Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

Apologies: Repairing Relationships, Creating Interpersonal Peace

Jennifer Robbennolt

Jennifer Robbennolt

Apologies can resolve legal disputes ranging from personal injury cases to wrongful firings, according to University of Illinois’s Jennifer Robbennolt.

She found that admissions of guilt and remorse provide plaintiffs and “wronged” parties a sense of satisfaction, fairness, and forgiveness that enable settlement and reduce monetary damage awards.

Robbbenolt asked more than 550 volunteers to serve as “plaintiffs” in an experimental scenario, then to report their reactions to “settlement levers” including:

  • Reservation prices,
  • Aspirations,
  • “Fair” settlement amounts.

Apologies enabled injured parties to modify their perceptions of the situation and the “offender,” and to become more willing to participate in settlement discussions.
In addition, apologies changed the values injured parties’ assigned to settlement levers, so there was increased likelihood of settling the “case.”

The type of apologies and situational context affect the likelihood of case settlement.
Apologies that acknowledge responsibility and “blame” are more influential than apologies that express only sympathy.
Acknowledging accountability reduces the injured party’s anger, increases willingness to accept a settlement, and moves toward tangible and emotional “closure.”

Janelle Barlow

Janelle Barlow

Apologies are a well-known tactic to handle complaints in customer service settings, where “every complaint is a gift,” according to Janelle Barlow of TMI and Claus Møller.

Claus Møller

Claus Møller

They view complaints as valuable feedback that points out a gap between customer requirements and business performance.
In addition, complaints indicate needed changes in products, services, and market focus.

Benjamin Ho

Benjamin Ho

Medical settings have found that apologies have averted medical malpractice cases, sped settlement, and reduced financial awards, according to Cornell’s Benjamin Ho.

Although volunteer plaintiffs in Robbenholt’s study responded favorably to apologies, another of her studies demonstrated that lawyers express concern that apologies are an admission of guilt that can be used to leverage bigger settlements.
The power of apology has been acknowledged in at least thirty-five U.S. states, where statutes make some apologetic statements inadmissible at trial.

-*How do you determine when apologies are likely to repair a relationship and lead to “closure”?
-*What are the signs that apologies can deepen an interpersonal rupture?

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“Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

“Feminine charm” was one of the only 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 compared with 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.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Their findings expose “a financial risk associated with female friendliness:…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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Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Power is the central regulator of human interactionbecause it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful,” opined Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after an initial unsuccessful round of interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by recalling and summarizing a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously unsuccessful interview attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Based on this anecdotal evidence, Galinsky investigated whether changes in feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, with collaborators David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

They asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to recall and write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the power manipulation, rated the written and face-to-face interview performance of applicants.
They assigned highest ratings to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges power-primed applicants were preferred because they seemed more persuasive and confident than other applicants.
These candidates were offered job roles and business school admission more frequently than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations.

The undermining impact of recalled powerlessness was also significant:  Only 26 percent of those who wrote about a time in which they lacked power were selected for roles and admission, considerably less than the expected average of 47 percent.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post highlighted Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to contain them and to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that merely recalling an experience of personal power can favorably influence impressions of persuasiveness and perhaps competence and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and positive outlook when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?
-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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Have You Agreed to Every Bad Deal You’ve Gotten?

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wasn’t inclined to negotiate her proposed salary until she was emphatically urged by her late husband and brother-in-law.

Accenture

Accenture

In contrast, most respondents to Accenture’s 2016 online survey of 4,100 business executive women and men across 33 countries said they had asked for a pay increase.

Almost as many women as men asked for more salary, and the number of women who negotiated increased by 10% from earlier surveys.
These negotiation efforts were effective: Four out of five respondents who negotiated said they received a pay increase, confirming the mantra “Just Ask” while being prepared for “No.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

This result is more encouraging than Linda Babcock’s earlier finding that women tend not to ask for raises, and are less likely to receive salary increases when they do ask.

The Accenture study also found that nearly half of women and men respondents reported asking for a promotion to greater job responsibility, suggesting willingness to advocate for themselves to achieve monetary rewards.

