Why Women May Be Better Negotiators Than Men

Conventional wisdom holds that you should be assertive in zero-sum negotiations — go first and start high. This quality of assertiveness is often associated with men, who are regularly viewed as better-performing negotiators than women.

But women’s bargaining style may be better at preventing negotiations from stalling, says Duke University Professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette senior author of a new study. This is an outcome often ignored by researchers, yet one of economic, social, and reputational consequence.

“Being assertive at the bargaining table has been shown to yield better outcomes,” Dr. Rosette said. “But being too assertive may make it harder to reach an agreement and this can be costly when you don’t have other options.”

Dr. Rosette and co-authors Anyi Ma of the Wisconsin School of Business and Rebecca Ponce de Leon of Columbia Business School found that women’s “relation-oriented, interpersonal” negotiation style translates into less aggressive first offers and into higher chances of getting a deal done. Women’s tendency to disclose more about themselves and their willingness to be perceived as more cooperative fosters a sense of connection that can reduce the chance of impasse in some negotiation settings.

Dr. Rosette is the James Vincent Professor of Leadership at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in management and organizations from Northwestern University.

The full study, “Asking for Less (but Receiving More): Women Avoid Impasses and Outperform Men When Negotiators Have Weak Alternatives,” was published on the website of the Journal of Applied Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study

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