Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

Costs of Workplace Incivility

Christine Pearson

A single incident of incivility in the workplace can result in significant operational costs, reported Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Christine Porath of Georgetown University.
They cited consequences of workplace incivility:

  • Decreased work effort due to disengagement,

    Christine Porath

    Christine Porath

  • Less time at work to reduce contact with  offensive co-workers or managers,
  • Decreased work productivity due to ruminating about incivility incidents,
  • Less commitment to the organization,
  • Attrition.
Pier Massimo Forni

P.M. Forni

Additional organizational symptoms include:

  • Increased customer complaints,
  • Accentuated cultural and communications barriers,
  • Reduced confidence in leadership,
  • Less adoption of changed organizational processes,
  • Reduced willingness to accept additional responsibility and make discretionary work efforts.

Workplace incivility behaviors were described as “rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others,” noted Pearson and Lynne Andersson, then of St. Joseph’s University.
“Uncivil” behaviors were enumerated in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study by Johns Hopkins’ P.M. Forni and Daniel L. Buccino with David Stevens and Treva Stack of University of Baltimore:

  • Refusing to collaborate on a team project,
  • Shifting blame for an error to a co-worker,
      • Reading another’s mail,
      • Neglecting to say “please,” “thank you”,
      • Taking a co-worker’s food from the office refrigerator without asking.

Respondents classified more extreme unacceptable behaviors as “violent”:

  • Pushing a co-worker during an argument,
  • Yelling at a co-worker,
  • Firing a subordinate during a disagreement,
  • Criticizing a subordinate in public,
  • Using foul language in the workplace.

Gary Namie

Workplace bullying was included in Gary Namie’s Campaign Against Workplace Bullying.
He defined bullying as “the deliberate repeated, hurtful verbal mistreatment of a person (target) by a cruel perpetrator (bully).

His survey of more than 1300 respondents found that:

  • More than one-third of respondents observed bullying in the previous two years,
  • More than 80% of perpetrators were workplace supervisors,
  • Women bullied as frequently as men,
  • Women were targets of bullying 75% of the time,
  • Few bullies were punished, transferred, or terminated from jobs.

Costs of health-related symptoms experienced by bullying targets included:

  • Depression,
  • Sleep loss, anxiety, inability to concentrate, which reduced work productivity,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among 31% of women and 21% of men,
  • Frequent rumination about past bullying, leading to inattention, poor concentration, and reduced productivity.

Choosing CivilityWidespread prevalence of workplace incivility was also reported by Forni, who suggested ways to improve workplace interactions and inclusion:

  • Assume that others have positive intentions,
  • Pay attention, listen,
  • Include all co-workers in workplace activities,
  • Avoid complaints,
  • Acknowledge others,
  • Give praise when warranted,
  • Respect others’ opinions, time, space, indirect refusals,
  • Avoid asking personal questions,
  • Be selective in asking for favors,
  • Sincerely apologize when warranted,
  • Provide constructive suggestions for improvement,
  • Maintain personal grooming, health, and work environment,
  • Accept responsibility and blame, if deserved.

More than 95% of respondents in The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study suggested, “Keep stress and fatigue at manageable levels,” a challenging goal for leaders who shape workplace cultures.

Organizationalhange recommendations include:

  • Instituting a grievance process to investigate and address complaints of incivility,
  • Selecting prospective employees with effective interpersonal skills,
  • Offering a clearly-written policy on interpersonal conduct,
  • Adopting flexibility in scheduling, assignments, and work-life issues.

-*How do you handle workplace incivility when you observe or experience it?

©Kathryn Welds

Executive Presence: “Gravitas”, Communication…and Appearance?

Executive Presence is considered essential to effectively perform in leadership roles.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Professional advancement to executive roles requires demonstrated knowledge, skill, and competence, coupled with less quantifiable “authenticity,” “cultural fit,” and “executive presence.”

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, CEO of Center for Talent Innovation, conducted 18 focus groups and 60 interviews to systematically investigate behavioral and attitudinal aspects of Executive Presence (EP).

Executive Presence accounts for more than a quarter of factors that determine a next promotion, according to participants, and includes three components:Executive Presence

Gravitas” – Authoritative Behavior

    • Confidence, composure,
    • Decisiveness,
    • Integrity,
    • Emotional Intelligence: Self-awareness, self-regulation, interpersonal skills,
    • Personal “brand” reputation,
    • Vision for leadership

Communication

    • Speaking skills:  Voice tone, articulation, grammatical speech conveying competence,
    • Presence”, “bearing”,  “charisma” including assertiveness, humor, humility,
    • Ability to sense audience engagement, emotion, interests

Appearance

    • Grooming, posture,
    • Physical attractiveness, normal weight,
    • Professional attire.