Emily Amanatullah

Emily Amanatullah

Gender differences in negotiations reflect women’s “contextually contingent impression management strategies,argued University of Texas’s Emily Amanatullah and Michael Morris of Columbia University.
Translated, this means that women’s assertive bargaining behavior is judged as congruent with female gender roles in some contexts.

As a result, many women consider this “contextual variation” and potential “backlash” against perceived incongruity when negotiating.
They adjust bargaining behavior to manage social impressions in contexts where assertive bargaining behavior is seen as incongruent with female gender roles.

Michael Morris

Michael Morris

Women who advocated for themselves reduced assertive behaviors and competing tactics, resulting in poorer negotiation outcomes.
In contrast, women advocated for others achieved better outcomes because they did not reduce assertive behaviors or engage in “hedging.”

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Negotiation is interdependent process – every bad deal you’ve gotten, you’ve agreed to,” argued Margaret Neale of Stanford Graduate School of Business.
If true, this outcome can be counteracted by adopting a mindset that “everything is negotiable.

Her empirical research informed her recommended structure to achieve more effective negotiation outcomes, summarized by the acronym APAP:

–          What are the Alternatives or fall-backs to negotiating?

–          What are the Aspirational goals for the best possible outcomes?

-How realistic are these goals?
-What’s the “walk-away bottom line“?

–          Assess: How much influence do you have?
– How might the benefits of negotiating outweigh the costs?

–          Prepare: What are your interests (not positions, or proposed outcome)?
– What are the other person’s interests?

–          Ask: Propose a solution that packages issues with benefits to the other, the group, and you
Share information.

–          Package:  Avoid issue-by-issue negotiation by trading among issues.
Use If-then statements for counter-proposals,
Bundle alternative proposals.

Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb

An alternate model of three types of negotiation maneuvers was proposed by Simmons College’s Deborah Kolb and Carol Frohlinger of Negotiating Women, Inc.:

Power Moves attract others to participate in negotiation discussions:

  • Offer incentives,
  • Raise the cost of not negotiating,
  • Enlist support.

      Process Moves structure the negotiation interaction:

  • Take control of the agenda,
  • Seed ideas.

    Appreciative Moves
     enable the negotiation conversation to continue:
  • Solicit new perspectives,
  • Enable the conversation to continue,
  • Help others “save face.
Carol Frohlinger

Carol Frohlinger

Kolb and Frohlinger advocated:

-Skill building (including mutual inquiry to co-construct solutions to replace traditional Distributive Exchange and Integrative Exchange models),

-Organizational development to overcome structural barriers to women’s advancement.
These interventions may also reduce unconscious bias that excludes women from developmental assignments and advancement.

A counterpoint argument is that women can control their self-development, but they have less control over their organization’s willingness to transform its culture, practices, and awareness of bias.

-*How likely are you to ask for a salary increase or promotion?

-*What factors do you consider before making a request for more money or an expanded role?

-*What is the best negotiation pitch you’ve heard for a job-related salary increase or role promotion?

-*How did the person overcome objections?

-*How did the person manage the relationship with the negotiating partner?

-*How do you ask for what you want at work?

-*What power tactics do you employ to influence your negotiation outcomes?

-*How do you prepare for negotiations and overcome objections during negotiations?

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Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

Aaron Wallen

Aaron Wallen

Women face significant workplace challenges when they are seen as successful in traditionally-male roles, found New York University’s Madeline Heilman, Aaron Wallen, Daniella Fuchs and Melinda Tamkins.

Melinda Tamkins

Melinda Tamkins

They conducted three experimental studies on reactions to a woman’s success in a male gender-typed job.
They found that when a woman is recognized as successful in roles dominated by men, they are less liked than equally successful men in the same fields.

Tyler Okimoto

Tyler Okimoto

Heilman extended the work with University of Queensland’s Tyler Okimoto, and reported that successful women managers avoided interpersonal hostility, dislike, and undesirability when they or others conveyed “communal” attributes, through their behaviors, testimonials of others, or their role as mothers.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

Stanford’s Frank Flynn demonstrated the competence-likeability disconnect when he taught a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen.

Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen

He and collaborator Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley changed Heidi’s name to “Howard Roizen” for half of the students.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

Participants who read the Heidi case and those who read the Howard case rated Heidi and Howard on several dimensions before the class meeting.

