Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

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

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Stereotype threat, defined as activating prevailing but often-inaccurate concepts of a group’s typical behavior, was consistently associated with reduced scores on standardized test performance for women and African Americans in numerous studies by Stanford’s Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson now of NYU.

Joshua Aronson

They found that eliciting “reactance” or resistance to these stereotypes improved women’s and African Americans’ performance more than activating a positive shared identity, such as shared membership in a respected group.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Stereotypes may be invoked by implicit primes, which led both men and women to confirm gender stereotypes even when they explicitly disavowed stereotypes and associated prejudice, found University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, then at Yale.
However, when evaluators focused on tasks, including judgment challenges about members of a stereotyped group, judges were less likely to render discriminatory decisions.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

In contrast, both women and men showed stereotype reactance — the tendency to behave in contrast with the stereotype in negotiation tasks — when stereotypes were elicited with explicit primes, reported University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray, Leigh Thompson of Northwestern and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Stereotype threat can be advantageous to men when negotiating with women, who are stereotypically considered less skillful negotiators.
Unlike Steele’s finding, Kray’s team observed performance-equalizing effects of activating a shared identity that transcended gender.

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

People can dissociate themselves from prevailing stereotypes with contrast primes, according to Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Ian W. Skurnik of University of Utah.
They differentiated:

Standard-of-Comparison Prime, which produces greatest contrast by citing an extreme illustration.
This strategy relies on perception and requires less cognitive effort.

-Set–Reset Prime, which typically uses trait descriptions, and produces greatest contrast when moderate rather than extreme.
This approach requires significant mental effort.

Ryan P. Brown

Ryan P. Brown

Even men are not immune to stereotype threat.
Male participants “choked” when performing after a positive male stereotype was activated by University of Oklahoma’s Ryan P. Brown and Robert A. Josephs of University of Texas. 
Similar to women’s performance decrements in response to negative stereotype threat, Brown and Josephs hypothesized that men’s performance was undermined by “pressure to live up to the standard.”

Robert A Josephs

Robert A Josephs

People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly referring to the stereotype to activate reactance.
In addition, it’s valuable to refer to a shared identity that transcends the stigmatized group identity.
Eliciting contrast effects through examples and trait descriptions is another way to diminish the impact of stereotype threat of performance.

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

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“Precise” Offers Provide Negotiation Advantage

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

Opening negotiation offers typically “anchor” the discussion and shape settlement values.
Many people make opening offers in “round” numbers like $10 instead of “precise” numbers like $9.
However, “round number offers” were less powerful than “precise” offers in negotiations, found Columbia’s Malia Mason, Alice J. Lee, Elizabeth A. Wiley, and Daniel Ames.
This finding suggests that negotiators can improve their outcomes by specifying offers more precisely, such as $103.

Y Charles Zhang

Y Charles Zhang

Precise first offers more potently anchored the negotiation range than round number proposals, perhaps because those who proposed precise offers were perceived as more confident, credible, and “well-informed” regarding actual value.

Norbert Schwartz

Norbert Schwartz

This finding complements observations by University of Michigan’s Y. Charles Zhang and Norbert Schwarz of University of Southern California that consumers have less confidence in precise estimates when they doubt the communicator and when they engage in less “cooperative conversational conduct norms” during negotiations.

H Paul Grice

H Paul Grice

These norms, defined by Berkeley’s H. Paul Grice in Grice’s maxims, which advocate communicating:

  • Briefly,
  • Clearly,
  • Relevantly,
  • Truthfully,
  • Offering only as much and content as required.

Despite the apparent advantages of more precise offers, these could signal “inflexibility” to some co-negotiators.
As a result, people who received precise offers generally made more conciliatory counter-offers, leading to smaller adjustments and more favorable final settlements.
Precise offers also led to better final deals even when the negotiator opened with a less ambitious, but precise offer.

Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Another benefit of precise offers is that they are less likely to offend a co-negotiator by signaling aggression or greed, 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 lead a negotiation partner to walk away from the discussion, resulting in an impasse or stalled progress toward a final settlement.

Gillian Ku

Gillian Ku

In addition, negotiators who see themselves in a lower-power position are more likely to walk away, even though both low-power and high-power negotiators were equally offended by extreme offers.
Though an extreme offer may result in high rewards, it can be a more risky strategy than offering a more moderate precise offer.

Manoj Thomas

Manoj Thomas

Another advantage of more precise offers is that buyers may not recognize their actual magnitude:  Buyers underestimated the size of precise prices, particularly under uncertain conditions in studies by Cornell’s Manoj Thomas and Vrinda Kadiyali with Daniel H. Simon of Indiana University.

In fact, U.S. homeowner participants in their lab said they would pay a higher price quoted in precise numbers than when stated in round number in the team’s analysis of actual residential real estate transactions in two U.S. markets.
In fact, buyers actually paid more when list prices were precise in experiments by Thomas and team.

