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Archive for the ‘Mediation & Negotiation’ Category

salary-negotiation-300x258We’ve written before about salary negotiations in general, the difference in what men and women are paid, and salary negotiations for women only. So here’s another new study that says, whether you are male or female, going in with a specific number (like $5,015 rather than $5,000) gives you an edge in negotiations.

Researchers examined the use of round numbers in negotiations (in both the classroom and on Zillow–a real estate website). They found round numbers were much more often the initial offer on the table. For example, when looking at Zillow in four American cities, 73% of homes in the $10K to $99.9K range and 71% of homes in the $100K to $999K range “ended with at least three trailing zeros”. 98% of homes in the $1M to $10M range had listing prices that contained at “least three trailing zeros”.

So, the researchers wondered what would happen if you gave a more precise number rather than one with multiple zeros at the end. After multiple experiments, the researchers concluded that precise initial offers (that is, specific numbers not ended with trailing zeros) acted as “more potent anchors” than did round numbers (with trailing zeros). Round numbers have appeal, say the researchers, because they are easier to remember, fairly noncommittal, and “imprecision is a form of prudence”. (We are not sure exactly what that means but it’s an evocative phrase.)

The researchers believe that when you lead with a precise number, in any sort of negotiation, you send the message that you are prepared, informed, and knowledgeable about the value of either the item for which you are offering money or for salaries in your field. This precise offer leads the recipient of your opening bid to offer a returning number that is higher (when negotiating salaries or bartering on CraigsList items) than you might get if you offer a round initial request.

It’s an interesting piece of work, with applications to salary, mediation offers, jury charge “asks”, auto purchases, and even bartering at the farmer’s market. The researchers recommend bumping a $50 item to $49.75 (if you are the seller) or offering $50.25 if you are the buyer. They also comment that the research “highlight[s] how a lack of awareness about the power of precision may put the recipient of a precise offer at a disadvantage”. It’s intriguing research to experiment with in your day-to-day life–whether for mediation or that nice bunch of carrots next to the bright red radishes.

Mason, MF, Lee, AJ, Wiley, EA, & Ames, DR (2013). Precise offers are potent anchors: Conciliatory counter-offers and attributions of knowledge in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 759-763




Parties in negotiation are often eager to gain an edge in the maneuvering. Plans sometimes are made to walk away in anger as a strategy to elicit cooperation from the other side. But is that a good idea? Researchers say faking anger is not a wise move, but expressing actually felt anger may help you in negotiations.

Why? Because if your emotion is seen as inauthentic it generates distrust. The researchers describe faking anger as “surface acting”. Surface acting is what you do when you express a feeling externally that is not the same as what you feel on the inside. According to the cited prior research, how your face looks when you “pretend” anger, is quite different from how it looks when you actually feel anger. And the other person knows and may interpret your display as “inauthentic, calculated, dishonest, and opportunistic”. On the other hand, authentic anger can make the opposition see you as “tough and unlikely to compromise” and thus, paradoxically, makes them engage. (To help the actors used in this research display “authentic anger”, they were told to remember an incident that had truly made them angry and then record the experimental script.)

The researchers looked at the impact of “surface acted anger” versus actual anger (communicated by actors using a “deep acting” strategy!) in a negotiation process. Participants were 140 university students (66 men and 74 women) between the ages of 18 and 28. They were randomly assigned to view a videotaped recording of a male negotiating a car sale with them. The person making the offer for the car described what they wanted and then, what they had concerns about with the vehicle.

There were three forms of the videotaped car purchase offer: either a faked angry presentation, a neutral presentation, or an angry presentation. They were to view the recording, decide whether to accept or reject the offer–and if they rejected the offer, to make a counter-offer. The researchers set the initial financial offer for the car at the low end of the car’s value so that a large proportion of the students would counter-offer.

And here is what the researchers found:

When you fake anger in a negotiation process, the other side is likely to “place particularly high demands on you, be relatively dissatisfied, and have little interest in working with you again” because of distrust.

The highest counter-offers were made to negotiators who faked anger, then negotiators who maintained a more neutral (aka “composed”) facade. The lowest counter-offers were made to those exhibiting a “deep acting” anger.

According to the research participants, there was no difference in what they saw as the intensity of the anger between those negotiators showing fake anger and those showing more authentic anger–they saw them as equally intense. However, they distrusted the fake angry negotiator and placed higher demands and saw the more authentically angry negotiator as tough and placed lower demands.

