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Turn Your Electronic Devices Off When You Negotiate in Person

By Charles B. Craver

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As we have moved into the Twenty-First Century, many persons have become addicted to their electronic devices. They repeatedly check their devices for text messages, and their smart phones for calls from others. When my Negotiation class students work on negotiation exercises, they almost always have their electronic devices on, and frequently interrupt their discussions to respond to text messages. A recent empirical study by Aparna Krishnan, Terry Kurtzberg, and Charles Naquin, “The Curse of the Smartphone: Electronic Multitasking in Negotiations,” 30 Negotiation Journal 191 (2014), demonstrates the negative implications of such distractions.

They had 172 graduate level business students participate in a negotiation project. The class was divided into groups of two students who were given one hour to work on a negotiation exercise. Half of the participants were instructed to interact with no electronic devices turned on, while the other half had one participant who was instructed to have his or her devices turned on. During their bargaining discussions, these participants were sent text messages that seemed to be about the exercise being negotiated, but which provided no useful information to the recipients.

When the assigned exercises were finished, the authors asked the participants how they felt about each other, and they compared the actual terms agreed upon by the pairs with no electronic devices turned on and the pairs with one person being interrupted by text messages. They found some highly interesting findings that should be relevant to anyone thinking of keeping their electronic devices on when they negotiate with others in person.

The authors initially found that the participants in the control groups where the devices were turned off were more satisfied with the bargaining process than the participants who interacted with opponents who had their devices turned on. The control group members apparently believed that their opponents were really interested in their needs and interests and worked the entire time to achieve mutually beneficial agreements. The persons who had to deal with the mobile device on group also concluded that their opponents were less professional than the opponents with no such interruptions. It is especially interesting to note that the individuals who interacted with others who had their devices turned on thought those people were less trustworthy than the individuals with their devices turned off. These three findings are particularly significant, because they diminished the likelihood the persons who had to interact with opponents with their devices turned on would wish to negotiate with those individuals in the future.

Turn Your Electronic Devices Off When You Negotiate in Person By Charles B. Craver


Copyright ©2014 Charles B. Craver
Copyright ©   2014  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  May 2014