Tag Archives: negotiation

Do You Accept Bad Deals?

Taya Cohen

Taya Cohen

Agreement bias is the tendency to settle in negotiation, even if that decision results in a disadvantageous outcome in business and interpersonal relationships.

During negotiation, participants may enter a “negative bargaining zone,” when their positions and interests greatly diverge.
Skillful negotiators usually end the discussion if it is unlikely to move beyond the “negative bargaining zone.”

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

However, negotiators may accept a disadvantageous deal for several reasons, explained Carnegie Mellon’s Taya Cohen and Leigh Thompson of Northwestern with University of Toronto’s Geoffrey J. Leonardelli.

◦       Sunk Costs: Participants may wish to achieve any resolution, to derive some sense of value for the invested time and effort,

◦       Image: Negotiators may wish to appear likable,

◦       Erroneous Anchoring: People may assume that their interests and the negotiation partner’s are mutually exclusive.
As a result, they may overlook innovative, “integrative” solutions,

◦       Strength in Numbers: Negotiators who are outnumbered by the other negotiation team tend to agree to suboptimal deals.

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Geoffrey J Leonardelli

Negotiating teams tend to be less susceptible to agreement bias when discussions enter a negative bargaining zone, found Cohen, Thompson, and Leonardelli.

Solo negotiators demonstrated more agreeable behavior, and were more likely to agree to unfavorable conditions.
However, when solo negotiators were joined by only one person, they avoided unfavorable agreements because they accessed additional decision support.

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson

Agreement bias also occurs in anonymous surveys, reported Douglas Jackson, then of Educational Testing Services and Penn State.
This acquiescence bias, is triggered when people agree to survey items, no matter the content.

Samuel Messick

Samuel Messick

Social desirability concern can accelerate agreements in negotiations, surveys, and life, found  Jackson and his  ETS colleague Samuel Messick in a factor analysis of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) items.

Robin Pinkley

Robin Pinkley

Likewise, faulty judgments can lead to unfavorable agreements, noted SMU’s Robin L. Pinkley, Terri L. Griffith of Santa Clara University, and University of Illinois’s Gregory B. Northcraft.

Terri Griffith

Terri Griffith

Pinkley’s group demonstrated ineffective outcomes when negotiators:

  • Accurately processed faulty and incomplete information (information availability errors),
  • Inaccurately process valid or complete information (information processing errors).
Gregory Northcraft

Gregory Northcraft

-*How do you guard against agreeing to bad deals?

-*How do reduce the possibility of Information availability errors and information processing errors?

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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 lab 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 “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 controlled lab situations, participants  liked 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 information about the potential salary range and whether 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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“Everything is Negotiable”: Prepare, Ask, Revise, Ask Again

Anna Beninger

Anna Beninger

Alixandra Pollack

Alixandra Pollack

Women negotiate salaries less frequently than men, leading to a persistent compensation gaps for women MBA graduates from 26 leading business schools in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, reported Catalyst’s Anna Beninger and Alixandra Pollack.

Women still earn about 80 percent of their male peers’ compensation in a study of salaries in academic medicine by Harvard’s Catherine DesRoches, Sowmya Rao, Lisa Iezzoni, and Eric Campbell with Darren Zinner of Brandeis.

Catherine DesRoches

Likewise, Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock reported that women MBAs earn USD $500,000 – USD $2 million less than their male classmates over their careers, and she linked this to men’s greater willingness to negotiate salary and promotions.

Babcock, with Sara Laschever, outlined precursors of these negotiation differences based on gender socialization.

Linda Babcock

They posited that many parents encourage boys to take risks, earn money, and participate in competitive team sports.
In contrast, they suggested that parents more often encourage girls to play collaboratively and value interpersonal affiliation.

These practices enable boys to negotiate, compete, and tolerate disrupted interpersonal relationships, according to Babcock and Laschever.

John List

John List

The gender-based wage gap’s association with women not negotiating salaries and preferring less competitive work roles, was also reported by University of Chicago’s John List, Andreas Leibbrandt, and Jeffrey Flory.

