Men tend to claim more resources than women in negotiation. Why? Gender discrimination and men’s greater propensity to negotiate are two explanations backed up by research. In a study, University of North Carolina professor Jason R. Pierce and Northwestern University professor Leigh Thompson identified another reason: men are more willing than women to resort to deceptive tactics in negotiation.
What research says about gender and deceptive tactics in negotiation
In their first experiment, the researchers asked 172 Chilean undergraduate students questions designed to assess their competitiveness, their level of empathy, and their attitudes toward using unethical and deceptive tactics in negotiation. The men surveyed were more likely to condone unethical tactics, a result explained by their greater competitiveness; the men and women surveyed were similarly empathic.
In a second experiment, 129 students at a U.S. university were asked to imagine themselves in a negotiation scenario where they had an opportunity to lie to earn more money without the fear of being caught. About 50% of male participants said they would lie in such a situation, as compared to only about 29% of female participants.
Men also ranked as more competitive and less empathic than women, differences that contributed to their greater willingness to deceive. Similar results were reached in an online experiment conducted on 252 adult U.S. residents. (About 44% of men and 37% of women lied when given the chance.)
Taken together, the results suggest that men’s greater competitiveness and lower empathy relative to that of women plays a role in their greater willingness to use deceptive tactics in negotiation. But because many female participants in the experiments also were willing to behave unethically, the researchers caution that it’s more important to pay attention to the other side’s disposition—namely, how competitive and empathetic the other side seems— than to his or her sex when trying to predict whether he or she will behave unethically. To ward off unethical behavior from a counterpart, model a collaborative approach and highlight opportunities for value creation.
Have you experienced deceptive tactics in negotiation? How did you recognize the unethical behavior?
This type of research, common in the social sciences, is seriously flawed because, firstly, it is conducted in artificial situations (laboratory/online); secondly, because it assumes respondents give honest answers. Take the experiment with 129 Chilean students: “About 50% of male participants said they would lie in such a [negotiation] situation, as compared to only about 29% of female participants.” This finding cannot contribute to the research conclusion that males are more likely to deceive in negotiations. The data are invalid because we do not know how many respondents were telling the truth in this artificial experiment (and others cited in the article). Maybe males are more likely than females to admit they lie. Maybe.