Failing to Negotiate/Accepting the First Offer
You may have heard that women typically make less money than men. Researchers have established that about one-third of the gender differences observed in the salaries of men and women can be traced back to differences in starting salaries, with women making less, on average, when they start their jobs. Some people are taught to feel that negotiation is a conflict situation, and these individuals may tend to avoid negotiations to avoid conflict.
Research shows that this negotiation avoidance is especially prevalent among women. For example, one study looked at students from Carnegie-Mellon who were getting their first job after earning a master’s degree. The study found that only 7% of the women negotiated their offer, while men negotiated 57% of the time. The result had profound consequences. Researchers calculate that people who routinely negotiate salary increases will earn over $1 million more by retirement than people who accept an initial offer every time without asking for more. The good news is that it appears that it is possible to increase negotiation efforts and confidence by training people to use effective negotiation skills.
Letting Your Ego Get in the Way
Thinking only about yourself is a common mistake, as we saw in the opening case. People from the United States tend to fall into a self-serving bias in which they overinflate their own worth and discount the worth of others. This can be a disadvantage during negotiations. Instead, think about why the other person would want to accept the deal. People aren’t likely to accept a deal that doesn’t offer any benefit to them. Help them meet their own goals while you achieve yours. Integrative outcomes depend on having good listening skills, and if you are thinking only about your own needs, you may miss out on important opportunities. Remember that a good business relationship can only be created and maintained if both parties get a fair deal.
Having Unrealistic Expectations
Susan Podziba, a professor of mediation at Harvard and MIT, plays broker for some of the toughest negotiations around, from public policy to marital disputes. She takes an integrative approach in the negotiations, identifying goals that are large enough to encompass both sides. As she puts it, “We are never going to be able to sit at a table with the goal of creating peace and harmony between fishermen and conservationists. But we can establish goals big enough to include the key interests of each party and resolve the specific impasse we are currently facing. Setting reasonable goals at the outset that address each party’s concerns will decrease the tension in the room, and will improve the chances of reaching an agreement.” Those who set unreasonable expectations are more likely to fail.
Getting Overly Emotional
Negotiations, by their very nature, are emotional. The findings regarding the outcomes of expressing anger during negotiations are mixed. Some researchers have found that those who express anger negotiate worse deals than those who do not, and that during online negotiations, those parties who encountered anger were more likely to compete than those who did not. In a study of online negotiations, words such as despise, disgusted, furious, and hate were related to a reduced chance of reaching an agreement. However, this finding may depend on individual personalities. Research has also shown that those with more power may be more effective when displaying anger. The weaker party may perceive the anger as potentially signaling that the deal is falling apart and may concede items to help move things along. This holds for online negotiations as well. In a study of 355 eBay disputes in which mediation was requested by one or both of the parties, similar results were found. Overall, anger hurts the mediation process unless one of the parties was perceived as much more powerful than the other party, in which case anger hastened a deal. Another aspect of getting overly emotional is forgetting that facial expressions are universal across cultures, and when your words and facial expressions don’t match, you are less likely to be trusted.
Letting Past Negative Outcomes Affect the Present Ones
Research shows that negotiators who had previously experienced ineffective negotiations were more likely to have failed negotiations in the future. Those who were unable to negotiate some type of deal in previous negotiation situations tended to have lower outcomes than those who had successfully negotiated deals in the past.  The key to remember is that there is a tendency to let the past repeat itself. Being aware of this tendency allows you to overcome it. Be vigilant to examine the issues at hand and not to be overly swayed by past experiences, especially while you are starting out as a negotiator and have limited experiences.
Tips for Negotiation Success
- Focus on agreement first. If you reach an impasse during negotiations, sometimes the best recourse is to agree that you disagree on those topics and then focus only on the ones that you can reach an agreement on. Summarize what you’ve agreed on, so that everyone feels like they’re agreeing, and leave out the points you don’t agree on. Then take up those issues again in a different context, such as over dinner or coffee. Dealing with those issues separately may help the negotiation process.
- Be patient. If you don’t have a deadline by which an agreement needs to be reached, use that flexibility to your advantage. The other party may be forced by circumstances to agree to your terms, so if you can be patient you may be able to get the best deal.
- Whose reality? During negotiations, each side is presenting their case—their version of reality. Whose version of reality will prevail? Leigh Steinberg offers this example from the NFL, when he was negotiating the salary of Warren Moon. Moon was 41 years old. That was a fact. Did that mean he was hanging on by a thread and lucky to be employed in the first place? “Should he be grateful for any money that the team pays him?” Steinberg posed, “Or is he a quarterback who was among the league leaders in completions and attempts last year? Is he a team leader who took a previously moribund group of players, united them, and helped them have the best record that they’ve had in recent years?” All those facts are true, and negotiation brings the relevant facts to the forefront and argues their merit.
- Deadlines. Research shows that negotiators are more likely to strike a deal by making more concessions and thinking more creatively as deadlines loom than at any other time in the negotiation process.
- Be comfortable with silence. After you have made an offer, allow the other party to respond. Many people become uncomfortable with silence and feel they need to say something. Wait and listen instead.
Sources: Adapted from information in Stuhlmacher, A. F., Gillespie, T. L., & Champagne, M. V. (1998). The impact of time pressure in negotiation: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Conflict Management, 9, 97–116; Webber, A. (1998, October). How to get them to show you the money. Fast Company. Retrieved November 13, 2008 from http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/19/showmoney.html.