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2019 Grant Summaries

Matthew Diabes

Carnegie Mellon University
Conflict Management through Conflict Expression: The Role of Psychological Adjustment in Conflict Expression on Teams

A great deal of prior research has investigated antecedents and consequences to different types of conflict (e.g. status, relational, task, process) on teams. However, very little has focused on how individuals express conflict, and the effects different forms of conflict expression have on team and organizational outcomes. In this research, we seek to advance organizational theory and practice by investigating how the psychological adjustment of team members impacts team performance by improving intra-team conflict expression. Psychological adjustment is a combination of high self-esteem, high satisfaction with life, positive social relations with others, and low depression (Colvin 1993a, 1993b; Human & Biesanz, 2011; Human, Biesanz, Finseth, Pierce, & Le, 2014). Integrating theory from organization science and personality, social and clinical psychology, we propose that the average adjustment level of team members will positively predict forms of conflict expression that benefit team performance (namely, conflict expression that is high in directness but low in oppositional intensity). We focus on team members’ psychological adjustment in the current research because well-adjusted individuals tend to be more direct in interpersonal communication and more forgiving and empathetic of others—both of which are likely to contribute to more beneficial forms of conflict expression on teams and thereby superior team performance (Duffy, Shaw, & Stark, 2000; Judge & Bono, 2001; Murray, Rose, Bellavia, Holmes, & Kusche, 2002; Pierce, Gardner, Dunham, & Cummings, 1993; Ryff, 1989). To test our hypotheses, we propose an online survey paired with a team lab experiment, in which individuals respond to individual difference measures online and then are recruited to take part in a lab study in which they will complete a team negotiation activity, a variation of the “Towers Market”, used in prior research (e.g. Weingart, Smith, & Olekalns, 2004). Parties will have competing preferences, but their priorities will be complementary. That is, teams that express conflict with high directness and low oppositional intensity should be best positioned to uncover important information and cooperate in decision-making to achieve superior integrative solutions to the negotiation task. Results consistent with hypotheses would show that average team adjustment significantly predicts team performance through its effect on conflict expression—specifically, that higher average adjustment is associated with higher directness and lower oppositional intensity in conflict expression, which is associated with superior team performance. This research contributes to current theory, empirics, and practice by testing a new mechanism by which psychological adjustment impacts negotiation outcomes at the team level—that is, through a positive effect on beneficial forms of conflict expression. In addition, we develop a novel coding scheme for coding expressions of conflict. Finally, by studying the impact of adjustment on conflict expression and performance in a negotiation, we investigate both a way beneficial conflict expression may arise organically (i.e. as the result of the adjustment level of the team members), but also a lever by which team negotiation outcomes can be impacted behaviorally—through highly direct, but not oppositionally intense conflict expression.

Jeremy Yip

Georgetown University

Thanks for Nothing: Expressing Gratitude Invites Exploitation in Competitive Negotiations

Previous research has revealed that expressing gratitude motivates prosocial behavior in cooperative relationships. However, expressing gratitude in competitive interactions may operate differently. Across lab and field studies, we aim to investigate the dark side of gratitude and explore whether individuals interacting with grateful counterparts become more likely to engage in selfish behavior during competitive interactions. We examine whether participants who interact with counterparts expressing gratitude are more likely to make aggressive offers in distributive negotiations than those who interact with counterparts expressing neutral emotion. We test whether inferences of the tendency to forgive mediates the relationship between gratitude expression and selfish behavior. We contrast expressions of gratitude with other positive-valence emotions. We expect that expressing gratitude promotes self-interested behavior compared to expressing excitement or happiness. In addition, we investigate whether gratitude expression triggers self-serving deception. Taken together, our work suggests that expressing gratitude may be costly in competitive negotiations.


Rashphal Dhensa-Kahlon

University of Surrey

If We Can Laugh Together, We Can Work Together: Exploring the Role of Humor as a Conflict Management Strategy in Teams