Volunteers rated Heidi as equally highly competent and effective as Howard, but they also evaluated her as unlikeable and selfish, and wouldn’t want to hire her or work with her.

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

A more recent example of backlash toward high-profile, accomplished women was illustrated in social media mentions of Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter,

Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund) and her colleague Lisa Joy Rosner evaluated Brand Passion Index” (BPI) for Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter over 12 months by:

  • Activity (number of media mentions),
  • Sentiment (positive or negative emotional tone),
  • Intensity (strong or weak sentiment).

Public Opinion-Mayer-Sandberg-SlaughterThese competent, well-known women were not liked, and were evaluated with harsh negative attributions based on media coverage and at-a-distance observations:

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was described as impressive and super-smart, and annoying, a terrible bully,
  • Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s was characterized as truly excellent, successful working mom and crazy bizarre,
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, was depicted as an amazing, successful mother and destructive, not a good wife,
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

The competence-likeability dilemma is also apparent in hiring behavior, demonstrated in experiments by Rutgers University’s Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.

Volunteers made “hiring decisions” for male and female “candidates” competing for a “feminized” managerial role and a “masculinized” managerial role.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

Applicants were presented as:

  • “Agentic” (demonstrating stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • “Communal” (displaying stereotypically female behaviors) or
  • “Androgynous” (combining stereotypically male and female behaviors)

Women who displayed “masculine, agentic” traits were viewed as less socially acceptable  and were not selected for the “feminized” job.
However, this hiring bias did not occur when agentic women applied for the “male” job.

Niceness was not rewarded when competing for jobs:  Both male and female “communal” applicants received low hiring ratings.
However, combining niceness with agency seemed to buffer “androgynous” female applicants from discrimination in the simulated hiring process.

Rudman and Glick noted that “… women must present themselves as agentic to be hireable, but may therefore be seen as interpersonally deficient.”
They advised women to “temper their agency with niceness.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Once women receive job offers, the competence-likeability disconnect continues when they negotiate for salary and position, reported by Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon.
Her research demonstrated and replicated negative evaluations of women who negotiate for salaries using the same script as men.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

The likeability-competence dilemma may result from women’s challenges in integrating expansive, powerful body language with more submissive, appeasing behavior to build relationships and acknowledge others’ authority, suggested Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld.

She posited that many women have been socialized to adopt less powerful body positions and body language including:

  • Smiling,
  • Nodding,
  • Tilting the head,
  • Applying fleeting eye contact,
  • Speaking in sentence fragments with uncertain, rising intonation at sentence endings.

In addition, many people expect women to behave in these ways, and negatively evaluate behaviors that differ from expectations.

Body language is the greatest contributor to split-second judgments of people’s competence, according to Gruenfeld.
She estimated that body language is responsible for about 55% of judgments, whereas self-presentation accounts for 38%, and words for just 7% — in less than 100 milliseconds.

Her earlier work considered the impact of body language on assessments of power, whereas her more recent work investigated gender differences in attributions of competence and likeability.

The likeability-competence dilemma may be improved by shifting from “playing high” or taking space when demonstrating competence and authority.
Powerful body language may be risky for women unless counterbalanced with “playing low” or giving space when conveying approachability, empathy, and likeability, she noted.

Posing in more powerful positions for as little as two minutes can change levels of testosterone, a marker of dominance, just as holding a submissive posture for the same time can increase cortisol levels, signaling stress, according to Gruenfeld.
She urged women to practice both awareness and “the mechanics of powerful body language.”

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Women’s competence-likeability dilemma is not mitigated by achieving workplace success and status.
University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale, Benson Rosen, Carol Xu, Iryna Merideth found that successful women – and men, like Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter, are judged more harshly for mistakes than lower status individuals who make identical errors.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Fragale’s team found that observers attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers than the identical actions of low status wrongdoers, and recommended more severe punishments for higher status individuals in two experiments.

Iryna Meridith

Iryna Meridith

The team found preventive and reparative value in qualities of warmth and likeability.
Wrongdoers who demonstrated affiliative concern for others, charitable giving, and interpersonal warmth built a reservoir of goodwill that could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes and transgressions.

Navigating the likeability-competence dilemma requires demonstrating both capacities, depending on situational requirements.
Learning this skill can take a lifetime.