The researchers conclude that fake anger results in the least favorable demands from negotiation partners. Conversely, more attractive demands are made when you maintain more neutrality and the most attractive are made when you exhibit genuine anger. However–and this is the dilemma in social sciences research–these actors were not exhibiting genuine anger. They were acting and using past experiences of anger to guide their emotional expression. Even good actors display “anger” differently than you or I are likely to.

So we aren’t sure what this means for you in mediation/negotiation. Clearly, we don’t recommend you fake anger. Probably, the best bet is for you to maintain composure and emotional neutrality and take the medium counter-offer rather than the high or the low. Or if all else fails, try being genuine, whatever that might mean. If you want to settle, that is.

Côté, S., Hideg, I., & van Kleef, G. (2013). The consequences of faking anger in negotiations Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (3), 453-463 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.015




We’ve seen a lot of articles on the value of apology for victims (and we’ve written a number of them here) but there isn’t much out there on the value of the apology for the perpetrator of the wrong-doing. Victims tend to want apologies when they believe harm done was intentional. Victims, in this instance, often feel angry. Perpetrators, on the other hand, often especially want to offer an apology when the transgression was not intentional. Perpetrators, in this instance, often feel guilty for having harmed another.

European researchers believed these differing emotions (e.g., anger and guilt) can result in an “apology mismatch” and thus have impact on future forgiveness and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. After three different experiments, the researchers reported that:

Apologies are driven by the perpetrator’s needs and they do not often consider the needs of the victim.

Perpetrator’s are more likely to apologize after unintentional transgressions due to higher levels of guilt.

Victims are not as angry after unintentional transgressions and therefore they are more likely to forgive the perpetrator.

Intentional transgressions result in the highest desire for apology from the angry victim and the lowest level of desire to apologize from the unrepentant perpetrator. A lack of apology can intensify the victim’s anger.

Ironically, the researchers cite prior research showing that when the angry victim receives the apology they say they want from the perpetrator of the intentional transgression–it doesn’t help as much as the victim anticipated it would.

Perpetrators may end up feeling guilt and thus apologizing for intentional transgressions that had unintended consequences such as pushing a friend into a pool and ruining a new smart phone in the friend’s pocket.

Overall, the researchers say, the desire for an apology and the desire to apologize are often mismatched and can result in grave difficulty reaching compromise. Those charged with mediating/negotiating solutions to such situations often find them more difficult than initially expected.

Our mock jurors often express distress in these situations. They wonder why the parties didn’t “work it out before it went so far”. When disputes involve conflict between family members, they always want the family members to drop lawsuits and go to counseling or just work out their disagreements and remember to love each other. Jurors don’t like conflict and tension any more than the rest of us do. They want to believe an apology can make all the difference in the world. The reality can be much more complex than any of us might imagine.

Consider also the import of this for mediation. Thinking in terms of the intangible/non-economic factors that facilitate resolution, this research is significant. The Plaintiff may be convinced that the wrong was done intentionally. The Defendant may feel that the damage that gave rise to the lawsuit was inadvertent, but may also feel angry or bitter that their error has been blown into a character attack. Strategies for diffusing the tension and bridging the misaligned perceptions end up feeling more like family therapy than law, but it is the very human nature of the process. What we have found can help is a mediation strategy (reinforced by the respective advocates of the parties) that:

You are justified in feeling wounded.

There are two issues at work: The compensable injury (the suit) and the personal affront (the emotional barrier to resolution).

The parties may never see eye-to-eye.

But even with the differences in perspective, both sides regret the situation, and also regret the related misunderstanding. Saying something like “I can’t honestly say that I see it the way you do, but I’m genuinely sorry that you are upset. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen” can often loosen deadlocks.

Leunissen, J., De Cremer, D., Reinders Folmer, C., & van Dijke, M. (2013). The apology mismatch: Asymmetries between victim’s need for apologies and perpetrator’s willingness to apologize Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (3), 315-324 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.005



Negotiating Salary 101 for Women Only

Monday, February 18, 2013
posted by Douglas Keene

pay gap genderWe’ve written before about salary negotiations and the discrepancy in pay for men and women. One of the issues consistently identified in the research is that men ask for more money and women often don’t. So researchers wondered (they are always so very curious) if women could begin to narrow the gender gap in salary by simply asking for more money. Pretty straightforward, right?

