As they are called upon to make decisions during the course of a negotiation, individuals representing themselves need consult with no one. They can, of course, be represented by a lawyer or other designee. In any event, the lines of communication are relatively simple.
The lines of communication become more complicated in group situations. Corporations, unions and government agencies have no separate corporeal existence. They are inanimate entities created by individuals pursuant to laws passed by other individuals and their existence is simply a figment of the law. As entities that exist solely as fictions of the law, these groups can only act through individuals.
Individuals duly designated to represent group entities are selected by other individuals with authority to make decisions. They may and usually act in concert but their decision-making is frequently dominated by a single individual. But however they arrive at decisions, their collective wishes are usually carried out by designated spokesmen who may be officials of the group or outsiders retained for that and related purposes. In any event, all such individuals are representatives of the groups. Groups have no independent capacity to act. They can only think and act through individuals.
Representatives on the front line of conflict resolution must first agree with their principals on goals, strategies and tactics and reassess and modify them as the conflict runs its course. The principal, in turn, can be a single individual or a committee. In deciding on these matters, the individuals negotiate with each other. In effect, negotiation goes on not only between the disputants but also between and among the principals on both sides.