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 I am concerned that such typecasting is perpetuating outdated and inaccurate/incomplete norms around gender and negotiation.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.

2 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 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.

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