As it happens, women can increase their salaries by asking but they have to be much more careful than men about just how they go about asking for more money. So consider this post to be a CLE on salary negotiation when you are female.

Here’s the short version of the prior research:

Men can ask for more money directly. No one sees this as worthy of punishment or “social backlash” as the researchers call it. But when women ask directly for a higher salary they are seen as “less nice and more demanding” than women who did not negotiate, and the interviewer was “disinclined” to work with those women asking for higher salaries. Women are sensitive to this consequence for negotiating and so are less likely than men to negotiate for a higher salary.

Quite a ‘Catch-22’. The current researchers wanted to see if there were ways for women to request a higher salary that did not result in a “social backlash”. They were able to find a strategy but it requires you to negotiate very differently than you would if you were a man. While more effective, it would reasonably feel annoying to women to have to tip-toe through the process while men can breeze through the negotiations with far less concern. Regardless, it is a strategy that works. Here’s what they found:

Men are able to negotiate directly because it is expected they will negotiate directly. They are not penalized for doing what we expect them to do in an interview setting. Women, however, have to pay attention to the social outcomes (“I care about my relationships with others in this organization”) and the negotiation outcomes (“I would like more money”). If a woman just attends to the “social outcomes”, she doesn’t ruffle feathers, but the price of being “nicer” is that she gets a lower salary. If a woman just attends to the “negotiation outcomes”, she is viewed negatively and she faces an uphill battle to be liked, and is at risk of being ostracized to some degree.

So, the researchers recommend a strategy for women that includes both social and negotiation outcomes. In their study, the employee (represented on the video as either a male or a female) had been promoted to a higher level managerial position and was negotiating a higher salary. The research subjects saw the male and female interviewees use one of three scripts. Subjects (224 college educated Americans with work experience, ages 21 years to 75 years with a median age of 38, 91 women and 86 men) viewed the videos and then reacted to the interviewee’s requests and filled out questionnaires as to their sense of the individual interviewee.

Simple negotiation script: “I do have some questions with regard to the salary and benefits package. It wasn’t clear to me whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. I understand that there’s a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. I think I should be paid at the top of that range. And I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus. [This is the version akin to what most men use to negotiate a higher salary.]

Supervisor excuse script: “My team leader during the training program told me that I should talk with you about my compensation. It was not clear to us whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. My team leader told me there is a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. He thought I should ask to be paid at the top of that range and to explain that I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus.” [This is basically explained by the researchers as a “blame the male supervisor, don’t blame me” script.]

Skills-contribution script: ‘I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate, but I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I bring to the job.’’ [This is explained by the researchers as a “see me as a positive contributor, not a selfish demander’’ script.]

When women used either the supervisor excuse script or the skills-contribution script, they improved both the social outcomes (i.e., willingness of the interviewer to work with the woman) and negotiation outcomes (i.e., giving her a higher salary). You might have already intuited–men using the supervisor excuse or skills-contribution scripts were not penalized for using the scripts but their outcomes were no better than if they simply asked for the money directly (using the simple negotiation script). No gain, but no penalty regardless of which one they chose.

Women’s requests for salary treatment are viewed through a very different lens than that applied to men. The researchers believe that these scripts improved women’s outcomes since they made them seem more relational (which we expect from women) and the requests for a higher salary were seen as more legitimate (thus they were granted). In short, you legitimize your request for higher salary while reassuring the interviewer that you are concerned for organizational relationships.

This study is well written (the researchers are very articulate and write in plain English). Here is part of their conclusion:

“We do not see our research as providing specific scripts that women should use but rather the outlines of one possible strategy. We recognize that some people will bristle at the practical implications of this research. For some women, the idea of crafting a relational account may feel inauthentic or even offensive: why should they conform to an unjust standard? Others may perceive relational accounts as a reinforcement of gender stereotypes… We share these concerns. If we could choose the results of our experiments, we would prefer to uncover a more liberated context for gender in negotiation.

…The motivation for this research was to offer strategies that women could use to change their personal circumstances and to send the message that, while gender constraints are real, they are not inescapable. Moreover, when women rectify gender inequalities, they do so not for themselves alone.

…Research suggests that when women break glass ceilings, they do so for others as well as for themselves. For instance, when more women gain high-status managerial positions, the gender pay gap reduces for lower level workers (Cohen & Huffman, 2007). We hope that some women will put the insights from our research into practice because every woman who reduces the gender gap in pay and authority reforms the social structures that keep women in their place.”