Harrison Monarth

Executive presence can be cultivated with Image Management, noted Harrison Monarth.

He advocated self-marketing tactics including:

– Maintaining a compelling personal “brand” to influence others’ perceptions and willingness to collaborate,

– Managing online reputation, and recovering when communications go awry,

-Effectively persuading those who disagree, and gaining followers,

-Demonstrating “Emotional Intelligence” skills of self-awareness, awareness of others (empathic insight).

He focused less on appearance as a contributor to career advancement than Hewlett and Stanford Law School’s Deborah Rhode, who summarized extensive research on Halo Effect.
Rhode and Hewlett acknowledged the impact of appearance and non-verbal behavior on various life opportunities including career advancement.

Deborah Rhode

Rhode estimated that annual world-wide investment in appearance is close to $200 billion in 2010 USD currency, and she contended that bias based on appearance:

  • Is prevalent,
  • Infringes on individuals’ fundamental rights,
  • Compromises merit principles,
  • Reinforces negative stereotypes,
  • Compounds disadvantages facing members of non-dominant races, classes, and gender.

Executive Presence is widely recognized as a prerequisite for leadership roles, yet its components remained loosely-defined until Hewlett’s systematic investigation, Monarth’s consulting-based approach, and Rhode’s legal analysis.

-*Which elements seem most essential to Executive Presence?

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©Kathryn Welds

Women Who Express Anger Seen as Less Influential

Jessica Salerno

Jessica Salerno

Men who expressed anger were more likely to influence their peers in their study of computer-mediated mock jury proceedings, found Arizona State University’s Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene of University of Illinois. 
In contrast, women who expressed anger were seen as less influential, reinforcing trends reported in a previous blog post.

Liana Peter-Hagene

Liana Peter-Hagene

More than 200 U.S. jury-eligible volunteers reviewed opening arguments and closing statements, eyewitness testimonies, crime scene photographs, and an image of the alleged weapon in a homicide.

Participants made individual verdict choices, then exchanged instant messages by computer, with “peers” who were said to be deliberating their verdict decisions.

In fact, “peer” messages were scripted, with four of the fictional jurors agreeing with the participant’s verdict, and one disagreeing.
The dissenting participant had a male user name or a female user name or a gender-neutral name.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Half of the dissenting messages contained no emotion, anger, or fear, and these communications had no influence on participants’ opinions.

However, participants’ confidence in their verdict decision significantly dropped when a single “male dissenter” sent angry messages, characterized by “shouting” in all capital letters.
Confidence in the verdict decision dropped even when the vote was shared by the majority of other “jurors.”
This finding suggests the persuasive impact of a single male dissenter’s angry communication.

In contrast, volunteers became more confident in their initial verdict decisions when their vote was echoed by the majority of other participants.

This confidence was was maintained when a single female dissenter responded with angry emotional message, suggesting that “female” anger was less influential than “male” anger.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals compared with angry male professionals in research by Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of INSEAD.
Evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs and to female trainees when they expressed anger.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.
Likewise, women who expressed anger and sadness were rated less effective than women who shared no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Evaluators judged men’s angry reactions more generously, attributing these emotional expressions to understandable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

These differing judgments of emotional expression suggest that women’s anger is more harshly evaluated because anger expressions deviate from women’s expected societal, gender, and cultural norms.

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for women and men who express anger at work?

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©Kathryn Welds

Lonely People Increase Social Skills, Reduce “Choking” by Reframing Anxiety

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 percent, comparable to health risks of obesity, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol use, according to Brigham Young University’s Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson.
Besides triggering emotional discomfort, loneliness harms people’s health.

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

Loneliness and social isolation differ.
Some people report feeling lonely in the presence of others, whereas socially isolated people may not report loneliness.
However, both loneliness and social isolation increased risk for mortality in a meta-analysis of more than 3 million participants in studies of loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Megan Knowles

Megan Knowles

Lonely individuals benefitted more from learning to cope with social performance anxiety than from developing social skills, in studies by Franklin & Marshall College’s Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas of University of Southern CaliforniaFlorida State University’s Roy Baumeister, and Wendi L. Gardner of Northwestern.

Gale M. Lucas

Gale M. Lucas

More than 85 volunteers completed a loneliness self-report, then identified emotions on computer-presented faces.
Self-described lonely people out-performed non-lonely people when social sensitivity tasks were described as measures of academic aptitude.

