Women better at negotiating for friends in workplace


While negotiating with or on behalf of friends, women at workplace achieve better results than their male counterparts, finds a study.

“What’s important for women is the sense of fighting for others, for their friends, for something bigger than themselves,” said Hilla Dotan from the Tel Aviv University in Israel.

For the study, the team paired 216 MBA students in single-gender teams, some of whom were friends and some of whom were not.

The teams engaged in several multi-issue negotiations — concerning pesticide products in one scenario, and airplane engines and parts in another.

“When we looked at the negotiation tactics and outcomes of these young professionals, we found several differences between men and women,” Dotan added.

“However, the one condition under which we found no difference between men and women was when women negotiated in teams of friends,” she said.

The study found that women negotiate better outcomes when negotiating on behalf of others whom they care about, while men do not exhibit a difference in this respect.

But, the existing research is “disheartening,” the researchers rued, adding that they show that women negotiating have lower outcomes than men.

According to Dotan, the existing research shows that men initiate negotiations four times as often as women. While women negotiators generally achieve 30 per cent less than their male counterparts, 20 per cent of women do not negotiate at all even when they believe they ought to. Women also consider negotiations a chore rather than a pleasure.

“We consistently read that women negotiate lower outcomes than men. But is this really true?” asked Uta Herbst, Professor at the Potsdam University in Germany.

“We know that women generally behave differently in the workplace. They focus on maintaining relationships and cooperation and fostering harmony, which are ripe circumstances for negotiations. This behavioural aspect and the process of negotiations have commonly been overlooked in existing research,” Herbst stated.

In addition, Dotan believes that company management would benefit from fostering and encouraging personal relationships at work.

“Women naturally form relationships and these organic friendships shouldn’t be touched, because they ultimately prove profitable for the company,” Dotan concluded.

The study is forthcoming in the Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing.


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