those overdraft fees?
It makes no sense to issue an ultimatum to someone who can’t help you.
If the person can’t give you what you want, or escalation is still an option, then instead of issuing an ultimatum, keep negotiating, try to escalate, or change tactics. Try saying, as Stokowski did, “I’m easy to get along with. If you are too, we can solve this right now.”
If you think you are right (and you actually are)
You hear about them all the time, the people who make crazy demands and issue outrageous ultimatums. The dress was soiled when I bought it; I want a full refund! The computer was already damaged when I opened the box; I want two new ones! My flight was delayed so I demand an upgrade to first class on the next flight!
You laugh at their ultimatums. So do companies.
Before issuing an ultimatum, reflect for a moment. You think you are right, but are you really? If not, do you really think your demand will succeed?
If you will have no regrets
So, let’s say you have reached the top of the service chain, the other person has the authority to grant your request, and you know you are right. You are really considering an ultimatum.