Roy Baumeister

However, lonely participants performed worse when tasks were presented as tests of social aptitude.
These volunteers also reported difficulty forming and maintaining friendships, suggesting that social anxiety leads to “choking” in social “performance” situations.
The result is continued loneliness.

Wendi Gardner

Wendi Gardner

Lonely people may be more socially competent than the non-lonely: They were more skilled at remembering social information in studies by Northwestern’s Wendi L. Gardner, Cynthia L. Pickett of University of California Davis, and Ohio State University’s Marilynn B. Brewer.
The team assessed social recall by presenting volunteers with a simulated computer chat task that provided brief acceptance or rejection experiences, then a diary containing both social and individual events.

Cynthia L. Pickett

Cynthia L. Pickett

When social anxiety could be reattributed feelings to an external cause , it was associated with increased performance.
Volunteers consumed a non-caffeinated energy beverage and learned that jitters they might experience resulted from the “caffeine” they’d just consumed.
This explanation provided a plausible but false rationale for anxious feelings.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Similarly, Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks found that reframing nervousness as “excitement” helped people perform better on stressful tasks.

An additional coping approach for lonely people is modifying personal mindsets following social loss cues.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Fixed mindset, identified by Stanford’s Carol Dweck, is a belief that personal capabilities are limited to present capacities.
This perspective is similar to
security-oriented, prevention-focused behaviors of lonely people observed by University of Southern California’s Lucas with Knowles, Gardner, Daniel C. Molden and Valerie E. Jefferis of Northwestern.
This mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.

Daniel Molden

Daniel Molden

In contrast, growth mindset is similar to promotion-focused responses like attempts at social engagement.
This developmental mindset holds that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, and correcting mistakes.
This view enables teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction.

Marilynn Brewer

Marilynn Brewer

To demonstrate these effects, Lucas’s group gave volunteers either subtle cues of acceptance or rejection.
People who received positive primes were more likely to develop a promotion-focused growth mindset.
These participants also reported more effective social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

People who experience social anxiety and loneliness can reduce social avoidance by reframing discomfort as “excitement” and by embracing learning and new experiences in a growth mindset.

-*How do you manage loneliness?

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©Kathryn Welds

Workplace Incivility is Contagious, Damaging

James Bartlett

James Bartlett

Workplace incivility has negative consequences including reduced employee engagement and productivity, according to North Carolina State University’s James E. Bartlett and Michelle E. Bartlett with Florida Atlantic University’s Thomas G. Reio.

Trevor Foulk

Trevor Foulk

Rudeness in the workplace is contagious and leads people to be vigilant for subsequent slights, reported University of Florida’s Trevor Foulk, Andrew Woolum, and Amir Erez.
They suggested that low-level workplace hostility enables similar behavior throughout the organization, leading to eroded culture and productivity.

Andrew Woolum

Andrew Woolum

Ninety volunteers practiced negotiation with partners, and those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner.

Participants seemed to assimilate and convey the first partner’s rudeness.
The effect persisted during the week between the first and second negotiations.

Amir Erez

Amir Erez

Foulk’s team presented staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader, who responded neutrally or rudely.
Then, volunteers completed a timed task to distinguish real words from nonsense words.

Participants who observed the leader’s rude response more quickly identified rude words in a task than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.
Observing rude interactions can “prime” people’s awareness and sensitivity to future uncivil interactions.

Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel

People who witnessed rudeness were more likely to be rude to others, confirming the impact of observing aggression on future behavior, earlier demonstrated in often-cited “Bobo” experiments  by Stanford’s Walter Mischel, Dorothea Ross and Sheila Ross.

Mischel's experiment with Bobo doll

Mischel’s experiment with Bobo doll

Foulk’s group also observed this priming effect when
volunteers watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer neutral-toned email.
Participants’ responses were more likely to be hostile than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

Rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” noted Foulk, who contended that harsh interactions can reduce collaboration and trust in the workplace.

-*How do you stop the spread of workplace incivility?

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©Kathryn Welds

Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

Anxious people were more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior in studies by University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kou

Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Engaging in unethical behaviors may offer more options and greater control over outcomes, found University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
Unethical behavior was also associated with feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

People who violate ethical norms can experience a cheater’s high‘ instead of guilt, found University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Cheaters in Ruedy’s research reported emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of guilt, and Paul Ekman of University of California, San Francisco referred to this exuberance among some cheaters as “duping delight.”