Organizations rely on work teams for complex tasks. Past research indicates that team success occurs more when teams display greater task, rather than relationship, conflict; however, this is easier said than done, such that teams reporting high task conflict often report that this spills over into relationship conflict. Only a handful of studies have examined how to mitigate such effects, which is surprising given the prevalence of conflict in teams, as reported in both academic and practitioner literatures. These studies point to interpersonal factors such as intragroup trust and team performance. We propose consideration of an additional conflict mitigating strategy – humor – a social communication that is intended to be amusing. Since humor occurs in-situ and spontaneously, and, has been evidenced as being pervasive in teams where it promotes cohesion as well as reducing resistance spiralling into conflict, we propose to build and test theory, drawing on interpersonal affect regulation, which argues that humor-sharing may be a way to evoke positive affect in teams that, in turn, impedes the progression of task conflict into relationship conflict. We integrate research within humor, which identifies four types (positive: self-enhancing and affiliative; negative: self-defeating and aggressive), with interpersonal affect regulation, and suggest that positive forms of humor can reduce conflict, with negative types of humor exacerbating the progression of task disagreements into relational conflict. We go beyond past research and additionally examine the effect that humor has on a variety of team outcomes: the extent of team members’ improved relationship quality, psychological safety, and citizenship behaviors, as well as team members’ perceived relationship conflict. Building on two pilot studies in a workplace incivility conflict context, we request funding for four multi-method studies investigating team based conflict, and which specifically test the predictive effect of each of the four humor types on mitigating (or worsening) the escalation of task disagreements into relationship conflict, as well as on our additionally stated team based outcomes. Three of our studies are longitudinal (one field and two in the laboratory) and they collectively allow us to rigorously test cause and effect of hypotheses. Our studies also permit us to build and test the theoretical mechanisms of interpersonal affect regulation via which humor exerts its effects. Our studies will adhere to data collection, data use and ethical guidelines. Our investigation promises to help conflict-scholars see the strategic value of humor; we contribute to an understudied (but oft-cited) team based issue of how to mitigate the effects of task disagreements spiralling into relational conflict by offering a novel conflict management strategy – humor – and do so by proposing much needed longitudinal research in this domain. We also propose to help humor scholars see the potential for humor to serve as a conflict-managing tool. And finally, our proposed project has the potential to serve as a basis for formulating evidence-based advice and tools for students and organizations alike on how and when humor can be helpful (or harmful) in mitigating the escalation of task into relationship oriented conflict.

Alexandra Mislin

American University

Winning negotiations without losing the relationship

People strive to advance their interests through negotiations. Most commonly these interests revolve around economic concerns, but often they also include relational concerns. One prevailing belief in the negotiation literature is that through win-win bargaining, a negotiator can meet their own economic concerns as well as their counterpart’s, and thereby build the relationship. Yet, sometimes meeting one’s own economic concerns comes at the cost of the relationship, and thus negotiators give up value in order to protect or build the relationship. The goal of this research is to show that building relational value does not need to come at the expense of economic value. By systematically managing the framing of the negotiation process, and by realizing that objective negotiation outcomes are in fact subjective, negotiators can claim value while protecting and building the relationship with their counterpart.

Hillie Aaldering

University of Amsterdam

Negotiation agreement selling: Mutual (mis)understanding between representative and constituency

‘We reached this deal because we fought like lions,’ a Dutch cleaning union member told the press after weeks of strikes and a toughly negotiated agreement with his employer.
Representatives who negotiate a deal on behalf of their constituency often emphasize their own gains after a competitive interaction. Moreover, they will go as far as to blame the other party for not reaching a better agreement, suggesting a combative negotiation relationship and emphasizing how well they did. Whether such framing of the negotiation to the constituency increases constituencies’ approval of and satisfaction with the constituency is however an assumption that has never been tested. How should representatives sell agreements to their constituency to gain approval as well as to facilitate future cooperation between parties?
With this grant, we aim to set up a series of laboratory and field studies to test whether negotiated agreements can be explained to constituency members in a more cooperative way to facilitate implementation and positive future relations between parties.
During negotiations, representatives must walk a delicate line between representing constituents’ interests and preventing hostility with counterparts. Constituencies’ approval is vital for implementation of a negotiated outcome, but a successfully negotiated agreement often contains cooperative elements for the counterpart (Aaldering & De Dreu, 2012; Aaldering & Ten Velden, 2016; De Dreu, Weingart, & Kwon, 2000; De Dreu, Aaldering, & Saygi, 2014; Ben-Yoav & Pruitt, 1984ab). Constituents should thus be convinced of the value of cooperative agreements. Furthermore, representatives often negotiate competitively for fear of disappointing constituents; understanding how to gain constituencies’ approval of cooperative agreements can allow representatives to negotiate cooperative, higher quality agreements, leading to durable intergroup relations (De Dreu, 2010; Atkin & Rhinehart, 2006).
We aim to investigate agreement selling from the perspective of both representative and constituency, potentially leading to three high impact publications. The first project will investigate how representatives emphasize their groups’ gains and losses relative to those of their counterpart, using field studies with representatives of collective conflict negotiations (social partners). This project will additionally test in laboratory experiments how to stimulate representatives to adopt cooperative framing, emphasizing gains for both parties.
The second project will investigate how to encourage constituents to approve and implement cooperative agreements. Here, too, we will combine descriptive field studies with laboratory experiments to a) investigate constituencies’ initial impressions of different agreements and to b) discover factors that would increase their approval of cooperative agreements.
This proposed research project contributes to the negotiation literature by moving beyond the impact of how agreements are reached and how constituency members influence representatives. We will investigate the process after the agreement has been reached, showing how approval depends on how agreements are sold. Results can be adopted by negotiating representatives (collective conflicts, business negotiations, political negotiations, other forms of participative decision making) to facilitate constructive selling of agreements and positive intergroup interactions.

