We hear these words in almost all our consulting cases. Our clients feel that they are being blackmailed by the other party and are forced to take action when they are confronted with high demands and met with no cooperation.

A delivery stop in the automotive industry, delisting in retail, or the acceptance of a 35-hour workweek in a collective agreement are just a few examples. In the German Criminal Code, extortion is regulated as follows: anyone who ‘coerces an act, acquiescence, or omission by force or threat of a serious evil’ and thereby enriches himself will be punished.

As a former police officer, I think we should be careful with this word. Blackmail in a law enforcement environment has a different dimension than in business or politics. In the former, it is usually a matter of life and death.

If you find yourself facing high pressure and negative consequences as an executive, it’s important to remember that you are not being blackmailed. These are typical elements of a negotiation, and as a skilled professional, you should have the ability to handle them. Start by avoid using the word ‘blackmail’. If your negotiating partner uses it, rephrase it in your own words. Instead of saying ‘I will not be blackmailed’, express that ‘we both have a responsibility to prevent negative consequences for both parties’.

Amid crises and conflicts, it’s crucial to maintain a calm and respectful tone, particularly in heated negotiations. This approach not only helps to avoid escalation, but also ensures that all parties feel respected and in control.

Blackmail belongs in criminal law, and we should leave it there.

Let’s disarm verbally together again.

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