“Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

“Feminine charm” was one of the only power plays and negotiation tactics available to women for centuries, and has been portrayed in novels by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, and George Eliot.

When former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright conceded to interviewer Bill Maher that she has used “charm” in challenging negotiations with heads of state, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray and Alex Van Zant with Connson Locke of London School of Economics sought to define the component of “feminine charm” in negotiation situations.

George Eliot

George Eliot

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Their investigation led to an operational definition of “feminine charm” as characterized by:

  • Friendliness (concern for the other person) coupled with
  • Flirtation (concern for self and self-presentation)

Like ingratiation, “the aim of feminine charm is to make an interaction partner feel good to gain compliance toward broader interaction goal,” according to Kray, Van Zant, and Locke.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Alex Van Zant

Alex Van Zant

They found that “feminine charm” (friendliness plus flirtation) created positive impressions that partially buffered the social penalties or “backlash” against negotiating, identified by Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and her colleagues.

Connson Locke

Connson Locke

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

Women who were perceived as flirtatious achieved superior economic deals in their negotiations than women who were seen as friendly, validating suggestions by Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld and Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock, that women achieve better negotiation outcomes when they combine power tactics with warmth, which may stop short of flirtation.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Kray, Van Zant and Locke concluded that their findings expose “a financial risk associated with female friendliness:  Although it may facilitate the expansion of the proverbial negotiating pie and create positive impressions of female negotiators, the resulting division of resources may be unfavorable if she is perceived as ‘too nice’.”

-*How do you mitigate the “financial risk associated with female friendliness”?

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4 thoughts on ““Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

  1. Megan Murphy

    I feel so mixed about this. Isn’t the undercurrent of this…if I turn you on I think I’ll get paid more. ? I like to think more in terms of the power of feminine, as in…Bring my best fem brain and heart forward with a generous spirit, but leave the flirtation out of it. I think flirtation, while obviously affective, is not helping women, today or in the long run.

    Reply
    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Thanks for this succinct analysis of the concern with using “feminine charm” (including flirtatiousness) in negotiation and work situations, Megan.

      As you point out, flirtation might augment friendliness to achieve superior financial outcomes in laboratory experiments, but this tactic may seem like a compromise of personal values.

      Friendliness seems to buffer the negative “backlash” against women who speak up and negotiate, but more investigation is required to determine how frequently women intentionally add flirtation to interpersonal warmth, and whether those who do think that the long-term effects are worthwhile.

      *Kathryn Welds* welds@post.harvard.edu 650 740 0763 *LinkedIn | **Blog **|**Google+ ** |Twitter@kathrynwelds **| Facebook notes *

      On Sun, Aug 18, 2013 at 8:29 AM, Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Gender Differences in Emotional Expression: Smiling | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  3. Pingback: Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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