What Joe needs to consider regarding Bill’s invitation is the dynamic involved in enjoying casual activities with friends while business is a primary concern. To begin with, he should reflect on the timing of this invitation. It has come at a point when, as he knows, his relationship with Bill is marked by tension due to the contract negotiations with the Peninsula Hotel Chain. This being the case, he should consider several possibilities. On one level, it may seem that Bill is deliberately seeking to ease the conflict between them, and consequently ease the negotiation process.
On another, Joe must weigh the possibility that Bill has no thought in his mind of the business; he wants to separate the two, in fact, and merely enjoy the company of Joe and his wife. Bill’s motives here are important because they will provide clues as to how Joe should proceed. Based on the reality, Bill has made the friendly overture, so Joe is entitled to believe that Bill is on some level wanting to maintain a close relationship with Joe, which would also go to moving the negotiations along. At the same time, it is crucial that Joe consider if the friendly invitation is a strategy, intentional or otherwise. Bill may simply be trying to “gain the upper hand” by hosting Joe on his yacht, and accepting the invitation places Joe is a vulnerable position because the two will be on Bill’s “turf.” Ultimately, Joe is obligated to decide if the negotiation process will be a part of this event, and if it is appropriate for that to happen, Bill’s intentions aside. Linked to this is the important fact that, again, whether Bill wishes to further the negotiation in this way or only enjoy the outing, Bill will be Joe’s host, and Joe will be in a more vulnerable position.
Both Joe and Bill are obvious stakeholders in this matter. However, as the contract negotiation concerns the business of the Peninsula Hotels and Joe’s UWEAR company, many other stakeholders are involved. Joe’s job depends in some measure on the success of this contract, so his wife and family are stakeholders. The same is likely true to some extent for Bill, as a favorable contract would enhance his own career and benefit his family. It is also likely that a variety of UWEAR employees will be affected by what happens here, as the failure of an important contract to go through may mean lay-offs. It is probable as well that jobs at Bill’s hotel chain will be affected, which translates to other stakeholders.
Potential outcomes here, which Joe must carefully weigh before accepting Bill’s invitation, are varied. On the positive side, it is certainly possible that, as Bill and Joe have been friends, this outing will further cement their connection, and the casual atmosphere will influence both to make greater efforts in the negotiations. This may occur whether business is discussed or not, as the two men may simply find themselves more committed to attending to the interests of each other. There is also the potential that Bill, while enjoying the time with Joe, will use the occasion to swing the negotiations more to his favor. This may not be a deliberate tactic but, even arising from only the enjoyment and a desire to end the conflict between them, Bill’s advantage in being host is then important. If Joe resists in any way, both friendship and negotiation may be far more strained because Bill will perceive himself insulted. Another possible outcome is that Joe will be able to use the occasion to gain an advantage in the negotiation. This would occur if Bill is not motivated to do the same, and so concerned with only helping the friendship that he allows Joe to press the business advantage.
All of the potential outcomes, ultimately, are based on one component of the situation; namely, that a personal relationship is a factor in a business arrangement. These circumstances are highly unpredictable and, as Joe’s obligation is to secure the contract for the company, he must understand that the friendship here may work against him, and in ways neither he nor Bill intends. If Joe carefully considers, he will see that there are greater risks here than potential benefits. His friendship with Bill, in fact, should not be permitted to enter into the negotiations at all, given that the strain in it is already due to the negotiations. To save both friendship and contract, Joe is more obligated to decline the invitation and concentrate on the negotiation as being fair and right for all concerned.