Lies, damn lies, and negotations
July 31, 2014 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Women are more likely to be lied to at the negotiation table
Women are more likely to be lied to at the negotiation table, according to a recent study led by UC Berkeley researchers at the Haas School of Business. The study, published online July 14, determined that women are more likely to be lied to than men from a series of face-to-face negotiations among about 300 MBA students at Haas.…The cultural stereotype is that women are “too nice” to accuse someone of lying, but the study found that whether or not women were lied to was rooted in how their competence was perceived by their negotiating partner, [lead researcher] Kray said.

This Slate article discusses the study, which is behind a paywall on ScienceDirect.
posted by Lexica (22 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
From what the Slate article said, the participant playing the buyer's agent was explicitly instructed to lie, or at least to conceal information, and 97% of men did not end up lying to opposing male negotiators? Maybe MBA students are more honest than I would have expected if they're so frequently telling the truth when told by their pretend-bosses to lie, or maybe some aspect of the way the study was constructed resulted in the participants behaving differently from the real-world behavior of business school grads I've observed (and everyone else, for that matter). It's unfortunate that the study itself is behind a paywall.

I don't have any trouble believing that women are lied to in negotiations much more frequently but as a guy, these numbers showing men almost never lying to each other seem weird to me.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 PM on July 31, 2014

My actual thought is women are more likely to admit they were lied to at the negotiation table.

Because everyone lies in negotiation, unless they're incompetent. When you say you want X but you'll actually accept X/2, then you are lying when you say you want X.

And knowing guys, they'll never say they would have accepted X/2.
posted by eriko at 6:19 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Having sat with women who are negotiating divorces, this was a duh, no shit conclusion AFAIC.

Yeah, men never lying to each other raised my skepticism meter a notch, too.

This is another of the reasons why I think a woman president would have the deck stacked against her from the git go. Never mind the opposition at the negotiating table, those supposed to be on her side would be lying like dogs.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:22 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that by this point, Hilary Clinton knows who she can and can't trust, though, BlueHorse. The trick is to have been doing it long enough to find out who lies and what they are likely to lie about.

I would like to see more information on this study, also.
posted by emjaybee at 6:25 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Really? Self-reported data about whether or not the respondent is a liar? Well I can't imagine how the results of a study like that could possibly go wrong.
posted by Winnemac at 6:34 PM on July 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

Free copy of paper.
posted by fivebells at 6:47 PM on July 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Perhaps even more telling: People were more likely to let men in on secrets. “Men were more likely to be given preferential treatment,” says Kray. In several instances, buyer’s agents revealed their client’s true intentions to men saying, “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but … ” This sort of privileged information was never offered to women.

Sigh. Exactly.
posted by jaguar at 7:01 PM on July 31, 2014 [13 favorites]

"In the roleplaying scenario, 24 percent of men admitted lying to women, and women also lied to women 16 percent of the time. Conversely, women lied to men 11 percent of the time, while only 3 percent of men lied to other men."

I don't doubt that the conclusion is true but a "roleplaying scenario" without actual consequence seems more like poker played without chips. Surely the participants knew there was no risk.

OTOH poker, especially bluffing [lying] might be emblematic of risk taking and might be advantaged.

The title of the article is "Women more likely to be cheated in business negotiations, Haas study says"

"Cheating" is what they do in any business negotiation if they are at all competent. Cheating you is their job.
posted by vapidave at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the paper shows that the researchers measured both admission to lies, and the actual amount of lying, based on asking the sellers what the buyers' clients' intentions were.

Although the actual lie rate isn't broken down by the gender of the seller, looking at the numbers 'n' in Table 6 and comparing to the rightmost column of Fig. 3 seems to show that the men were seriously understating the amount of lying to men that they were actually doing.
posted by topynate at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2014

I'm not sure why they didn't use parallel questions for detecting lying and eliciting admissions, actually. They could have asked the buyers what they represented the clients' intentions as being, in which case both lie admissions and lie detections could have been put on the same 5-point scale.
posted by topynate at 7:08 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in construction management, more or less, and contractors tell me hilariously transparent lies constantly. It's pretty much a running joke with my female coworkers, the endless absurd claims they seem to think we will actually believe, even after evidence we don't. It does happen to our male coworkers, but far far less.
posted by sepviva at 7:12 PM on July 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

No negotiations actually occurred in the study. Therefore, there were no actual observations of anyone lying in any negotiations.

Therefore the study, like many of these sorts of cognitive psych studies, is fatally flawed.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been asked to be the male companion for car buying, negotiating with mechanics, and talking to contractors too often to doubt that there is a very real gendered difference in at least some situations.

It would seem that house buying would give you lots and lots of aggregate data that could be used to compare negotiating outcomes for men and women.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:51 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Way back in the day, I had designed some things for the new internet. This thing that was coming. It was big, I said, emoticons! You have to get into it!

I got offered a contract, for $5,000. I was happy with that, I took it to my lawyer, and he said, "just make sure you don't have to pay back the royalties." So I got that put into the contract.

The Man came to my house, we sat in my sitting room, and he said, "well... my lawyers say this new internet thing is good, but what you're offering me is merely typewritten stuff. However, I'm a man of my word, so I'll offer you $3,000 for it, what do you think?"

I said, "eh, how about $4,000?" and he said, "sold!" and he wrote me a check for $4,000.

Then I took two months off of work and took a trip to the UK. All based on novelties that sported things like :-).

So anytime someone says they hate emoticons, I think fondly of my first trip to the UK. :-) :-) :-)
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

When you say you want X but you'll actually accept X/2, then you are lying when you say you want X.

