The term quid pro quo is a Latin phrase informally translated as "something for something" or "this for that." The phrase is used in a number of different arenas, from the legal to the political to the economic. Some quid pro quo is seen as a form of social bartering, primarily when the exchange is considered equitable and mutually beneficial. Other elements of it, especially concerning sexual harassment, can be seen as an offer that cannot be refused.
Politically speaking, quid pro quo is often used as a bargaining chip between lawmakers or leverage between world leaders. A senator may agree to vote for a bill following an arrangement with the bill's sponsor. In exchange for the vote, the sponsor may agree to compromise on another issue. World leaders also use quid pro quo as a means of political leverage. Negotiations for the peaceful settlement of conflicts often involve exchanges of technology or humanitarian aid supplies.
In economic terms, the practice of quid pro quo is recognized as a legal arrangement between two parties if the goods or services have tangible value. These payments can be included as part of a larger contract. Instead of billing out in cash only, parties can agree to quid pro quo payments of tangible goods or services. If the contract is breached, a court can order any such arrangements stated in writing to be honored.
One darker aspect of quid pro quo occurs during certain forms of sexual harassment. By using his or her position as leverage, a boss may promise a subordinate an opportunity for a pay raise or advancement in exchange for sexual favors. Fearing that the boss may punish them financially for refusing the offer, some subordinates feel tremendous pressure to submit. The idea of promising a tangible reward in exchange for sexual favors is called quid pro quo sexual harassment. The original concept is not meant to encourage blackmail or sexual intimidation.
Some use a form of quid pro quo when seeking information or a favor from a friend or associate. Both parties may have information that would benefit the other, so an informal exchange arrangement is often discussed. The actual value of the information exchanged may vary widely, but at least both sides benefit from the agreement.