Their research studied respondents to two identical job ads on internet job boards with different wage structures.
One position offered hourly pay whereas the other role’s pay depended on performance compared with coworkers.
More women than men applied to the hourly wage role.

Andreas Leibbrandt

Andreas Leibbrandt

Men were 94 percent more likely than women to seek and perform well in competitive work roles in a study of nearly 7,000 job seekers across 16 large American cities.
This gender wage gap “more than doubled” as performance-linked compensation increased.
Women were significantly more likely to walk away from a competitive workplace when they had alternate employment options.

Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

In contrast, women were more likely to apply to jobs if the performance relied on teamwork rather than individual accomplishment, or if the salary was a flat fee independent of their performance.

Men were also more likely to negotiate when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable.
They did not wait for an invitation or permission to negotiate.
In contrast, women negotiated as frequently as men when they were invited to ask for higher salaries and job titles.

Negotiation practices considered “acceptable” for men are often viewed as “aggressive” when women use them, according to Babcock.
To counteract this reaction, she and Laschever advised women to:

  • Consider that “everything is negotiable,”
  • Research personal “market worth” using online resources like Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor.com,
  • Consider oneself a viable candidate for higher salaries and job roles,
  • Examine self-limiting beliefs  about negotiation,
  • Plan negotiation talking points, including, accomplishments, results, impact,
  • Practice negotiation proposal, suggest timing, set an ambitious anchor point, prepare for objections,
  • Plan counter-offers and self-regulation to maintain negotiation position and interpersonal rapport.

Collaborative negotiation enables both people to derive value from the negotiation conversation through preparation and stamina, while focusing on the negotiation goal and providing value for all parties.

Negotiation principles were summarized in the classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating without Giving In by Harvard’s Roger Fisher and William Ury.
More recently, Ohio State’s Roy Lewicki, David Saunders of Queen’s University, and Vanderbilt’s Bruce Barry of Vanderbilt detailed their research-based guide to Negotiation.

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

More than 90% of all negotiators fail to ask “diagnostic questions” that reveal the negotiation partner’s most important needs, priorities, preferences, and even fears, found Leigh Thompson of Northwestern.
Eliciting this information is associated with significantly improved negotiation outcomes.

Knowing Your ValueTelevision journalist Mika Brzezinski echoed Babcock and Laschever’s recommendations based on interviews with prominent women and men about the persistent gender wage gap.
She suggested a structure to guide negotiation:

  • Research,
  • Leverage,
  • Negotiate,
  • Re-negotiate.Hardball for Women
Pat Heim

Pat Heim

Women’s reluctance to negotiate may be related to gender differences in attributions of success and failure, suggested Pat Heim.
Women attribute failures to themselves (“internalizing”) whereas men identify external factors (“rationalizations”) associated with their shortcomings.
In contrast, women attribute success to external factors (“deflection of merit”). Men typically attribute their effective performance to to themselves (“self-bolstering”).

Men are often promoted because they are seen to have “potential,” whereas women are  promoted based on their results and accomplishments, noted Heim.
Even factors like attire can influence perception of authority:  Men judged women as less authoritative when wearing “business casual” attire.

Women can systematically develop skills and behaviors required to close the well-documented wage gap between professional women and men.

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

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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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“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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Women May Undermine Salary Negotiations with Excessive Gratitude

Andreas Leibbrandt

Candid self-disclosure can hamper salary negotiation outcomes, found Monash University’s Andreas Leibbrandt and John A. List of the University of Chicago, in a study of women who expressed gratitude for a salary that exceeded their expectations.

John List

John List

Some women applying for administrative assistant jobs were told that the wages were “negotiable,” and these women negotiated higher pay by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.
This result echoes previous findings that women frequently do not negotiate unless given explicit permission.

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 exceeded expectations and that they were willing to work for a lower hourly rate.

Edward E. Jones

Edward E. Jones

Though this approach likely leads to lower salary, it could be considered strategic ingratiation.
This negotiation tactic can take several forms, according to 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.

The ingratiator’s intent may be to enhance the future working relationship, but could lead the negotiation partner to question the applicant’s judgment, qualifications, and confidence.
This maneuver may delay salary increases because the candidate expresses satisfaction with the original offer.

