Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Optimally matching assertiveness style to specific situations can determine success in negotiations, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.

Abbie Wazlawek

Abbie Wazlawek

Earlier, Ames and Stanford’s Frank Flynn reported that moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
They also found that most observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However, most people do not accurately assess others’ evaluation of their assertiveness in specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.
These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from others, which provides faulty information.

More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames Assertiveness

Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation outcomes: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated greatest value to both parties.

Ames Assertiveness U CurveStrategic umbrage also appeared effective:  People who received these intentional emotional displays by their negotiation partners were more likely to rate themselves as over-assertive in their negotiation position.
However, negotiators who applied strategic umbrage rated these self-critical negotiation partners as appropriately assertiveness.
Ames and Watzlawek called this misperception of others’ perceptions the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Nearly 60% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately assertive but felt over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the inferior deals for themselves and their counterparts.
This suggests that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiation partners to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.

Jeffrey Kern

Jeffrey Kern

To improve accuracy of meta-perception – other people’s perception of assertiveness style – Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

-Participate in 360 degree feedback,

-Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,

Consider whether negotiation proposals are reasonable in light of alternatives,

-Request feedback on reactions to “strategic umbrage” displays to better understand perceptions of “offer reasonableness,

-Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:

Gary Yukl

Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation but the cost may be ruptured interpersonal relationships and a legacy of ill-will, according to Jeffrey M. Kern of Texas A&M as well as SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

  • Consider cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, where dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations.In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.
Edward T Hall

Edward T Hall

Likewise, under-assertiveness may minimize interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility in future interactions, according to Ames’ related research.

To augment a less assertiveness style:

  • Set slightly higher goals,
  • Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict,
  • Consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes
  • Assess the outcome of collaborating with more assertive others.

To modulate a more assertiveness style:

  • Make slight concessions to increase rapport and trust with others,
  • Observe and evaluate the impact of collaborating with less assertive others.

The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can attenuate individual confidence and assertiveness.

*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?

*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?

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Organizational Trust vs “Only the Paranoid Survive”

Organizational life can be punctuated by social uncertainty, leading to mistrust.

Andy Grove

Andy Grove

In fact, Intel’s Chairman, Andy Grove explained his success in guiding the company through a critical flaw in its Pentium chip, which threatened Intel’s brand value, noting “Only the Paranoid Survive.

Christel Lane

Christel Lane

However, organizational paranoia’s counterpoint, trust, is associated with productivity, creative problem-solving, employee commitment and retention, remarked University of Cambridge’s Christel Lane and Reinhardt Bachman of University of Surrey.

Reinhard Bachmann

Reinhard Bachmann

Likewise, Alan Fox catalogued negative consequences of suspicion in work settings.
Stanford’s Roderick Kramer offered both support and caveats to Grove’s pro-paranoia mantra by noting that people in organizations often misconstrue and overvalue suspicions, leading to low collaboration and isolation at work.

Roderick Kramer

Roderick Kramer

He noted that people with fewer resources or less power may engage in self-protective behaviors, accompanied by increased hypervigilance, consistent with findings by Princeton’s Susan Fiske.

Susan Fiske

Susan Fiske

These strategies increase the possibility of “paranoid social cognition”, and may lead people to engage in:

-Personalized construal of interactions,

-Sinister attribution error,

-Perception of conspiracy, highlighted by Rutgers’ Ted Goertzel.

Ted Goertzel

Ted Goertzel

To balance “prudent paranoia” with organizational trust, Kramer recommends that people in organizations consider alternate interpretations from people likely to hold different views, while skeptically considering “reality as an hypothesis.”

-*How do you find a balance between organizational trust and “prudent paranoia”

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Gender Transitions Demonstrate Continuing Gender Differences in Pay, Workplace Experience

People who change gender illustrate the impact of gender on workplace experience and compensation, while holding constant the person’s education and experience.

Two Stanford professors’ experience in gender transition highlight findings by University of Chicago’s Kristen Schilt.

Joan Roughgarden

Joan Roughgarden – Jonathan Roughgarden

Stanford’s Joan Roughgarden, was an evolutionary biologist for more than 25 years as Jonathan Roughgarden before she made her male-to-female (MTF) transition.
Known for her work integrating evolutionary theory with Christian beliefs (“theistic evolutionism”), she reported feeling less able to make bold hypotheses and no longer had “the right to be wrong.”