What one wants and what one will accept are two very different things. Walking away with less than you wanted doesn't mean you lied, it means you agreed to get some amount less than what you wanted instead of nothing.
posted by Hoopo at 8:35 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Re: the motherly types getting away with stuff-- one of the most dishonest people I've ever worked with had a very motherly managing style and while being completely incompetent, had everyone in the company from the CEO down completely snowed about the performance of her department, I think largely because it was a start-up with a lot of young people straight out of college there that just fell for that 'mom' tone, hook line and sinker. I watched her lie in meetings multiple times with a completely straight face. And she would completely convince people she had their best interests at heart while throwing them overboard. It was kind of impressive in retrospect.
posted by empath at 9:00 PM on July 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can confirm that putting on a certain type of motherly persona is a very effective way to social-engineer situations. You have to be careful not to cross a line into "Mom'ing" people, but a warm, approachable, nurturing vibe will let you get away with sooooooo much. It's actually kind of comical to see how disarming it can be, esp. in certain high-stakes / highly-adversarial / ego-driven types of negotiating situations. Don't forget a little vanilla extract behind the ear for the subtle fresh-baked-cookies sensory those pupils dilate...

Better than a thousand-dollar power suit, ladies.
posted by nacho fries at 9:33 PM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I work in construction management, more or less, and contractors tell me hilariously transparent lies constantly.

I am slightly in love with one of our contract managers because of her fantabulous email replies to these transparent lies. I've never met her but I hope one day to sit on a deck, drink wine and hear her best stories.
posted by fshgrl at 11:12 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

So I received my MBA recently, and took a negotiation class. I know exactly which scenario the study refers to, because we ran through it. For what its worth my partner (male) did not technically lie to me (male), but he certainly shaded the truth. But that was the whole *point* of the exercise. The buyer did not want the seller to know something, but unless the seller did a good job investigating, no direct lies would be required. I doubt that the vague answers and half-truths I got would have been coded as "lying" in the study, but the upshot is that I was still left in the dark about the reality of the scenario. For all I can tell, this study may show that women are better at determining when someone is being evasive and forcing the direct lie. In any case, I don't believe this study shows what the authors think it does.
posted by tau_ceti at 11:59 PM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

The thing about these kind of studies is that they take a conclusion that sounds plausible: that women are lied to more than men because of underlying sexist attitudes, and then do a weak study to try to confirm that. If studies were honest, they would be far more conservative in their conclusions "MBA students at our university who volunteer to be part of an experiment which attempts to simulate business negotiation in artificial conditions are more likely to lie to women than men, although the majority didn't lie in either scenario".
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:06 AM on August 1, 2014

It's true you can often (not always, but often) turn this sort of thing into an advantage... if you negotiate from a place of confidence. Which goes along with that confidence FPP.

My paternal grandparents both worked; my grandfather always let my grandmother negotiate their car purchases because they both knew full well vendors would lie to my frail-looking, soft-spoken Irish grandma and not so much to my six-foot-four burly Norwegian construction foreman grandfather. Grandma would nod along, take mental note of every single piece of nonsense a car salesman told her, sit down, and repeat them, and for each one, ask for a discount. She ended up getting prices on cars that were unheard of, and my grandpa got to tell delighted stories about all the young men she transformed from uppity mansplainers into pink, hunched-over boys who could only eke out "yes'm, yes'm" by the end of negotiations. (He always kept his distance; he loved watching my grandma do her thing on her own.)

Same deal with home purchases. My grandparents taught me about construction, obviously. I used my grandmother's tactics when I negotiated on my apartment in Nice, and got it down to a price so low even the notary asked how I did it. "They told me unfinished live wires weren't a safety issue and that a false ceiling made of painted leftover flooring was original," among other things.

Works magic in business too. Takes unshaken confidence, though; you have to know you know your shit. This isn't always possible; you can't know everything about everything... and not everyone's lucky enough to have badass grandma role models.
posted by fraula at 3:10 AM on August 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

From the Slate article:

Kray suggests that it may help women in negotiations to signal their competence and confidence. She recommends showing up prepared, asking questions, and scrutinizing terms throughout the process.


You need to be ready, willing, and able to exit the negotiation without apology or hesitation if you are unable to get a deal you feel is fair. I think for some of us women, the cultural training to "stay in the game" and find consensus sometimes keeps us in the negotiating room too long. Saying no, and walking away without apology, and being OK with the discomfort of whatever reaction that produces in the other person is a really useful skill to develop.

The key is not to be a jerk about it. I thank the other person for their time and effort, let them know the door is open if they are able to find a workaround for whatever the deal-block is, and reassure them that I respect our shared goal to find the best deal that works for both of us. This does two things: it allows the other person to save face, since they don't feel like I'm bending them over a barrel, and it allows me time to step away from the negotiating table and re-assess, and be calm and strong for the next round (and if I do it right, there is almost always a next round).

I am not a fan of people who think it is OK to go into a transaction (say, a car purchase) with the ego-centric notion that they are going to bully or shame or out-fox the salesperson, and somehow get them to hand over a car at a "steal" price. (And let's be clear: NO car salesperson in the history of automotive sales EVER says yes to a deal that doesn't somehow work to his/her advantage...they just let you THINK you were ever-so-clever and beat them at their game.) Negotiation involves compromise on both sides. The car salesperson deserves to get his/her cut for the service they provide, and for the family they need to support.

I think women, given the skills, practice, and opportunity, make top-notch negotiators for so many reasons. Sadly, it isn't a skill that is generally taught in school when we are young girls, so it takes a lot of self-directed learning (or special training or education) to get those skills. But they are very learnable. (And actually quite fun!)
posted by nacho fries at 2:54 PM on August 1, 2014

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