Franki Kung

Purdue University

From Negotiating Identities to Negotiating a Deal: Identity Integration, (Non-)Zero-Sum Mindset, and Success in Integrative Negotiation

Building on recent research on the powerful impact of individual differences in identity management on social behaviors, the current proposal seeks to investigate identity integration as a success factor that reduces zero-sum beliefs and promotes integrative agreements.

We hypothesize that those who achieve high identity integration are more likely to develop a mindset that focuses on the possible synergy between seemingly conflicting interests (i.e., the opposite of a zero-sum mindset). Moreover, to the extent that negotiators with higher identity integration exhibit weaker zero-sum beliefs, they should also be able to achieve more integrative agreements.

Margaret Lee

University of California Berkeley

Women Do Ask? Gender and Negotiation

Of the many sources leading to the gender pay gap, one that has received much public attention, as well as scientific focus, is the notion that a gender difference in the ability to negotiate is contributing to women falling short. In the proposed research, we suggest that rather than the “women don’t ask” message that focuses on the tendency to initiate negotiations, focus should be shifted to understanding whether there is a difference in what women are asking for or how they are asking. If women are asking for lesser things than men, this gender difference may be contributing to (along with the other factors examined in existing research) a greater gender difference. However, if women are in fact asking for similar things, perhaps we need a better understanding of any differences in how women and men are asking. We propose two studies to examine the possibility that women and men make similar demands, but the way in which an individual (woman or man) makes a request or offer in a negotiation affects the response and counteroffer.
Virginaia Choi

University of Maryland

Cultural Influences on the Formation and Structures of Stigma

Present-day rises in ethnocentrism and racial hostilities are cause for great concern as the world becomes more globalized and interconnected. The challenge of combating these dangerous sentiments that are based in stereotypes and prejudice can only be met with a more well-informed understanding of stigma’s cultural etiology. Sociologist Erving Goffman, who first proposed the concept of stigma, defined stigma as a discrediting attribute of a person, which leads to negative responses from their social group. Across nations and even between neighboring regions, there are markedly different levels of stigma that exist toward various marginalized groups. This cross-cultural variation in targets of stigma and responses to stigmatized individuals suggest social processes are critical to explaining these differences. Culture is deeply connected to the manifestation and perpetuation of stigmatizing attitudes around the globe but few studies have comprehensively examined the cultural etiology of stigma’s structure as it differs across human groups. The central goal of this research is to understand these cultural determinants and processes that are involved in fostering stigma toward group members such as migrants, disabled persons, and ethnic minorities. This study proposes the first multi-national study to investigate the culture-specific mechanisms underlying people’s stigma beliefs using a multidimensional scaling procedure. By mapping out these mechanisms, the study can link perceptions and behaviors toward stigmatized individuals to their affiliate cognitive representations. The proposed research aims to inform stigma reduction efforts and contribute to a more expansive understanding of stigma as it varies across cultural contexts.

Jennifer Parlamus Zach Burns

University of San Francisco

Podcasts re negotiations

This grant will support the development of a negotiation basics podcast which can be a companion to an introductory negotiations course. This podcast will include discussions of fundamental negotiations concepts by the authors, audio samples from negotiation simulations, and student reflections and perspectives on the concepts and simulations. It will be scripted and edited so that listeners not enrolled in a negotiations course can learn about the concepts, and also so it will add complexity and conceptual enrichment for enrolled students. Episodes will be largely self-contained, so that educators may use them in conjunction with specific simulations without worrying that a future simulation will be ‘spoiled’ by our discussion.

We envision each 30-40 minute episode will open with a discussion between two negotiation professors about a basic negotiation concept. We then give a brief overview of the simulation largely based on the shared information in the simulation. Next, we will hear audio recorded in actual student negotiation simulations, interspersed with the professors’ explanations and reflections from the students involved in the simulation. Those students will give summary reflections on what they learned, and what they would consider doing differently in the future. Finally, the professors provide a summary and recap of the most important points. We will post the episodes on a website in which listeners (including students) can post comments and questions in a well-moderated platform.

We currently envision this series will be 6 episodes long, and will consider creating more if there is enough interest. The current possible topics are: Basic negotiation concepts, Dealing with hard bargaining/distributive tactics, Integrative negotiation and the importance of asking “why,” Competition and cooperation (Dual Concern Model), Strategies for closing the deal, and Complexity in negotiation: multi-issue and multi-party.