The Negotiator Magazine

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Organizational and managerial literature have introduced the idea that organizations are becoming 'flatter'--less reliant on layers of authority--while employees are becoming 'empowered' to take responsibility for entire work processes, rather than individual tasks (Davenport 1995; Hammer and Champy 1993). Emphasis on teamwork and networked organizations present a new need for managerial negotiation. Given this organizational evolution, questions of effective management arise. Is managerial effectiveness affected by gender and power issues?

Watson and Hoffman test several hypotheses including: 1) women negotiators resort to acquiescence and concession; 2) the outcomes obtained by women as managerial negotiators are related to gender and relative power within an organization; 3) high power is related to use of more problem-solving and coercion approaches while low power managers use 'soft' competitive tactics (argumentation and persuasion); and 4) effects of gender and power will combine in a negotiation such that high power women managers will feel the same confidence as low power men managers and use the same kinds of negotiation tactics.

The study was accomplished by placing forty pairs of practicing managers (forty men and forty women with an average of 13 years experience) in mixed and same-sex pairs in a simulated 'internal' negotiation. Organizational power was varied within the pairs. In the scenario, a 15-year veteran line manager (high power, head of sales operations) must meet under time pressure in his/her office with a 2-year staff manager (low power, computer specialist) to select a vendor for installing and servicing a computer system to track their division's lagging sales. At issue are the choice of vendor, oversight of the system, and clauses in the contract. The staff manager has expertise, but little power, while the contrary holds for the senior executive. The simulation has built-in potential for integrative problem solving approaches, should the participants apply them.

The simulations were taped, transcribed, and the managers' behaviors were encoded for statistical utility. A complex and rigorous quantitative analysis was conducted. The authors found that high power managers, whether male or female, chose problem-solving approaches more often than their low power colleagues, while affirming the hypothesis that low power managers opted for 'soft' competition tactics; eschewing cooperation and disclosure. Furthermore, it seemed that in mixed gender pairs, low power females adapted to their situations and relied on arguing, bullying and not cooperating with their high power male counterparts in contrast to the image of women as 'soft', people-oriented negotiators.

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