Steven H. Appelbaum

Steven H. Appelbaum

However, “strategic ingratiation” may result in 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 and individual factors 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 to negotiate when no statement was made about salary discussions.

In fact, male participants said they prefer ambiguous salary negotiation norms.
Despite women’s possible hesitance to negotiate without an invitation, they achieved higher salaries at about the same rate as men when invited.

The team analyzed compensation plans of nearly 7,000 job-seekers.
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 who seek higher salaries benefit from proposing their “aspirational salaries” rather than waiting for permission to negotiate.
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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Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Aligning assertiveness style to negotiation situations can determine success in bargaining, 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.
They also found that observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However, most people do not accurately assess others’ view 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.

More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation, and said they observed similarly exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames Assertiveness

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 Curve
Ames and Watzlawek noted that negotiation partners may misperceive others view of their strategic umbrage displays in the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Nearly 60% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately assertive but felt over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the inferior deals 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 – perception of other people’s perception of one’s own assertiveness style – Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

-Participate in 360 degree feedback,

-Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,

Consider whether negotiation proposals are reasonable in light of alternatives,

-Request feedback on reactions to “strategic umbrage” displays to better understand perceptions of “offer reasonableness,

-Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:

Gary Yukl

Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation but may lead to ruptured interpersonal relationships and ill-will, according to Jeffrey M. Kern of Texas A&M, SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

Cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, where 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 minimize 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,
  • 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 reduce one’s own 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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Mindfulness Meditation Improves Decisions, Reduces Sunk-Cost Bias

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

Andrew Hafenbrack

Andrew Hafenbrack

Sunk-cost bias” is the tendency to continue unsuccessful actions after time and money have been invested.
Frequent examples include:

  • Holding poorly-performing stock market investments,
  • Staying in abusive interpersonal relationships,
  • Continuing failing military engagements.

Zoe Kinias

Zoe Kinias

In these cases, people focus on past behaviors rather than current circumstances, leading to emotion-driven decision biases.

Brief meditation sessions can help decision makers consider factors beyond past “sunk costs,” reported Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, with Andrew C. Hafenbrack and Zoe Kinias of INSEAD.

Meditation practices can:

  • Enable increased focus on the present moment,
  • Shift attention away from past and future actions,
  • Reduce negative emotions.

Kirk Brown

Kirk Brown

The team asked volunteers to complete Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, a widely used assessment developed by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Brown and Richard Ryan of University of Rochester.

Richard Ryan

Richard Ryan

They also measured participants’ ability to resist “sunk cost” bias using Adult Decision-Making Competence Inventory, developed by Leeds University’s Wändi Bruine de Bruin with Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon and  RAND Corporation’s Andrew M. Parker.

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

In a decision task, participants could take an action or to do nothing, as a measure of sunk-cost bias.
Taking action indicated resistance to the sunk-cost bias, whereas those who took no action were influenced by the sunk-cost bias.

Baruch Fischhoff

Baruch Fischhoff

Volunteers who listened to a 15-minute focused-breathing guided meditation were more likely to choose action, resisting sunk-cost bias, than those who had not heard the meditation instruction.

Andrew M Parker

Andrew M Parker

Barsade’s team noted that, “People who meditated focused less on the past and future, which led to them experiencing less negative emotion. That helped them reduce the sunk-cost bias.

Jochen Reb

Jochen Reb

Mindful attention enabled negotiators to craft better deals by “claiming a larger share of the bargaining zone” in distributive (“fixed pie”) negotiations, found Singapore Management University’s Jochen Reb, Jayanth Narayanan of National University of Singapore, and University of California, Hastings College of the Law’s Darshan Brach.
Effective negotiators also expressed greater satisfaction with the bargaining process and outcome. 

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

Mindful attention also leads to a lower negativity bias, the tendency to weigh pessimistic information more heavily than positive, reported Virginia Commonwealth University’s Laura G. Kiken and Natalie J. Shook of West Virginia University.

The team assessed negativity bias with BeanFest, a computer game developed by Shook, with Ohio State’s Russell Fazio and J. Richard Eiser of University of Sheffield.

