Gender and negotiation – more of the same

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Leigh Thompson (Northwestern) reports on her research around getting women to negotiate “more like men” (that is, competitive and unethical) and men to negotiate “more like women” (that is, empathetic and honest). The article is here. Nothing new here in terms of substantive advice, as Professor Thompson concludes that how you frame the negotiation will affect how people conduct themselves within it.

What’s frustrating to me is how persistent this gender typecasting remains, especially when explored in the overly simplified negotiation scenarios in the lab. I am concerned that such typecasting is perpetuating outdated and inaccurate/incomplete norms around gender and negotiation. It’s not to say that gender makes no difference in negotiation; it is to say, though, that many of the broad stereotypes that are continually trotted out around gender and negotiation seem wrong and even dangerous. All this makes me appreciate all the more the nuanced work that Andrea is doing in this space. After reading the HBR article, I immediately rewatched Andrea’s TedX talk, here, and felt better.

7 thoughts on “Gender and negotiation – more of the same”

  1. When I read Professor Thompson’s article and listened to Professor Schneider’s TEDx Talk, I was admittingly surprised. Surprised that I held many of the stereotypes about women’s propensities and inherent disadvantages in negotiation to be true.

    For example, in her TEDx Talk, Professor Schneider discusses the fear women have of being penalized for “acting too much like men” or “acting too much like women.” I held this fear and certainly hear it circulated by others. I was, therefore, surprised to learn that the consequences of balancing being liked and being competent are not isolated to women. Rather, men and women are rewarded or punished equally based on their behavior.

    I see now for myself how frustrating gender typecasting can be. If I, a woman who self-selected into an advocacy field, can (in part at least) assign truth to these myths, then how prevalent must they be among others? Furthermore, what is the extent of the damage they are doing?

  2. I share the same opinion; that attempting to encourage one gender to adopt techniques and styles attributed to the other gender only reinforces those original gender stereotypes. What is extremely frustrating for me is that while in the context of Professor Thompson’s article men were being encouraged to be more like women (empathetic), in other contexts (for instance, corporate culture) women are often penalized for being too empathetic or emotional. This “skill” that women possess is being identified as a strength when men are adopting it, but is still identified as a weakness in women.

    This was also discussed in my Advanced Corporations class. Women in board rooms who are seen as “too aggressive” are often labeled as “bossy;” while one Professor shared that her leadership style was labeled as “too collaborative” – a negative. Yet, in our current culture, leadership qualities and collaborative learning are both seen as positive considerations. It only furthers this “lose-lose” situation.

    Moving away from assigning certain genders certain skill sets and certain emotional traits, I hope there is an eventuality when identical skills in a man and a woman can be measured equally. How far off that ideal is, I’m unsure.

  3. Much like Professor Reynolds and Professor Schneider, I share a concern for the broad application of gender-based research to the study of negotiation. I applaud efforts like the Girl Scout’s “Win-Win” badge and Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign that work to highlight and build women’s assertiveness. I was delighted to learn that most gender differences within negotiation were mythical, especially when applied to female attorneys. However, what remains to be questioned is whether the same people instructing women to be more aggressive like men should also be instructing men to be more empathetic like women?

    It’s important to enter a negotiation equipped with a diverse set of skills and strategies that can be adjusted based on the context. For example, I certainly behave differently in negotiations with my partner as compared to negotiations with my professor. Moreover, I deploy different negotiation strategies with my partner depending on the situation. If we are engaging in a political debate, I know that it is best if I arrive armed with loads of data supporting my viewpoint because in the past, he has remarked that my political opinions cannot always be grounded in feelings. By coupling my emotional sentiments with indisputable facts, I am much more likely to beat him at his own game. If we are negotiating over what he wears to a wedding on my side of the family, I’ve learned that some simple flattery and unsupported statements about “what’s on trend for men right now” go a long way.

    These everyday conflicts and negotiations amuse me (and probably make my partner regret dating a law student), but more importantly, these situations allow me to question the root of our negotiation strategies. Is my strategy selection based on knowledge of the facts, the benefit of repeat play, or my social intuition? Was my male partner socialized to focus on winning at all costs, leading to his disregard of the additional factors at play? Furthermore, should we call upon men to refine their social intuition and empathy-based skills in order to “win” more negotiations with their female partners? I do not know the answers to these questions, but in the meantime, I’ll be over here using my “woman skills” to ensure his next suit is gray because everyone knows that gray is the new navy.

  4. I am not sure how to receive Professor Thompson’s article on Women and Men Negotiation. The article and study discuss how certain cues may affect how men and women negotiate and interact.

    Could this just lead to false cues? And does this work in real negotiations where the question is not about a few dollars in a research study, but instead many millions of dollars or where a client/job is on the line (Professor Andrea Schneider points this out in her Tedx Talk—Women Don’t Negotiate and Other Similar Nonsense)? It dawned on me that even considering the strength of a man’s or woman’s moral compass, what is stopping at least some from misrepresenting not only the terms of the negotiations but also something about his or her life before the negotiating in an effort to make the other party more empathetic (in hopes of taking advantage of him or her and achieving more favorable terms) or “unleash his or her tiger” (to get him or her angrier or more competitive).

    If (1) individuals (the study indicates more men than women) already misrepresent certain facets of a negotiation; and (2) cues prior to negotiations do in fact shape how actors act, I don’t think there is much change in misrepresentations because actors are just as incentivized to throw cues that would give them an advantage.

    I have no idea how to best address negotiation issues and male/female stereotypes, but education and training must play a role.

