Male Negotiators vs Female Negotiators

Men and women are fairly different creatures and although cannot exist without each other often get involved in gender related conflicts with each other. Although John Gray in his Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has clearly outlined the differences between men and women, helping us to improve the communication between the two, we often carry on trying to prove that men are stronger, women are smarter or any other as we think important statuses.

When I was studying accounting in Sydney, one of my core subjects was Organizational Behaviour (weird I know :D) which is clearly a business related subject. One of the lectures was devoted to Conflicts & Negotiation which covered several different aspects such as bad and good conflicts, their structure, resolutions, etc. As the lecturer approached the slide Individual Differences in Negotiation, among Personality, Moods and Emotions one of the pin points was Gender where two sub points were presented as follows: “Men are slightly better” and “Women’s self – image as negotiator is poor”. Such statement caught my interest. I decided to ask the lecturer if it was a speculation or a proven fact. He did not present any scientific back up; however informed me that it is not an opinion but a known fact. Therefore, I went online to find any possible mentioning or a reference or any sign of the related research.

As a result, I found that myth that men outpower women in negotiation in fact makes women better negotiator when communicating on behalf of business for example. Dr. Tammy Lenski in her article When negotiating salary, women are also negotiating social approval brings Journal of Personality and Social Pyschology to back her opinion up that women are not poor in their negotiation skills; however while it is socially believed and accepted that they are, they can benefit when negotiating on behalf of someone e.g. “salary, frame it as negotiating on behalf of their family. If negotiating a new car purchase, frame it as bargaining on behalf of their elderly mom, for whom you run errands on weekends. If negotiating a business contract, frame it as negotiating on behalf of the division or organization.” Therefore, Dr Lenski states that women do perform worse in distributive negotiation because women negotiate not only for the certain outcome negotiation is for but for the social approval arising from gender role expectations, accordingly.

However, there are significantly a lot female leaders nowadays who are also believed to naturally follow transformational style of managing that is to inspire people to follow the leader, to be contagious when spreading ideas and rules. Modern businesses are more often implementing the style which is found to be much more successful over “do as you told” way of dealing with people. Therefore we could claim that women are bringing a new and more effective style of negotiation and leadership into business world.

Nancy F Clark in her article How Successful Women Use Power outlines that men and women perceive power differently. While men are more focused on winning and winning right now, women are working on long term relationship, and women are very comfortable with forming relationship. In other words, Nancy is trying to say that nowadays most of the successful organizations are leaning towards building relationship with customers and suppliers, and this is when women are not just successful but also comfortable. While men see world more in black and white, women see more of grey gaps and have skills to operate within them. As a result, Nancy offers women not to copy men in their negotiation or leadership style but to peruse their communication and collaboration style they are more likely to apply in business. However, why the myth would still exists if there are firm opinions on otherwise? Nancy believes that women are often in the state when they want everyone to be happy. Therefore, women often try to avoid conflicts. She says “You need to realize that negotiation does not have to be a win-lose conflict. It can often be a plus for both sides — a win-win situation. While you’re still in your Conflict Avoidance Stance, you don’t look strong at the table. And when you don’t look strong, other people will jump at the chance to undermine your credibility and even your right to have a position in the discussion”. On other hand, due to the females’ skill to build relationship, women often see other side’s agenda better than men which is a highly beneficial when for example negotiating a contract. Nancy argues that many women simply need to realize their power to be successful in negotiation. She also offers some body language lessons and business tips for women to master their skills.

In addition, women often need to be self-promoted, to step out, to speak up and be able to take a risk. Interestingly, although I have mentioned earlier, that women often prefer to avoid conflicts, they are as good risk takers as men when needed. In addition, women outperform men in intellectual areas, such as recognizing trends, generating new ideas and getting results. Nancy mentions Hagberg Consulting Group which conducted a research regarding female performance in business. Accordingly, female managers consistently rated higher in leadership, social skills, problem-solving and decision-making rather than men. However, women still facing social stereotype of being less successful hence it is not a usual case for women to achieve top levels in business. As a result, despite of all the matters discussed above, women keep trying to fit: “Women who attempt to fit themselves into a managerial role by acting like men . . . are forced to behave in a sexually dissonant way. They risk being characterized as ‘too aggressive,’ or worse, just plain ‘bitchy.’ Yet women who act like ladies, speaking indirectly and showing concern for others, risk being seen as ‘ineffective”.

Despite the stereotype and my teacher stating the fact that women are less effective in negotiation, there is no statistic showing any significant difference between men and women’s negotiation styles or one prevailing over another. However according to paper previewed by Rekha Reddy Do Men and Women Negotiate Differently – and Why Does it Matter? certain differences were outlined such as: women are more likely to cooperate and men are less likely to share information. Additionally, women are seen as worse negotiator than men simply because they often might not get involved in negotiation due to their “believe that society often reacts badly to a woman asserting her own needs.” As a result, men negotiate more often than women which might appear as women being weak at negotiation. However, in fact, men and women negotiate differently with same and opposite sex. Interestingly, several studies have found that both men and women expect women to have lower aspirations in negotiations. Such bias makes the whole world revolves around the myth that women are weaker negotiator because they are setting lower goals. In the “ultimatum game,” (according to the reviewed paper) researchers give two people a certain amount of money to divide. One person, the “proposer” suggests a division of the money, while the other person, “the responder” decides whether to accept this offer. If the responder rejects the offer, both players get nothing and the game is over. One study found that men and women made less generous offers to female responders than to male responders. Thus, clearly men and women follow the same bias, feeding the myth.

While trying to understand whether men outpower women in negotiation or not, we need to look onto the roots of the issue, the historical and biological reasons for its existence. To start with, historically, women have undertaken a different from men social development process. For example, only after 1902 women were given a legal right to vote in NSW, approximately twenty years later society approved a first female police officer; however who were obliged to leave their career if getting married (and were not entitled to police officers’ pension) and many other occasions when women could not and would not speak up for themselves. It is a fairly understandable point due to the initial natural division between men, the hunters, and women, nurturing house keepers. Thus, the bias regarding women’s disability to succeed in negotiation does not come as a surprise in the nowadays society. On other hand, the trend is set. Many women are now leaders & managers and participate in business related negotiation more often. It is only the matter of time till the day when the society will perceive female negotiators as successful as male ones. Although it might sound slightly feministic, women’s transformation is an inevitable process which will strike men as a surprise if they do not accept it now.

And I must conclude, saying that my “hunting” photo is not related to the topic … much 😀 I am Russian and this is how I negotiate [kidding of course] 😀


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