Adapted from “Pick the Right Negotiating Team,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, November 2007.
We’ve all seen teams and work groups implode under the stress of personality clashes. These experiences might lead you to conclude that your negotiating team should be a tight-knit and harmonious group of colleagues. Yet in their research, Leigh Thompson, Erika Peterson, and Susan Brodt found that teams comprised of friends reached less accurate judgments and fewer integrative agreements than teams of “non-friends.”
That’s not to say that building a team of strangers is your best bet. In one experiment, Cornell professor Elizabeth Mannix and research colleagues Deborah Gruenfeld, Margaret Neale, and Katherine Phillips found that team members who had never worked together were less adept at sharing information and solving problems than team members who were familiar with one another.
Together, these studies suggest that you should include team members who are acquainted with one another but not so chummy that they will avoid tough issues. Yet achieving the perfect blend of personalities is an elusive goal. Focus instead on uniting people with compatible interests, valuable information, and essential expertise—and be sure to involve potential saboteurs as well.