Tag Archives: negotiation

Mindfulness Meditation Improves Decisions, Reduces Sunk-Cost Bias

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

Brief meditation sessions can reduce the tendency to base current decisions on past “sunk costs,” reported Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, with Andrew C. Hafenbrack and Zoe Kinias of INSEAD.

Andrew Hafenbrack

Andrew Hafenbrack

Sunk-cost bias” is the prevalent 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 tend to focus on past behaviors rather than current circumstances, leading to emotion-driven decision biases.

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

Barsade, Hafenbrack, and Kinias asked volunteers to complete Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, a widely used trait-mindfulness scale 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 choose to take an action or to do nothing, as a measure of vulnerability to sunk-cost bias.
Propensity to take action indicated resistance to the sunk-cost bias, whereas those who took no action were seen as 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 and resist the sunk-cost bias than those who had not heard the meditation instruction.

Andrew M Parker

Andrew M Parker

Barsade’s team controlled for participants’ age and trait self-esteem, noting that, “People who mediated 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 also enables 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.
These effective negotiators also expressed greater satisfaction with the     negotiation process and outcome. 

JAYANTH NARAYANAN

JAYANTH NARAYANAN

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

They 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

This task asks participants to associate 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 in attitude formation 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 evoke 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.
Compared with negotiators experiencing neutral feelings, negotiators who feel anxious typically expect to achieve lower profits, present more cautious offers, and respond more cautiously to propositions presented by negotiation counterparts.

Anxious negotiators who achieved poor bargaining outcomes did not manage emotions with cognitive strategies including:

Julie Norem

Julie Norem

  • Strategic optimism, indicated by expecting positive outcomes without anxiety or detailed reflection, according to University of Miami’s Stacie Spencer and Julie Norem of Wellesley,
  • Reattribution, identified by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs,
  • 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 “encouraged by telling them that that based on their academic performance, they should expect to perform well on anagram and puzzle tasks.

Among university students, defensive pessimism was related to lower self-esteem, self-criticism, pessimism, and discounting previous successful performances when they began university studies, 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 their four years of university study.
Pessimists’ precautionary countermeasures may have resulted in strong performance, which built credible self-esteem.

Defensive pessimism’s positive performance outcomes suggest that this cognitive strategy is 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 had 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 needed to ask only six people for help, 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.
Requestors tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitate to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requestors have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, and that this is the time to muster resilience and persistence.

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

Requestors 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 five variables:

  • 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 asking for what you want, even after rejection.
In addition, 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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Do You Have Agreement Bias? Accept Bad Deals?

Taya Cohen

Taya Cohen

Agreement bias is the tendency to acquiesce 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 diverge so much that there is little possibility of crafting a win-win resolution.
Skillful negotiators usually end the discussion if it is unlikely to move beyond the “negative bargaining zone.”

Leigh Thompson

Leigh Thompson

However, negotiators may be vulnerable to accepting 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: Individuals may wish to achieve a resolution, even a bad one, to feel value was gained from the time and effort invested in the negotiation,

◦       Image: Participants may wish to be seen as likeable,

◦       Erroneous Anchoring: Individuals may assume that their interests and the negotiation partner’s are mutually exclusive, and may overlook innovative, “integrative” solutions,

◦       Strength in Numbers: Negotiators who are outnumbered by the opposite negotiation team are likely to acquiesce 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 agreement because they accessed additional decision support.

Douglas Jackson

Douglas Jackson

Agreement bias occurs in lower-stakes situations than person-to-person negotiation – anonymous surveys, reported Douglas Jackson, then of Educational Testing Services and Penn State.
This “yea-saying” propensity, called acquiescence bias, is triggered when people agree to survey items, no matter the content.

Samuel Messick

Samuel Messick

A major contributor to acquiescence bias was social desirability concern, confirmed in research by Jackson and his  ETS colleague Samuel Messick in a factor analysis of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) items.

Robin Pinkley

Robin Pinkley

In addition, faulty judgments can lead to poor negotiation outcomes like agreement, 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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How Effective are Strategic Threats, Anger, and Unpredictability in Negotiations?

Most researchers conclude that negotiators who establish a collaborative atmosphere for a “win-win” solution achieve superior results.

Marwan Sinaceur

Marwan Sinaceur

However, Marwan Sinaceur of  INSEAD and Stanford’s Larissa Tiedens investigated the potentially-risky tactic of employing strategic anger in negotiations, and found that anger expressions increase expressers’ advantage and “ability to claim value” when negotiation partners think they have few or poor alternatives.

Larissa Tiedens

Larissa Tiedens

Sinaceur and Tiedens suggested that anger expression communicates toughness, leading most non-angry counterparts to concede more to an angry negotiator.
However, other studies report that people have more negative reactions when women display anger,

-*But what about the impact of “strategic” expressions of anger that aren’t actually felt?

Stephane Cote

Stephane Cote

Ivona Hideg

Ivona Hideg

University of Toronto’s Stéphane Côté collaborated with Ivona Hideg of Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Amsterdam’s Gerben van Kleef to evaluate the impact of surface acting (showing anger that is not truly felt) on the behavior of negotiation counterparts.

They found that disingenuous anger expressions can backfire, leading to intractable, escalating demands, attributed to reduced trust.

Gerben van Kleef

Gerben van Kleef

In contrast, “deep acting” anger that is actually felt, decreased negotiation demands, as demonstrated in Sinaceur and Tiedens’ work.

-*Are threats more effective than expressing anger in eliciting concessions in negotiation?

