This authoritative tactic occurs when one cites a policy or a common practice as to why they cannot agree to something. Fortune 100 companies use this against smaller companies constantly and with great success.
Any instance in which a negotiator says, “That is not our policy,” or, “We have never done that before,” is an example of this tactic. Consider the following negotiation: Negotiator 1: “We can’t agree to share suppliers’ information with you. It is our policy not to share that information.” Negotiator 2: “Show me the policy.” OR Negotiator 1: “It is a trade secret.” Negotiator 2: “You just told me of its existence, that’s not much of a secret.” Negotiator1: “Well, there are elements that are secret, but the policy – it's part of our culture – let’s take a break so I can check.” Negotiator 1: [Silence] Negotiator 2: “Is that policy really a trade secret? Is it written?” Negotiator 2: “Is that policy really a trade secret? Is it written?” [Later] Negotiator 1: “We can share suppliers’ information with you if you sign a non-disclosure.” Negotiator 2: “We already have.”
It is often illogical to blindly follow policy in every situation, and in some cases the policy may go against the pecuniary interests of the party asserting it.