Bet you didn’t know… New research on employee satisfaction, sadness, and selfless negotiators.

By — on / Business Negotiations

Satisfied employees, satisfied customers?
In a new study, Shu-Cheng Steve Chi of the National Taiwan University and his colleagues find that the degree to which salespeople enjoy their work has a significant impact on customer satisfaction with the outcome of sales negotiations.

The study examined negotiations over the price of eyewear between salespeople and customers at the stores of a large Taiwanese eyeglasses company. Salespeople who reported high levels of job satisfaction and who spent a relatively long amount of time introducing the store’s products and services achieved relatively high levels of customer satisfaction. In fact, employee satisfaction was more effective than price concessions at promoting customer satisfaction. By contrast, salespeople who were relatively unsatisfied with their jobs were unable to capitalize on the time they spent introducing products and services to customers.

The results suggest that organizations may be able to transform one-off deals with customers into lasting relationships by taking steps to improve employee satisfaction, particularly by training employees in effective communication strategies.

Resource: “Beyond Offers and Counteroffers: The Impact of Interaction Time and Negotiator Job Satisfaction on Subjective Outcomes in Negotiation,” by Shu-Cheng Steve Chi, Raymond A. Friedman, and Huei-Lin Shih. Negotiation Journal, January 2013.

When misery is myopic
Past research by Jennifer S. Lerner of the Harvard Kennedy School and others has found that “misery is not miserly”—namely, that sad decision makers will pay more for a commodity than will those in a neutral state. In a new study, Lerner and her colleagues find evidence of “myopic misery”: that is, sadness triggers impatience and, correspondingly, a preference among decision makers for receiving a smaller reward immediately rather than a larger reward in the future.

In one experiment, as compared with participants who were induced to feel disgusted or neutral, participants who were induced to feel sad (by watching a sad video) were more impatient and showed a stronger preference for an immediate reward (such as $11) over a larger future reward (such as $25 in one week). Sadness leads people to prefer immediate gratification over long-term benefits, the results of this and the team’s other experiments suggest.

The tendency to “want it now” is common among negotiators and other decision makers, but we should be especially attuned to the danger of making significant financial decisions when we feel sad.

Resource: “The Financial Costs of Sadness,” by Jennifer S. Lerner, Ye Li, and Elke U. Weber. Psychological Science, 2013.

Searching for selfless agents
Negotiators who work as agents or organizational representatives often face choices between doing what is in their own best interest and doing what would most benefit the group or individual they represent. A research team from the University of Amsterdam, led by Hillie Aaldering, looked specifically at whether people who are naturally more selfless—“pro-social,” in psychological parlance—behave differently than those who are more “pro-self” when negotiating on behalf of others.

As compared with pro-self representatives, pro-social representatives sacrificed their own interests more in a negotiation to benefit their constituencies, the researchers found. Pro-social individuals were even more selfless in favor of their groups when they had more to gain personally by helping their adversaries. By contrast, pro-self representatives were willing to betray their constituencies and the other side to achieve personal financial gains.

The results suggest that organizations may want to appoint people who seem particularly oriented toward helping others to negotiate on their behalf, as such individuals may be less susceptible to the well-documented tendency to put oneself above one’s group.

Resource: “Interest (Mis)alignments in Representative Negotiations: Do Pro-social Agents Fuel or Reduce Inter-group Conflict?” by Hillie Aaldering, Lindred L. Greer, Gerben A. Van Kleef, and Carsten K. W. De Dreu. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2013.

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