Natalie Shook

Natalie Shook

Participants associated novel stimuli with positive or negative outcomes during attitude formation exercises.

Russell Fazio

Russell Fazio

Volunteers who listened to a mindfulness induction correctly classified positive and negative stimuli more equally, expressed greater optimism, and demonstrated less negativity bias than those in the control condition.

J Richard Eiser

J Richard Eiser

Mindful attention improves decision-making and enhances negotiation outcomes by reducing biases linked to negative emotions.
As a result, taking a brief mental break (“time-out”) during decision-making can improve choices and reduce the likelihood that “let the wrong emotions cloud the decision-making process.”

-*How do you reduce bias in making decisions and crafting negotiation proposals?

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Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Anxious negotiators make lower first offers, exit earlier, and earn lower profits  due to their “low self-efficacy” beliefs, according to Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer of University of Pennsylvania,

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Brooks and Schweitzer induced anxious feelings or neutral reactions during continuous “shrinking-pie” negotiation tasks.
Negotiators who feel anxious typically expect to achieve lower profits, present more cautious offers, and respond more cautiously to proposals by negotiation counterparts.

Negotiators who achieved more better outcomes managed emotions with cognitive strategies including:

Julie Norem

Julie Norem

  • Strategic optimism, indicated by calmly expecting positive outcomes, according to University of Miami’s Stacie Spencer and Julie Norem of Wellesley,
  • Reattribution, by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs.

Cognitive strategies with both mixed results include:

  • Andrew Elliot

    Andrew Elliot

    Self-handicapping, avoiding anxiety-provoking situations, and creating self-defeating obstacles to explain poor outcomes and preserve self-esteem, according to University of Rochester’s Andrew Elliott and Marcy Church of St. Mary’s University,

  • Defensive pessimism, marked by high motivation toward achievement coupled with negative expectations for future challenges, leading to increased effort and preparation, according to Wellesley College’s Julie Norem and Edward Chang of University of Michigan.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang

Norem and Cantor concluded that defensive pessimists performed worse when told that that they should expect to perform well on anagram and puzzle tasks, based on their previous academic performance,.

Defensive pessimism among university students was related to lower self-esteem, self-criticism, pessimism, and discounting previous successful performances, according to Norem and Brown’s Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas.

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

However, their longitudinal study demonstrated that self-esteem increased to almost the same levels as optimists during university years.
Pessimists’ precautionary countermeasures may have resulted in strong performance, which built credible self-esteem.

Defensive pessimism may be an effective, if uncomfortable, approach to managing anxiety and performance motivation.

-*How do you manage anxiety in high-stakes negotiations?

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Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark and Francis Flynn with Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo.

Francis Flynn

Help-seekers were more likely to believe that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal to a similar request. 
However, help-seekers underestimated the compliance rate of potential helpers who previously refused assistance.
This suggests that most people agree with a subsequent request, often to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overtures for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask 10 people to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers had to ask six people for help before it was given, 40% fewer than expected.
Most people have a pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance, they concluded.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request to complete the survey would be less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requesters tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitated to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requesters have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, so it’s advisable to muster resilience and persistence.

Requesters and help-seekers analyzed requests using different criteria:  Requesters focused on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers receiving the request considered the inconvenience costs of saying “yes” compare with the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying “no.”

Requesters benefit from expanding the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized and may be willing to assist.

Potential helpers underestimated help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, in previous studies by the team.
This may result in less willingness to help underutilized formal support programs.
The most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

Bohns extended this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in deciding whether to commit an unethical act in research with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu.

People who observed the unethical act but didn’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who committed the asocial acts.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth or to commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

Bystanders underestimated their impact on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort caused participants to commit the asocial act to avoid conflict.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported that employees’ systematically underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.
Most employees expect their efforts to be futile.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives,
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues,
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices.

This underestimation bias may be mitigated by variations in:

  • Comparative judgments,
  • Objectifying an influence target,
  • Actual degree of personal influence compared to perceived influence,
  • Means of influence, ranging across incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments,
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings suggest the benefit of asking for what you want, even after rejection and that you have more influence over others than you expect.

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?

-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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©Kathryn Welds