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

In Ruedy’s studies, nearly 180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Participants then rated current feelings from positive to negative, both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers on the task were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

More than 40% of these volunteers wrote in additional answers to increase their earnings, and reported significantly positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team told volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential deceit.
They also showed higher levels of self-satisfaction and feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, and superior.

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest that organizational leaders can increase employee quality-of-life and diminish unethical workplace behaviors by clarifying roles, which reduces anxiety.

Leaders also can reduce employees’ anxiety by:

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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©Kathryn Welds

Group “Intelligence” Linked to Social Skills – and Number of Women Members

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

A group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is related to social and communication skills, not to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Group intelligence was most closely associated with:

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

More than 695 volunteers completed an individual I.Q. test, then collaborated in teams to complete workplace tasks including:

  • Logical analysis,
  • Coordination,
  • Planning,
  • Brainstorming,
  • Moral-ethical reasoning.
Alexander Pentland

Alexander Pentland

Teams with higher average I.Qs performed similarly to teams with lower average I.Qs on collective intelligence tasks.

Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

Each participant also completed a measure of empathy  and social reasoning based on identifying emotional states portrayed in images of people’s eyes.

This instrument, Reading the Mind in the Eyes , was developed by University of Cambridge’s Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelright, JacquelineHill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Sally Wheelright

This ability to infer other team members’ emotional states correlated with team effectiveness in solving workplace tasks, but not with extraversion and reported motivation.

Teams that performed best in online and face-to-face situations, also demonstrated stronger social and communication skills:

  • Accurate emotion-reading, empathy, and interpersonal sensitivity,
  • Communication volume,
  • Equal participation.

David Engel

High-performing teams excelled in inferring others’ feelings even if conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues while interacting online in a study by Wooley’s team collaborating with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.

These studies demonstrate that teams increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills rather than the highest measured IQ.

  • How do you enhance a work group’s collective intelligence in performance tasks?

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©Kathryn Welds

Nothing to Lose: Effective Negotiating Even When “Powerless”

Michael Schaerer

Most negotiators prefer to have a “fall back position.”
However, having no alternatives and less power than co-negotiators can improve outcomes, found INSEAD’s Michael Schaerer and Roderick Swaab with Adam Galinsky of Columbia.

Alternatives enable negotiators to gain concessions from co-negotiators because they have a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, defined by Harvard’s Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher

When an alternative is weak, it can undermine negotiating outcomes more than having no alternative because it establishes an “anchor point” based on competing options.

Anchoring is a frequent cognitive bias characterized by overvaluing one piece of information, according to Hebrew University’s late Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton.

William Ury

William Ury

Negotiators usually anchor on the value of alternatives when making a first offer, and people with weak alternatives generally make lower first offers than those with no alternative.
“Lowball” first offers based on few or poor alternatives usually undermine a negotiator’s final outcome.

Professional athletes and their agents provide examples of negotiating better deals when they have no “back up” offers and “nothing to lose,” so they can set ambitious anchor points.

Amos Tversky

Amos Tversky

In a separate study, Schaerer and team asked a hundred people whether they would prefer to negotiate a job offer with a weak alternative or without any alternative.
More than 90 percent of participants preferred an unattractive alternative offer, confirming the popular assumption that any alternative is  better than no alternative.

Another of Schaerer’s lab studies asked volunteers to imagine selling a used music CD by The Rolling Stones.
Participants were randomly assigned to three groups which received different information about their negotiation situations:

  • No offers (no alternative),
  • One offer at USD $2 (weak alternative),
  • A bid at USD $8 (strong alternative).

Roderick Swaab

Roderick Swaab

Volunteers in each group proposed a first offer, and rated the degree of power they felt.
Not surprisingly, people with the strong alternative felt the most powerful and those with no alternative felt the least powerful.

However, people with a weak alternative felt more powerful than those with no alternative, but they made lower first offers, signaling less confidence than participants with no alternative.
Having any alternative can help people feel powerful but can undermine negotiation performance.

Schaerer’s team explored this paradox by pairing a  “seller,” who offered a coffee mug during a face-to-face meeting, and a potential “buyer.”

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the meeting, the seller received a phone call from “another buyer,” who was actually a confederate of the researchers.
For half of the “sellers,” the potential buyer either made a low offer or declined to bid.

“Sellers” without an alternative offer said they felt less powerful, but made higher first offers and received significantly higher sales prices than negotiators with an unattractive alternative.

In another situation, half of the “sellers” concentrated on available alternatives (none, weak, or strong) and the remaining negotiators focused on the target price.

