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 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 of 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 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.

However, lawyers in other of Robbennolt’s studies expressed concern that admission of guilt may lead to larger settlements.
This concern led to at least thirty-five U.S. states making 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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©Kathryn Welds

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“Feminine Charm” as Negotiation Tactic

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

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

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

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Laura Kray

They found that “the aim of feminine charm is to make an interaction partner feel good to gain compliance toward broader interaction goal,” and is characterized by:

  • -Friendliness (concern for the other person),
  • -Flirtation (concern for self and self-presentation).

Hannah Riley Bowles

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.

Linda Babcock

Women who were perceived as flirtatious achieved superior economic deals in negotiations compared with women who were seen as friendly, validating suggestions by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock, that women achieve better negotiation outcomes when they combine power tactics with warmth.

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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©Kathryn Welds

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 Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after initial unsuccessful interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by 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 attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Galinsky extended this anecdotal evidence by empirically investigating 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 write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the different instructions, rated “applicant’s” written and face-to-face interview performance.
Evaluators assigned highest scores to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges preferred power-primed applicants, citing their greater persuasiveness and confidence.
These candidates received more offers of job roles and business school admission than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations.

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 maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that recalling an experience of personal power can influence impressions of persuasiveness, competence, and likability 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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©Kathryn Welds

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

The team conducted three experimental studies on volunteers’ 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

Likewise, 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, found Heilman in a study with University of Queensland’s Tyler Okimoto.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

This competence-likeability disconnect was demonstrated by Stanford’s Frank Flynn in a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen, who was seen as competent but disliked.

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 the Howard case rated each on perceived competence and likeability.

Heidi was rated as equally highly competent and effective as Howard, but unlikeable and selfish.
Most participants said they 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 former 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 suggested that women practice “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.

-*How do you convey both likeability and competence?

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©Kathryn Welds

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

Oliver James

Oliver James

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

Fictional comedies and dramas satirize the stress wrought upon others by “triadic managers”, 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

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.

Likewise,  senior business managers were more likely than criminal psychiatric patients to have narcissistic, histrionic, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, reported Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon, then of the University of Surrey.

Sam Vaknin

Sam Vaknin

One “successful narcissist,” Sam Vaknin, recounted his career before and after his felony incarceration 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 Machiavellian 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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©Kathryn Welds

“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.

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.”

Tom Peters

Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
Self-packaging can be considered “the shell of who you are” whereas self-presentation can be “what sets you apart from the crowd.

Jim Kukral

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, according to Jim Kurkal and Murray Newlands.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Academic researchers have investigated intangibles of personal branding, presentation, and packaging such an academic analysis 
by University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney. 

George Cheney

George Cheney

They referred to personal branding as “…self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis.
They examined 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 potential biases facing women and members of minority groups in  implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance, a component of self-presentation.
These analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing significantly affect 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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Women Balance on the Negotiation Tightrope to Avoid Backlash

Linda Babcock

Women less frequently negotiate initial salaries than men, leading to a long-term wage disparity, argued Carnegie-Mellon University’s Linda Babcock.

Hannah Riley Bowles

In addition, women who negotiate were negatively evaluated by both men and women participants in a laboratory study, reported Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and Lei Lai.
Likewise volunteers reported less desire to work with women who asked for more money.

Lei Lai

Lei Lai

Both male and female evaluators said they disliked “demandingness” among women who negotiated, and said they preferred the “nicer” non-negotiators.
However, reducing women’s degree of assertiveness did not improve evaluators’s perceptions of women negotiators.

These findings support Babcock’s original results:   When male and female volunteers asked for salary increases using identical scripts in laboratory situations, participants  liked the men’s style, but disliked the same words from women.
Women negotiators were considered “aggressive” unless they smiled, or displayed a warm, friendly manner.

The social reaction others had to women negotiators, but not the negotiation outcome, was improved when female participants:

  • Justified the salary request based on a supporting “business case,”
  • Communicated concern for organizational relationships.

However, neither of these tactics used alone or together, improved women’s negotiation outcomes.

Another approach was more effective in improving both social and negation outcomes:

  • Justifying the salary request based on the relationship.

Women who smile and focus on the interpersonal relationship enact role-based expectations, leading to greater comfort with these women negotiators and more favorable assessments by male and female observers.

Kathleen McGinn

Kathleen McGinn

Bowles, with Harvard colleague Kathleen McGinn and Babcock, suggested that “situational ambiguity” and “gender triggers” modify women’s willingness to negotiate.

However, when women have more information about the potential salary range and are told that the salary is negotiable, they are more likely to negotiate.
This suggests that women can improve their negotiation outcomes by asking:

  • the salary range,
  • which elements of the compensation package are negotiable.
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Effective negotiation is a survival skill, according to Dan Pink:
The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness.
It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives.

Effective persuaders and “sellers” collaborate in “inspecting” a negotiation and “responding” to the negotiation through “interpersonal attunement.”

Foundational skills for negotiation include Pink’s ABCs:

Attunement: Harmonizing actions and attitudes with others,

Buoyancy:  “Positivity,” optimistic “explanatory style,” asking questions,

Clarity:  Helping others re-assess situations to identify unrecognized needs that can be fulfilled by the negotiation proposal.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

UC Hastings College of the Law’s Joan Williams offered strategies to address documented wage discrepancies.

As more women negotiate salaries, managers may view this as an expected practice.

  • 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?

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©Kathryn Welds