Vrinda Kadiyali

Vrinda Kadiyali

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

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

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Women May Undermine Salary Negotiations with Excessive Gratitude

Negotiators and poker players know the value of limiting full self-disclosure in words and non-verbal expressions.

Andreas Leibbrandt

Andreas Leibbrandt

However, some women undermined their salary negotiations by revealing their gratitude for a salary that exceeded their expectations in an experiment by Monash University’s Andreas Leibbrandt and John A. List of the University of Chicago.

John List

John List

Participants were women applying for administrative assistant jobs with a posted wage of $17.60 USD per hour.

Researchers told some volunteers that the wages were “negotiable,” and these women negotiated their pay upward by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.
This result echoes previous findings that women frequently do not negotiate unless given explicit permission, and consequently, have lower salary offers than those who negotiate.

Leibbrandt and List tested this hypothesis by not mentioning negotiation to the remaining participants, and these women typically provided “too much information” by remarking that the posted wage “exceeds my expectations. I am willing to work for a minimum of $12.”

-*Could this comment be “strategic ingratiation” to effectively influence a negotiation partner?

Edward E. Jones

Edward E. Jones

Consider three methods of ingratiation, outlined by Duke University’s Edward E. Jones:

  • Self-presentation (self-enhancement or “one-down” humility, providing favors or gifts),
  • Flattery (“other-enhancement” either directly or ensuring word-or-mouth report of positive yet credible comments),
  • Agreement (opinion-conformity, non-verbal matching-mimicry).

Although the ingratiator’s intent may be to enhance the future working relationship, this approach may be seen as “overselling” after a sales prospect agrees to a deal – and may lead to undoing the proposal.

In this case, the negotiation partner may question the applicant’s judgment, qualifications, and confidence, and may delay salary increases because the candidate appears satisfied with the offer.

Steven H. Appelbaum

Steven H. Appelbaum

When discerningly applied, ‘strategic ingratiation’ in organizations may result in personal rewards including promotion or pay increase, according to Concordia University’s Steven H. Appelbaum and Brent Hughes.

They found that effective use of “strategic ingratiation” was influenced  by situational factors and individual variables including:

  • Machiavellianism,
  • Locus of control,
  • Work task uniqueness.
Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

In another of Leibbrandt and List’s randomized field studies, collaborating with Concordia colleague Jeffrey Flory, they found that among nearly 2,500 job-seekers, men did not wait for permission when no statement was made about salary negotiation, and in fact, male participants said they prefer ambiguous salary negotiation norms.
Despite women’s general hesitance to negotiate without an invitation, women advocated for more favorable salaries at about the same rate as men when they were invited to negotiate.

The team extended these findings by analyzing nearly 7,000 job-seekers with varying compensation plans.
In “competitive work settings,” salary negotiation was typically expected, and men stated a preference for these work environments.

Leibbrandt, List and Flory concluded that women accept “competitive” workplaces provided “the job task is female-oriented” and the local labor market leaves few alternatives.

Women looking for better salary outcomes benefit from proposing their “aspirational salaries” rather than waiting for permission to negotiate.
In addition, women negotiators can achieve better outcomes when they offer moderate expressions of gratitude and avoid revealing their “reserve” salary figure.

-*In what work situations have you benefitted from applying ‘strategic ingratiation’?

-*To what extent have expressions of gratitude in negotiation undermined bargaining outcomes?

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When Do Women Talk More than Men?

-*Are women really more talkative than men?
-*Do women in business meetings not claim as much “talk time” as male colleagues?

Kay Deaux

Kay Deaux

More than 25 years ago, NYU’s Kay Deaux and Brenda Major of University of California Santa Barbara proposed that context and expectations of the individual and others determine when females talk more than males.

Brenda Major

Brenda Major

More recently, participants with digital “sociometers” recorded identities of people nearby and talk volume during a work collaboration project, and during lunchtime social conversations in a study by Harvard’s Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Sebastian Schnorf, with David Lazer of Northeastern and MIT colleagues Benjamin N. Waber and Sandy Pentland.

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

During the work project women talked significantly more than men, except when groups included seven or more people.
Larger group size suppressed women’s verbal contributions to the project.
In addition, women sat closer to other women in these groups.

Sebastian Schnorf

Sebastian Schnorf

In contrast, during social conversations, women talked the same amount as men, and even more than men when the group was large.
As a result, group size seems to affect women’s verbal participation in groups depending on the task focus vs. social focus.

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl

This finding supports earlier reports of equal verbal participation by women and men by University of Arizona’s Matthias R. Mehl, collaborating with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis and University of Connecticut’s Nairán Ramírez-Esparza.
Together with Richard B. Slatcher of Wayne State and University of Texas’s James W. Pennebaker, they analyzed voice recordings from more than 390 participants, and concluded that women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day.