Her experience contrasts woth Stanford colleague, neurobiologist Ben Barres, who made scientific contributions as Barbara Barres until he was more than 40.

Barbara Barres - Ben Barres

Barbara Barres – Ben Barres

After his female-to-male (FTM) transition, Ben delivered a lecture at the  Whitehead Institute, where an audience member commented, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but, then, his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Schilt surveyed FTM and MTF to compare earnings and employment experiences before and after gender transitions.
with questions similar to 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS) survey items:

  • Last job before gender transition,
  • First job after gender transition,
  • Most recent job.
Kristen Schilt

Kristen Schilt

Female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs) reported that as men, they received more authority, reward, and respect in the workplace than they received as women, even when they remained in the same jobs.

Height and skin color affected potential advantages enjoyed by FTM:  Tall, white FTMs experienced greater benefits than short FTMs and FTMs of color.

In contrast, MTF reported reduced authority and pay, and often harassment and termination.

University of Illinois’s Donald McCloskey, for example, was told by his department chair – in jest – that he could expect a salary reduction when he became Deirdre McCloskey.

Deirdre McCloskey

Deirdre McCloskey

However, salary reduction was no joke for MTFs in Schilt’s survey sample.
Participants reported significant losses of 12% in hourly earnings after becoming female.

Additionally, MTFs transitioned on average 10 years later than FTMs, delaying the loss of labor market advantages attributable to male gender.

FTMs, however, experienced no change in earnings or small positive increases up to 7.5% in earnings after transitioning to becoming men.

Any gender transition was associated with risks of harassment and discrimination, reported more frequently in “blue-collar” jobs, particularly for those with “non-normative” appearance and not consistently “passing” as the other gender.

These “naturalistic experiments” confirm continuing gender-based pay discrepancies.

-*To what extent have you observed these gender-linked differences in compensation and workplace credibility?

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“High-Commitment” Workplaces Enhance Creative Problem Solving, Innovation

Organizations recognize the importance of continuous innovation to grow revenues.

Richard E. Walton

Richard E. Walton

As a result, many organizations have experimented with “high-commitment work systems (HCWS)” described by Harvard’s Richard E. Walton, as a “lever” to positively influence employee productivity, retention, and innovation.

High-commitment employee benefits are designed to elicit employees’ reciprocal commitment and intrinsic motivation to support the organization’s objectives.
These programs may include:

  • Employee participation initiatives,
  • Team rewards,
  • Profit sharing,
  • Career development training,
  • Internal transfer opportunities,
  • Internal advancement opportunities, with preference over external candidates,
  • Employment ”security.”
Song Chang

Song Chang

Organizations with these high-commitment employee programs, measured by High Commitment Work System Scale, had highly innovative and creative employees when they worked with cohesive teams on complex tasks in a study of more than 50 technology firms in China by Song Chang of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with Nanjing University’s Liangding Jia and Yahua Cai, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Riki Takeuchi.

Zhixing Xiao

Zhixing Xiao

High-commitment work systems (HCWS)” can occur in organizations with varying approaches to human capital management, described by China Europe International Business School’s Zhixing Xiao and Anne S. Tsui of Arizona State University:

  • Anne Tsui

    Anne Tsui

    Mutual-investment (or organization-focused) strategies combine:
    -Specified, closed economic exchanges with
    -Unspecified, open-ended social exchanges that include implied trust and reciprocity leading to
    Expectations of employment security,

David Walsh

David Walsh

Although this job-focused approach does not imply trust or reciprocity, many contract employers offer employee benefits similar to those in “high-commitment” workplaces.

Joshua Schwartz

Joshua Schwartz

This contrast between employers’ implied social contract by offering high-commitment benefits with at-will employment may appear incongruous to employees.
The result may be confusion, cynicism or disengagement.

David Walsh-Joshua Schwartz At Will Exceptions MapDespite these contrasting approaches to employee relations, high-commitment benefit programs can enable “creative situations,” described by Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, in which individual motivation can contribute to commercial innovation.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

Organizations that establish creative work situations, she noted, typically offer some high-commitment employee programs:

  • Job rotation,
  • Training to increase subject matter expertise,
  • Job autonomy,
  • Working in teams to solve problems and deliver products,
  • Participative management.

