The Role of Mood and Personality Traits in Negotiations

You are probably not surprised to learn that mood matters in negotiation. Negotiators who are in positive moods negotiate better outcomes than those who are in average moods. Why? Negotiators who are upbeat or happy tend to trust the other party more and therefore reach more joint-gain settlements. Let us assume Carlos, a manager, is a very effective negotiator. One of the reasons Carlos is a good negotiator is because he opens negotiations by trying to put his counterparts in a good mood he tells jokes provides refreshment or emphasizes the positive side of what is at stake. This technique makes is counterparts bargain more integratively because they communicate their priorities more accurately, perceive others interest and they also think more creatively.

What about personality? Can you predict an opponent’s negotiations tactics of you know something about his or her personality? It is tempting to answer ‘Yes’ to this question. For instance you might assume that high risk takers would be more aggressive bargainers who make fewer concessions. Surprisingly the evidence has not always supported this intuition.

Assessment of the personality – negotiation relationship has been that personality traits have no significant direct effect on either the bargaining process or the negotiation outcomes. However, recent research has started to question the theory that personality and the negotiation process are not connected. In fact, it appears that several of the Big Five traits are rated to negotiation outcomes. For example negotiators who are agreeable or extraverted are not very successful when it comes to distributive bargaining. Why? Because extraverts are outgoing and friendly they tend to share information than they should. And agreeable people are more interested in finding ways to cooperate rather than butt heads. These traits while slightly helpful in integrative negotiation are liabilities when interests are opposed. So the best distributive bargainer appears to be a disagreeable introverts that is, someone who is interested in his own outcomes versus pleasing the other party and having a pleasant social exchange.

A big ego can also affect negotiations. For example, Samantha is an executive with a major clothing manufacturer. She is convinced that everything she touches turns to gold and she cannot stand to look bad. An important contract with her company’s suppliers just came up for negotiation. Excited, Samantha thinks she will take the reins during for negotiation process, but her boss tells her she is off the negotiating team. Her boss is smart to keep such a hardliner off the case, because a study found that individuals who are concerned with appearing competent and successful in negotiations (that is, saving face) – can have a negative effect on the outcome of the negotiation process. Individuals who were more concerned with saving face were less likely to reach agreements than those who were less concerned with coming out on top. This is because those who are overly competitive in negotiating negotiate to look good personally rather than to attain the best agreement for all concerned. So those who are able to check egos at the door are able to negotiate better agreements for themselves and for others, whether the bargaining situation is distributive or integrative.

Gender Difference in Negotiators: A popular stereotype held by many is that women are more cooperative and pleasant in negotiations than are men. The evidence does not support this belief. However, men have been found to negotiate better outcomes than women although the difference is relatively small. It has been postulated that this differences might be due to men and women pacing divergent values on outcomes. It is possible that a few hundred dollars more in salary or the corner office is less important to women than forming and maintaining an interpersonal relationship.

The evidence suggests that women attitudes toward negotiation and toward themselves as negotiators appear to be quite different from men’s. Managerial women demonstrate less confidence in anticipation of negotiating and are less satisfied with their performance after the process is complete even when their performance and the outcomes they achieve are similar to those for men. This latter conclusion suggests that women may unduly penalize themselves by failing to engage in negotiations when such action would be in their best interests.