-*How do you convey likeability AND competence?

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Managing “Triadic Managers” and Navigating Office Politics by Becoming a Little Like Them

Oliver James

Oliver James

Many business leaders exhibit three problematic behaviors styles: Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machiavellianism, according to British psychologist and journalist, Oliver James.
He labels these “triadic managers.” 

The stress wrought upon others by “triadic managers” has been satirized in fictional comedies and dramas, but each element of the triumvirate have been investigated by clinical researchers and social scientists.

The most extensively researched of the three personality trends is Psychopathy, given its relevance to law enforcement. Francis Urhardt-House of Cards
Psychopaths typically display:

  • -Callous manipulation, lying, and exploitation,
  • -Grandiosity, entitlement, and shallowness,
  • -Impulsiveness and thrill-seeking,
  • -Little interpersonal empathy and remorse.
Ronald Schouten

Ronald Schouten

More than 3 million Americans and one in 10 on Wall Street are psychopathic, asserted Harvard’s Ronald Schouten, a former federal prosecutor, who collaborated with criminal defense attorney James Silver.

James Silver

They noted that nearly 15 percent of the general population or about 45 million Americans demonstrate “almost psychopathic” behavior, and many are employed as senior executives.

Robert Hare

Robert Hare

In fact, senior managers are four times more likely than the general population to display psychopathic tendencies, found University of British Columbia’s Robert Hare and industrial-organizational psychologist Paul Babiak.

They differentiated three types of workplace psychopaths:

  • Manipulator,
  • Bully,
  • Puppetmaster.

    Paul Babiak

    Paul Babiak

Clive Boddy

Clive Boddy

Narcissists in global business and financial contexts share  characteristics of psychopaths, noted Middlesex University’s Clive Boddy:

-Grandiose sense of self-importance, superiority, entitlement,
-Vanity and insatiable need for attention,
-Exploitativeness,
-Lack of empathy.

Katarina Fritzon

Katarina Fritzon

About one per cent of the population and 16 per cent of clinical groups meet the criteria for narcissism, and cluster in professions where they can control people and elicit adulation like politics, finance, entertainment, and medicine.

Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon, then of the University of Surrey, confirmed this observation when they found that senior business managers were more likely than criminal psychiatric patients to have narcissistic, histrionic, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

Sam Vaknin

Sam Vaknin

An example of a “successful narcissist” in business is Sam Vaknin, who was convicted felon incarcerated for securities fraud.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

The third element of “triadic managers”, Machiavellianism, is characterized by:

  • Detachment and coldness,
  • Manipulation,
  • Ruthless self-interest,
  • Calculating maneuvers to advance self-interest.

Centuries after Machiavelli’s classic book, Columbia University’s Richard Christie and Florence Geis studied the Machiavellian personality and developed a personality assessment to identify these characteristics.

Given the likelihood of interacting with psychopaths, narcissists, and Mariaviallian personalities in business, James sought ways to deal with them in the workplace by conducted 50 interviews with “triadic managers.”
He suggested:

  • Developing greater acumen in recognizing psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors (reading others and the situation),
  • Managing others’ “perception of one’s performance,
  • Delivering measurable results,
  • Selectively applying psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors toward offenders while appearing sincere,
  • Networking to maintain relationships and allies for use in moving to a new role.-*How do you detect and manage colleagues who manifest characteristics of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism?

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“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Tom Peters

Tom Peters

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
“Self-packaging is the shell of who you are” whereas “self-presentation (is)…that essence of what sets you apart from the crowd,“ according to blogger Murray Newlands.

The goal of personal branding is to communicate intrinsic, important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Academic researchers have brought some rigor to considering the intangibles of personal branding, presentation, and packaging.
One example is University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney academic analysis, Marketization and the Recasting of the Professional Self: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Personal Branding.

George Cheney

George Cheney

They refered to personal branding as “…a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis…as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response.
Examining complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, they identified how these approaches shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation identified the potential biases facing women and members of minority groups in meeting unspoken, implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance, a component of self-presentation.
These analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing can have significant impact on professional opportunities and outcomes, despite challenges of tracing these effects.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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