Despite not guaranteeing employment tenure, these programs were associated with:

  • Egalitarian culture,
  • High trust,
  • Support for disrupting status quo.

Song Chang 2Workplace environment-shaping through high-commitment employee programs can lead to increased innovation and related commercial opportunities.

However, organizations that adhere to at-will employment practices and offer high-commitment benefits can benefit from clearly communicating the limits of their commitments to avoid adverse employee reactions.

-*What are most effective ways to balance and integrate coexisting at-will employment policies with “high-commitment work systems”?


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Leader Self-Efficacy Beliefs Determine Impact of Challenging Work Assignments

Stephen Courtright

Stephen Courtright

“High potential” employees often receive “stretch assignments” to expand their organizational knowledge, skills, and contacts.

Amy Colbert

Amy Colbert

The individual’s leadership self-efficacy (LSE) expectations about personal capabilities to deliver successful outcomes determine the actual results, reported Texas A&M’s Stephen H. Courtright, Amy E. Colbert of University of Iowa, and Daejeong Choi of University of Melbourne in their four month study of more than 150 managers and 600 directors at a Fortune 500 financial services company.

Daejeong Choi

Daejeong Choi

Individuals develop self efficacy, according to Stanford’s Albert Bandura, in response to individuals’:

  • Personal accomplishments and mastery,
  • Observing others’ behaviors, experiences, and outcomes,
  • Corrective feedback from others via coaching and mentoring,
  • Mood and physiological factors.
Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

Bandura posited that people’s expectations about their personal efficacy determines whether they:

  • Use coping behavior when encountering difficulties,
  • Apply exceptional effort in meeting challenges,
  • Persist for long periods when encountering difficult experiences and obstacles.

These behaviors lead to the “virtuous cycle” of increased self-efficacy beliefs.

Laura Paglis Dwyer

Laura Paglis Dwyer

A measure of leadership self-efficacy (LSE), developed by University of Evansville’s Laura L. Paglis Dwyer and Stephen G. Green of Purdue University, evaluates a leader’s skill in:

  • Direction-setting,
  • Gaining followers’ commitment,
  • Overcoming obstacles to change.
Sean Hanna

Sean Hanna

Two additional Leader Self Efficacy characteristics were proposed by United States Military Academy’s Sean T. Hannah with Bruce Avolio, Fred Luthans, and Peter D. Harms of University of Nebraska:

  • Agency,” characterized by intentionally initiating action and exerting positive influence,
  • Confidence.
Jesus Tanguma

Jesus Tanguma

Women demonstrated significantly lower leadership self-efficacy beliefs than men in research by University of Houston’s Michael J. McCormick, Jesús Tanguma
, and Anita Sohn López-Forment, and a related post on this site reviews women’s lag in expressions of “confidence,” with consequences for women’s representation in executive leadership roles.

However, Bandura found that these beliefs can be modified with intentional interventions like training, coaching, mentoring and cognitive restructuring practice.

Courtright’s team reinforced that beliefs result from previous experiences can determine future outcomes, suggesting the importance of monitoring and managing these guiding ideas.

-*How do you maintain robust Leadership Self-Efficacy expectations even after disappointments and setbacks?


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“Surface Acting” At Work Leads to Stress Spillover

David Wagner

David Wagner

Employers, employees, and benefits providers recognize that experiences at work can affect employees’ quality of life outside of work.
This linkage has spawned workplace 
Employee Assistance Programs, on-site medical centers, concierges, meals, and fitness centers in the US.

Christopher Barnes

Christopher Barnes

When employees mask their true feelings in work situations, they engage in “surface acting” — displaying appropriate, but unfelt facial expressions, verbal interactions, and body language.

Brent Scott

Brent Scott

Surface acting at work was associated with emotional exhaustion, work-to-family conflict, and insomnia outside of work for more than 70 volunteers in a high stress public service occupation, according to Singapore Management University’s David T. Wagner, Christopher M. Barnes of University of Washington, and Brent A. Scott of Michigan State University.

Arlie Hochschild

Arlie Hochschild

Emotional labor” was Arlie Hochshild’s earlier term for “surface acting” in customer service interactions when employees present prescribed verbalizations and emotions.

