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Power, Gender and Negotiation
What effect do gender and power have on one’s abilities as a manager who relies on negotiation? Traditional theories have posited that women are disadvantaged negotiators if they apply cooperative approaches with positional, dominant male counterparts. Other research has provided contrasting images of women as negotiators: indistinguishable from men; pleasant/cooperative; or vindictive and threatening. In the Spring 1996 issue of Leadership Quarterly, Carol Watson and L. Richard Hoffman investigated whether there really are significant gender differences in managerial negotiation attitudes and behavior. Their findings point to an abundance of similarities in negotiating abilities across genders. They also point out that a manager’s power within an organization is a more relevant determinant of negotiation behavior.
The essence of the questions posed by Watson and Hoffman in the research evaluated here is whether gender and power (defined as organizational status) are reliable determinants of negotiating style and outcome for managers. The relevance of this inquiry only increases as organizations innovate, women increasingly lead them, and negotiation is increasingly viewed as a paradigm through which to analyze organizational growth and strategy implementation.
It is no longer questioned that negotiation skills constitute an important part of a manager’s ‘tool kit’. Various aspects of the management/negotiation nexus have been explored in academic contexts (Rahim 1992; Bazerman and Lewicki 1983). However, the work of Lax and Sebenius (1986) demonstrated that negotiation is far more than an important interpersonal managerial skill. It is essential to the manager, who creates value and distributes it in an organizational context. They showed how organizational strategy actually depends upon the skills of the ‘manager in the middle’ who negotiates horizontally with colleagues and vertically with superiors and subordinates, linking disparate networks of negotiations in order to further the work and growth of an organization.
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