David Lazer

David Lazer

In addition, large group social settings seemed to enhance women’s verbal participation, in contrast to the opposite effect in collaborative work projects, found Onnela’s team.
The strongest difference in gender participation related to relationship strength and group size.

Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page

Contributions from all members of diverse work groups are required to produce the largest number and most innovative solutions, according to Loyola University’s Lu Hong and Scott E. Page.
They found that diverse work groups produce superior solutions compared with homogenous groups, even if groups were composed of uniformly top performers.

In fact, a group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is most closely associated with:

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

This “collective intelligence factor” is not related 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 Sandy Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Diverse groups, including women, can most effectively produce innovative solutions when all participants contribute divergent views.
Women who  consciously increase verbal participation establish visibility and professional credibility, while contributing to improved group performance.

-*How do you determine your degree of verbal contribution in work groups?

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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can avert medical care disasters attributed to poor care, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He noted that people who effectively improved their performance recognized fallibility in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied to fields outside of medicine:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids.
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberate monitoring of potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

All of these elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude due to wide availability of relevant information, Gawande noted.
He argued that both types of omission errors can be improved by systematic analysis and disciplined use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Since selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequently-used approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, researching and assimilating information, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate to accept the leadership role instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture is funded for the best ideas, not the originators, who are replaced,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists said that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

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Ask a Narcissist

Confidence is correlated with career effectiveness and advancement.
However when people exhibit too much of a good thing, their behavior may seem “narcissistic.”

Jean Twenge

Jean Twenge

The narcissistic personality is characterized by:

Calvin S Hall

Calvin S Hall

One of the most frequently-used, well-validated assessment instruments to identify narcissism is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, developed by University of California Berkeley’s Robert Raskin and Calvin S. Hall, and used by researchers rather than by pre-employment screeners.

Sara Konrath

Sara Konrath

Raskin and UC Berkeley colleague, Howard Terry examined responses from more than 1000 volunteers and found seven constructs related to narcissism:

  • Authority,
  • Exhibitionism,
  • Superiority,
  • Vanity,
  • Exploitativeness,
  • Entitlement,
  • Self-Sufficiency.
Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

In addition, Raskin and Terry related these ratings of “self” and “ideal self” to participants’ responses on the Leary Interpersonal Check List, developed by Harvard’s Timothy Leary before he investigated psychedelic drugs.

Brian P Meier

Brian P Meier

An alternative to Leary’s valid and reliable, yet lengthy and time-consuming NPI, University of Michigan’s Sara Konrath, Brian P. Meier of Gettysburg College, and Ohio State’s Brad J. Bushman of Indiana University developed The Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) to measure grandiosity, entitlement, and low empathy characteristic of “narcissistic” behavior.

They asked more than 2,200 participants to rate their answer to a single question on a scale of one to seven: To what extent do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.”

Brad J Bushman

Brad J Bushman

Konrath’s team demonstrated SINS that is a valid and reliable alternative to longer narcissism scales because it is significantly correlated with scores on the NPI, and uncorrelated with social desirability, or lack of concern about what others think of them.

Erika Carlson

Erika Carlson

In addition, people who score high on the NPI and SINS are willing to admit that they act more arrogant, condescending, argumentative, critical, and prone to brag than people who score low on the NPI, according to findings by University of Toronto’s Erika Carlson.

Eleven validation studies of  the SINS conducted by Konrath’s team found narcissism related to:

People who scored high for narcissism also showed behaviors that can be problematic at work:

However, people who scored high for narcissism displayed positive attributes including:

If you think you’re working with a narcissist, you can confirm or disconfirm your inference by asking the person the single question: To what extent do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.”
Interacting with a narcissist in the workplace can be challenging, and a previous blog post identifies recommended strategies.

-*How do you identify narcissists in the workplace and in personal life?
-*What are more effective ways to work with them?

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

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Ability to optimally match one’s style of assertiveness to specific situations can determine success as a leader and negotiator, 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.
In addition, they 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.

A frequently-employed negotiation tactic is overly-emotional verbalizations during negotiations.
More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and a different 80% of volunteers said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames AssertivenessParticipants in Ames and Watzlawek’s studies reported whether they or their counterpart used these excessive emotional displays in negotiation role-plays.
In addition, they rated their own and their negotiation partner’s assertiveness styles.

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 strategic umbrage 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:  Just 40% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately but felt they were over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the best possible deal 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 the positions discussed in negotiation are “reasonable” in the situation in light of comparable alternatives and options,
  • Request feedback on “strategic umbrage” reactions, to better understand additional factors that modify perceptions of “offer reasonableness,
  • Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:
    Gary Yukl

    Gary Yukl

    Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation or 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, 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 benefit by minimizing 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, and 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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