    If stereotypes live on the words, media, and images that feed them, is talking about them in articles like Professor Thompson’s just keeping them alive? (I don’t think this can be right)

    So then how do we address a stereotype without researching it, writing about it, and discussing it? I don’t think we can—we should address it through education and training. Maybe to eliminate the stereotype, we should try to educate everybody about negotiation, not only those in the advocacy fields. Also, starting at a young age would likely benefit all (the Girl Scout Win-Win badge is awesome).

    Again, I am only in my first class learning about negotiation and am nowhere close to mastering the subject. However, I do feel that education and training for all can work to eliminate the widely-held stereotypes of men and women.

  5. Studies that begin with the assumption that men are more competitive than women have always puzzled me. In fact, I have never even imagined that women could be less competitive than men. Part of this is due to experience as I was lucky enough to be surrounded by women who were, and are, extremely competitive.

    A short example. My mother used to make up words while playing her twelve year old son in Scrabble. She would then dare him to challenge those made up words by risking a 50 point penalty if a word was, indeed, real. Needless to say, the twelve year old was not confident enough in his assessment of the word “gulpers” to take that risk and she would go on to collect her points, laughing while she did.

    So, while I do not recall where I first heard about this discrepancy in the willingness of men and women to be competitive, I did not believe it then and do not believe it now. Further, I believe this study presented in the Harvard Business Review, and studies like it, explain the action of hiding information through the wrong internal motivator. That “competitiveness” being attributed to the discrepancy between a man’s willingness to lie in a negotiation and a woman’s willingness to do the same is simply the incorrect.

    Being “competitive” does not seem to be the right label for someone who intentionally lies about a total amount of money available so that they get more from the negotiation. A competitive person wants to win, but not at the expense of cheating to get there. Cheating involves believing that the rules do not truly apply to you for whatever reason. In short, cheating is caused by feelings of entitlement. In this study, entitled to more money because you are different, better, or special.

    Finally, if disclosing a false amount of money to the other party is framed as “entitlement,” instead of as “competitiveness,” perhaps we get a better understanding of why there is such a discrepancy in negotiation tactics between men and women. More importantly, lying in negotiations (hopefully) begins to be seen as a bad quality instead of just being willingness to win.

  6. Studies that begin with the assumption that men are more competitive than women have always puzzled me. In fact, I have never even imagined that women could be less competitive than men. Part of this is due to experience as I have always been surrounded by women who were, and are, extremely competitive.

    A short example. My mother used to make up words while playing her twelve year old son in Scrabble. She would then dare him to challenge those made up words by risking a 50 point penalty if a word was, indeed, real. Needless to say, the twelve year old was not confident enough in his assessment of the word “gulpers” to take that risk and she would go on to collect her points, laughing while she did.

    So, while I do not recall where I first heard about this discrepancy in the willingness of men and women to be competitive, I did not believe it then and do not believe it now. So maybe this study from Harvard Business Review, and studies like it, explain the action of hiding information to “win” through the wrong internal motivator.

    Being “competitive” is not the right label for someone who intentionally lies about a total amount of money available so that they get more from the negotiation. A competitive person wants to win, but not at the expense of cheating to get there. Cheating involves believing that the rules do not truly apply to you for whatever reason. In short, cheating is caused by feelings of entitlement not by a competitive spirit. Therefore, in this study the discrepancy between men and women of willingness to lie was more likely caused by feeling entitled to more money due to being different, better, or special.

    Finally, if disclosing a false amount of money to the other party is framed this way by experts, as “entitlement” instead of as “competitiveness,” perhaps we can gain a better understanding of why there is such a discrepancy in negotiation tactic between men and women. More importantly, tactics such as lying in negotiations begin to be seen as a bad quality instead of just a desire to win.

  7. Like Jen, I found Leigh Thompson’s article frustrating. Initially, I could not put into words why I was so frustrated, but after some contemplation and a viewing of Professor Schneider’s Ted Talk, I was able to figure it out. I thought the experiment in Thompson’s study was flawed in that it seemed to be making a lot of initial assumptions and did not do much to dispel or even acknowledge those assumptions.
    I grew up with family on both ends of the spectrum when it came to gender-based perceptions. On one hand my grandfather is incredibly “old school” in his beliefs that women should stay at home, marry at a young age, have children, and provide for their husbands at home. Needless to say, my grandfather gave me a stern lecture when I went to undergrad in a “man’s” field and a lecture so harsh when I chose to go to law school that I seriously considered never speaking to him again. On the flip-side my great aunt disobeyed her own father and went to school, going so far as to get her doctorate and become a professor at UC Berkley. My great aunt is a very opinionated, intelligent woman whom I’ve seen enter many negotiations and I can honestly say I’ve never seen her lose a negotiation. I honestly could not imagine anyone saying no to her.
    Growing up with the two extremes I saw how much social norms affected the perception of women. For a long time I did assume that I was less intelligent, less incapable of existing in the world of men because that’s what my grandfather taught me my gender made me. But, in college I began to see that this was a perception that some people were socialized to have.
    Many things about Thompson’s article frustrated me. She started out with the assumption that women would behave in a certain way, men in another way. Her article did not address this assumption. She did not even entertain the idea that there were confounding variables, which anyone who took a social science research methods class would find odd.
    One of the things in Professor Schneider’s Ted Talk that resonated with me was the idea of being trained (regardless of gender) having an affect on what was negotiated or how. When Professor Schneider mentioned how law students self-select into law school and into negotiation type classes. To me, this suggests that personality type plays a role as well. To suggest that it is gender that determines negotiation styles to me is preposterous and completely ignores all the teachings of psychology and the social sciences and harkens back to the “old time” gender views that my grandfather tried to indoctrinate me with.
    I’m glad I watched Professor Schneider’s Ted Talk after reading Thompson’s article because Professor Schneider showed how gender does play a role, but not in the way that Thompson’s article suggests. It also helped me put into words what I immediately found frustrating with Thompson’s article.

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