Christophe Haag

Christophe Haag

Sinaceur and team collaborated with Margaret Neale of Stanford and Emlyon Business School’s Christophe Haag, and reported that threats delivered with “poise,” confidence and self-control trump anger to achieve great concessions.
A potential negotiation “work-around” is expressing inconsistent emotions in negotiations.

Adam Hajo

Adam Hajo

Saraceur teamed with van Kleef with Rice University’s Adam Hajo, and Adam Galinsky of Columbia, and found that negotiators who shifted among angry, happy, and disappointed expressions made recipients feel less control over the outcome, and extracted more concessions from their counterparts.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Emotional inconsistency proved more powerful than expressed anger in  extracting concessions, so women may achieve superior negotiation outcomes with varied, unpredictable emotional expression.

-*How do you use and manage emotional expression in negotiations?

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Men Negotiate More Assertively with Women Managers

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Ekaterina Netchaeva

Men volunteers negotiated more assertively with women in supervisory roles in laboratory tasks, compared with strategies they used with male supervisors, reported Bocconi University’s Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern University, and Washington State University’s Leah D. Sheppard.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki

This cross-gender negotiation trend was reduced when woman in supervisory roles demonstrated directness and proactivity (“administrative agency”) rather than self-promotion and power-seeking (“ambitious agency”).

The team told 52 male and 24 female volunteers that they would negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager.

Leah D. Sheppard

Leah D. Sheppard

After the negotiation, participants completed an implicit threat test by identifying words that appeared on a computer screen for a fraction of a second in a variation of the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald of University of Washington.
Participants who chose more threat-related words like “fear” or “risk,” were inferred to feel more threatened.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Male participants who negotiated with a female manager selected more threat-related words on implicit association test, and they negotiated for a higher salary ($49,400 average), compared to men negotiating with a male manager ($42,870 average).

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

The manager’s gender didn’t affect female participants, who negotiated a lower salary ($41,346 average), reflecting a common trend where women tend not to negotiate, or to negotiate less vigorously, as noted by Carnegie Mellon’s Linda Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles of Harvard.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

In another experimental task, more than 65 male volunteers decided how to share a $10,000 bonus with a male or female team member or with supervisor.
Male participants tended to equally divided the money with male or female team members, but reacted significantly differently with a female supervisor.

Men who endorsed more threat-related words chose to keep more money for themselves when the supervisor was female, compared with when they were paired with a male supervisor.

Hannah Riley Bowles

Hannah Riley Bowles

A related online survey of 226 male and 144 female volunteers found that male participants decided to keep a larger share of the $10,000 bonus when the female manager was described as ambitious or power-seeking, but responded significantly more favorably when the female supervisor was described as proactive or ambitious.
In the latter case, male volunteers offered approximately the same bonus amount to female managers.

This suggests that women managers with male direct-reports enhance these relationships by adopting a consciously direct leadership style, characterized by consistent communication, and proactive problem-solving.

Netchaeva’s group posits that women who adopt a direct, active leadership style reduce threat in cross-gender reporting relationships, and enable greater cooperation in bargaining and negotiation situations.

-*To what extend have you observed evidence of implicit threat responses in cross-gender workplace reporting relationships?

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Power, Confidence Enhance Performance Under Pressure    

Sonia K. Kang

Sonia K. Kang

Role-based power can affect performance in pressure-filled situations, but has less impact on lower pressure environments, according to University of Toronto’s Sonia K. Kang, Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura J. Kray and Aiwa Shirako of Google.

Kang’s team assigned more than 130 volunteers to same-gender pairs in three negotiations experiments.
Half the participants acted as a “recruiter” (high-power role) or as a “job candidate” (low-power role) in negotiating salary, vacation time, and related benefits.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Volunteers were told that performance either reflected negotiation ability or was unrelated to ability.
Participants in high power roles tended to perform better under pressure when they were told their negotiation performance was an accurate reflection of ability.
Kang attributed this result to participants’ higher expectations for success based on the higher power role.

Job candidates who thought their negotiation performance indicated their skill level performed significantly worse than those who thought that the exercise was a learning experience unrelated to their negotiating capabilities.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Results were similar to Claude Steele of Stanford’s findings for stereotype threat and stereotype uplift, in which individuals from marginalized groups perform less effectively than members of higher-power groups, linked to negative self-attributions and expectations.
Low-power negotiators counteracted underperformance when they self-affirmed their performance.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Kang and team concluded that “relative power can act as either a toxic brew (stereotype/low-power threat) or a beneficial elixir (stereotype/high-power lift) for performance… (because) performance in high pressure situations is closely related to expectations of behavior and outcome… Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize … threat.

Aiwa Shirako

Aiwa Shirako

In another experiment, 60 male MBA students were paired as the “buyer” or “seller” of a biotechnology plant.
The sellers held a more powerful role in this situation, and were more assertive, reflected by negotiating a higher selling price, when they thought performance reflected ability.
In contrast, buyers performed worse when they thought negotiating performance reflected ability.

Kang’s team extended this scenario with 88 MBA students (33 male pairs and 11 female pairs), who were told the exercise would gauge their negotiating skills.
Before the negotiation, half of the participants wrote for five minutes about their most important negotiating skill, while the remaining half wrote about their least important negotiating skill.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Buyers who completed the positive self-affirmation performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing the power differences between the buyer and seller.

Based on these findings, Kang, like Harvard’s Francesca Gino, advocates writing self-affirmations rather than simply reflecting on positive self-statements about job skills and positive traits to enhance confidence and performance.

-*How do you mitigate differences in role-based power and confidence when performing under pressure?

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