She contrasted “surface acting” with “deep acting” in which the person:

  • Exhibits the emotion actually felt,
  • Uses past emotional experiences to elicit real emotion and empathic connection with others, in a form of “organizational method acting.
Christina Maslach

Christina Maslach

Surface acting can lead to occupational “burnout,” characterized by emotional exhaustion, detachment from others, and reduced workplace performance, noted University of California Berkeley’s Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson.

Céleste Brotheridge

Céleste Brotheridge

In contrast, high emotional labor with deep acting was associated with a greater sense of personal accomplishment in research by University of Regina’s Celeste Brotheridge and Alicia Grandey of Penn State.

Veikko Surakka

Veikko Surakka

Recipients of “surface acting” are usually accurately detect that it’s an inauthentic display, according to University of Tampere Veikko Surakka and Jari K Hietanen of University of Helsinki.

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Similarly, “Facades of Conformity”, impression management, and
unwilling compliance are associated with generalized stress and reduced quality of life outside of work, according to Georgetown’s Patricia Hewlin, University of Lethbridge’s Karen H. Hunter, Andrew A. Luchak of University of Alberta, and Athabasca University’s Kay Devine.

Kay Devine

Kay Devine

  • Terence Mitchell

    Impression management, characterized by ingratiating behaviors in two-person relationships, can influence career outcomes, according to Georgia Tech’s Robert C. Liden and Terence R. Mitchell of University of Washington.

  • Compliance, identified by publicly stating changed beliefs in response to external pressures, without modifying actual personal convictions, according to Leon Festinger.
Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

Most people at work encounter situations in which they must behave in “appropriate” ways inconsistent with their true feelings, and may experience similar stress spillover from “surface acting” at work.

-*How do you prevent “burnout” when workplace settings seem to require “surface acting”?


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Laptop Note-Taking leads to “Shallower Cognitive Processing” than Manual Notes

Pam Mueller

Pam Mueller

Taking notes by hand enhanced understanding and recall more than taking on a laptop computer in a study by Princeton’s Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA.
Volunteers who hand-wrote notes performed better on factual and conceptual questions about the content than those who took notes on a laptop computer.

Mueller and Oppenheimer differentiated two types of note-taking:

Virpi Slotte

Virpi Slotte

More “superficial” information processing is linked to less accurate text comprehension, found University of Helsinki’s Virpi Slotte and Kirsti Lonka.
In addition, shallow processing is associated with lower performance on integrative and conceptual understanding, reported Clemson University’s Brent Igo, Roger Bruning of University of Nebraska, and Victoria University’s Matthew McCrudden.

Kirsti Lonka

Kirsti Lonka

Participants viewed 15-minute TED Talks or recorded lectures while capturing handwritten notes typed on a laptop computer.
Next, volunteers completed two 5-minute distractor tasks and a reading span task to test working memory.

Roger Bruning

Roger Bruning

By that time, 30 minutes had elapsed since the end of the lecture, and participants answered questions about the content:

  • Factual-recall, such as “Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?”
  • Conceptual-application, like “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?”

Mueller-Oppenheim Question TypesVolunteers who took notes on a laptop were more likely to record verbatim notes and showed poorer performance on factual-recall questions and conceptual-application questions.

Even when participants were explicitly instructed to “take notes in your own words and don’t just write down word-for-word what the speaker is saying,” people using laptops recorded more verbatim notes than manual note-takers, and their comprehension performance did not improve.

Matthew McCrudden

Matthew McCrudden

A similar study included a significantly longer delay between the lecture with note-taking and the comprehension test,.
Half the participants reviewed their handwritten or laptop notes for 10 minutes before the test and the other volunteers answered test questions without reviewing material.

Daniel Oppenheimer

Daniel Oppenheimer

Findings confirmed that people who paraphrase content demonstrate greater content comprehension, enabled by  slower processing with manual note-taking.

Taking notes on a laptop computer enables users to transcribe information at higher speeds, and drawbacks include:

  • Shallower information processing,
  • Decreased conceptual understanding,
  • Reduced factual recall,
  • Distraction in multi-tasking on email or social media.

-*How do you maintain increase comprehension and retention when taking notes using a laptop computer?

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