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Victoria Pynchon

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She Negotiates

The 33 cent wage and income gap is unacceptable and unnecessary. So is the cliché glass ceiling. Bottom line, our...

Women More Concerned With "Keeping Up With the Joneses"

A recent study confirms what Professor Adam Galinsky long ago told me about women's negotiation "problem."

We ask for less than our male counterparts when we perceive ourselves to be of lower social status than the people with whom we're negotiating. See Women's Negotiation "Problem" May Be Power, Not Gender. If we aren't concerned about "keeping up with the Joneses," the internal negotiation "problem" vanishes even though we still have to deal with the social sanctions imposed for asking for something for ourselves.  

In a typical infelicitously titled academic study, Regulatory focus and economic interdependence, Professors Jun Gu, Vanessa K. Bohns and Geoffrey J. Leonardelli have furthered Professor Galinksy's work by demonstrating that people who are attempting to avoid loss of status tend to sacrifice the greatest possible negotiated outcome because their goal is simply to avoid negative "relative" outcomes. Instead of baking another cake, we fight over how much of the last piece we're entitled to.

The social scientists have now compared the way in which people concerned with their social status pursue their own self-interest. Those people - who we can assume include large numbers of women and minorities - bargained in a less optimal way than those who are unconcerned with differences in status.

The researchers believe that negotiators concerned with equality of outcome are "more likely to make the potentially false fixed-pie assumption," assuming that "the more value they accumulate at the bargaining table, the less other party receives." That darn cake again.

Unsurprisingly, those of us who are bargaining with people we believe to be superior pay more attention to fairness, equality and relative disadvantage than do our supposedly better-heeled negotiation partners.

Surprisingly, negotiators concerned with status and hence equality of outcome, did not behave in a more pro-social manner (for the benefit of others) than their counterparts who were focused on getting the better (not the equal) "deal." 

This research has both disturbing and hopeful implications that I'll discuss later this week. 

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