In essence, no, it isn’t fair. But it is a way to get a higher salary more comparable to men in similar positions. And if women do this one by one by one–it adds up to more gender equity. These researchers say the ends justify the means. We tend to agree with them.

Bowles, H., & Babcock, L. (2012). How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer Psychology of Women Quarterly DOI: 10.1177/0361684312455524



Men are often stereotyped as “in it to win it”. It is as though everything is a competition and therein lies a tough lesson when it comes to ethical behavior. When it comes to competition, ample research tells us men have lower moral standards than women (e.g., win at any cost).  And while it’s tempting to say this is all about guys being guys… well, in this case, you are probably right.

New research says that when men feel their masculinity is threatened, the ends justify the means. You defend your masculinity and your honor. No matter what.

So researchers decided to test both genders on ethical issues by seeing who was more willing to lie to an elderly couple selling their beloved home of 40 years with the expectation that the buyer would maintain the home.

Participants read a scenario from an ethics advice column in the New York Times Magazine:

“I have an opportunity to buy the property of my dreams. The problem is that the elderly couple who have lived there for more than 40 years love the house and assume that I will maintain it. I intend to tear it down and build a more modern house on this beautiful property. If I reveal my plan, they may refuse to sell me the house and the land. Am I ethically bound to tell?”

In the first scenario (above), the buyer’s intent was to tear down the old house and build a new house on the property. The experiment asked participants to specify whether the buyer was morally obligated to reveal their true intent. Men were more likely than women to say it was fine to withhold true intent from the seller. This feeling was stronger among those men who perceived a successful negotiation as indicative of masculine prowess.

In one follow up scenario, participants were asked to take on the role of either a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent and determine if they were morally obligated to tell the buyer of the seller’s intent to destroy their [beloved and memory-rich] home.

In another follow-up study, subjects were asked if it was ethical to deceive a prospective buyer by lying about having other competing offers to purchase some stereo equipment. In this second scenario, they were asked to imagine they had lied or that another person had lied–and then to evaluate the moral correctness of that lie.

In all of the above scenarios, men set the bar lower than women. They were more likely to withhold information on the buyer’s intent from the trusting and aged couple selling their beloved home replete with forty years of memories and they were less likely to condemn the use of a lie in the follow-up studies. Scientific American offers a succinct summation of the findings:

“Thus, men’s moral judgments varied in such a way as to maximize their own advantage in each negotiation process; when necessary for personal gain, ethical missteps were acceptable. By contrast, women made similar ethical judgments across all perspectives. Even when the ethical choice was clearly detrimental to personal success, women maintained their ethical standards.”

“A final study used the aptly-named SINS scale (self-reported inappropriate negotiation strategies), which assesses individuals’ willingness to violate ethical principles in a variety of negotiation settings. Once again, men were more willing than women to engage in shady tactics: they were more accepting of techniques like making false promises, misrepresenting information, and sabotaging their opponents. This was especially true for men who believed that negotiation prowess was an innate and integral part of their masculine nature – that good negotiators are born, not cultivated.”

The researchers refer to this tendency as “male pragmatism” and suggest this ethical gap is a gender-based reality. They review the research and say that when men’s masculinity is threatened, they become more aggressive. Conversely, if a woman’s femininity is threatened–there is no change in her level of aggression.

[We would observe that aggression or irritation is generally thought to be a common response to assaults on key features of self-esteem and identity regardless of gender. The difference here may be in the form the response takes in men versus women.]

Men over-compensate, say the researchers, and see negotiations as masculinity tasks that reflect on their own masculinity when they fail or succeed. Men and women simply approach negotiations from a very different perspective–and men have what the researchers refer to as more “ethical leniency” in tactics used during a negotiation process.

The researchers close their article by wondering aloud if a “Bernadette Madoff” would have committed equally unethical acts as the real Bernie did. They think not.

“Male negotiators derive considerable leeway in setting ethical standards, rendering them more vulnerable to ethical lapses.”

From a woman’s perspective, this is not very attractive and certainly unethical and unfair. From a man’s perspective, negotiation is about winning. From our perspective, if two women are negotiating, you are likely going to have two players with the same rule book for behavior. If one of the people negotiating is male, the rule book may well have impromptu, unshared and situationally-specific modifications.

You might want to consider that when setting up your next mediation, negotiation or settlement meeting.

Kray, L., & Haselhuhn, MP (2012). Male pragmatism in negotiators’ ethical reasoning. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.