Soft Skills Insights

We unpack behavior science, habit research, and academic research to provide practical insight into how to upgrade your people's critical thinking, communication, people management, and time management skills

The Unintended Consequences of Winning Negotiations

communication critical thinking Nov 05, 2020
The Unintended Consequences of Winning Negotiations

It would make sense to assume that winning negotiations is the most productive – and therefore desirable – course of action. After all, if you get what you want, you will likely be more productive than having to compromise your demands.

However, the act of winning a negotiation brings with it unintended consequences that will affect your productivity if you have to work with those you “beat” in the negotiation. The video below explains the effect losing negotiations has on others. 

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

The science of productivity segment brings you scientific insights you can trust into how accomplish your goals faster. In this week’s segment, I want to share new research that shows winning negotiations with colleagues or clients may actually hurt your productivity.

It’s traditionally advised that you should negotiate as effectively as you can in order to drive the conclusion of the negotiation to a decision most favorable to you. It stands to reason then that effective negotiators are most productive because they achieve their goals for collaboration.

Researchers from Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania found across six studies that negotiating can harm others’ post-agreement performance. People who negotiate become less motivated and productive on effortful and creative tasks than those who don’t engage in negotiations. In one study conducted by the researchers Hart and Schweitzer, participants who engaged in negotiations completed 30% fewer assignments accurately than those who didn’t. When it came to writing essays, those who negotiated their payment beforehand wrote 28% fewer words than those who didn’t negotiate.

The reduction in effort and productivity occurs because negotiations leave participants doubting the status of their relationship with the other party. And this perception of relational conflict causes people to feel less motivated to do work that will benefit their counterpart in the negotiation. Importantly, this effect remained even if participants in the study obtained more favorable agreements in the negotiation. Said simply, if we argue about how much you should pay for my services, I’m going to walk away from the conversation thinking something is wrong in our relationship, and as a result, will be less motivated to perform those services for you – even if I get my way in the negotiation.

This doesn’t mean that you should never negotiate with a team member or client. Just do so with caution if you need them to complete work that will benefit you after the negotiation. In some cases, it may be better to let them proceed the way they want to or deem certain tasks as non-negotiable than to sap their motivation and productivity by debating it. When you do feel it’s necessary to sink your heels in and negotiate, once an agreement is reached, re-assure the other person that from your perspective, your relationship is still strong and you value their opinion and disagreement.



Getting to less: When negotiating harms post-agreement performance.” Hart, Einav and Schweitzer, Maurice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (Nov 2017).


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