Volunteers with unappealing alternatives negotiated worse deals than those with no options when they focused on alternatives.
“Sellers” avoided this pitfall by concentrating on the target price.
These findings support the benefit of focusing on the goal when alternatives are weak, and the power of first-offer anchors.

Negotiators with non-existent or unappealing alternatives can beware of making cautious first offers when they feel powerless.
Instead, negotiators can set audacious goals and make an ambitious opening offer because they have the benefit of “nothing to lose.”

  • How do you overcome lowball anchoring when you have few negotiation alternatives?

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©Kathryn Welds

Activate Women’s, Minorities’ Stereotype Threat Reactance to Enhance Performance

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Stereotype threat occurs when expectations of a group’s typical behavior are activated among group members, resulting in reduced performance.

Joshua Aronson

When Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson now of NYU, helped women and African Americans participants resist these stereotypes, participants’ performance improved more than when the researchers activated a positive shared identity.

Anthony Greenwald

Stereotypes can be invoked by “implicit primes” even when people explicitly disavowed stereotypes, found University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, then at Yale.
However, when volunteers focused on tasks, including judgment challenges about members of a stereotyped group, participants were less likely to render discriminatory decisions.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Both women and men resisted stereotypic behavior in negotiations when stereotypes were elicited with explicit primes, reported University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray, Leigh Thompson of Northwestern and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.
In this case,  activating a shared identity helped participants resist gender stereotypic expectations in negotiation performance.

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

People can separate themselves from prevailing stereotypes with contrast primes, by providing examples that contradict a stereotype, noted Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Ian W. Skurnik of University of Utah.

Ryan P. Brown

Ryan P. Brown

Men from majority groups also can experience stereotype threat, explained University of Oklahoma’s Ryan P. Brown and Robert A. Josephs of University of Texas. 
Male participants performed less effectively after a positive male stereotype was activated as a comparison criterion.
Men’s performance was also undermined by “pressure to live up to the standard.”

Robert A Josephs

Robert A Josephs

People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly mentioning the stereotype to activate resistance.
In addition, people can focus on a shared identity that transcends the stigmatized group identity, and identifying examples that contradict the stereotype.

  • How do you manage stereotype threat for yourself and others?
  • How effective have you found activating stereotype reactance?

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©Kathryn Welds

“Precise” Offers Provide Negotiation Advantage

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

Opening negotiation offers usually “anchor” the discussion and shape settlement values.
Many people make opening offers in “round” numbers like $10 instead of “precise” numbers like $9, and this strategy was less effective in negotiations, reported Columbia’s Malia Mason, Alice J. Lee, Elizabeth A. Wiley, and Daniel Ames.

Y Charles Zhang

Y Charles Zhang

Negotiators can improve negotiation outcomes by specifying offers in precise values because they more potently anchored the negotiation range. In addition, negotiators who proposed precise offers were perceived as more confident, credible, and “well-informed” regarding actual value.

Norbert Schwartz

Norbert Schwartz

Consumers reported less confidence in precise estimates when they doubt the communicator, found University of Michigan’s Y. Charles Zhang and Norbert Schwarz of University of Southern California.

However, some co-negotiators perceive precise offers as “inflexible,” yet
people who received precise offers made more conciliatory counter-offers, with smaller adjustments and more favorable final settlements.
Precise offers also led to better final deals even when the negotiator opened with a less ambitious precise offer.

Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Another benefit of precise offers is that they are less likely to be seen as aggressive by a co-negotiator, according to INSEAD’s Martin Schweinsberg collaborating with Gillian Ku and Madan M. Pillutla of London Business School’s and Cynthia S. Wang of Oklahoma State University.
Ambitious first offers may stall progress toward settlement if a negotiation partner takes offense.

Gillian Ku

Gillian Ku

This risk of stalemated negotiation increases if negotiators see themselves in a lower-power position and receive an extreme offer.
These negotiators may be more willing to end negotiations,

Manoj Thomas

Manoj Thomas

Precise offers can obscure their actual value, noted Cornell’s Manoj Thomas and Vrinda Kadiyali with Daniel H. Simon of Indiana University.
Buyers underestimated the size of precise prices, particularly under uncertain conditions:  U.S. homebuyers paid more when list prices were precise, and volunteers said they would follow this strategy in buying a home.

Vrinda Kadiyali

Vrinda Kadiyali

Precise offers provide some of the benefits of favorably anchoring negotiation discussions while reducing risks of “offensive” extreme offers.

-*How effective have you found “precise” opening offers in achieving your negotiation goals?

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©Kathryn Welds