Does flirtation help or hurt a woman negotiating? According to new research, it helps – creating better economic outcomes for the female negotiators, if the flirtatiousness is perceived as above and beyond friendliness.
The study examined “feminine charm” in negotiations through four different experiments, looking at the balance between friendliness and flirtatiousness. Flirtation as opposed to friendliness, the research found, signals self-interest and competitiveness.
Feminine charm, the researchers, U.C. Berkeley researcher Laura Kray defined as an impression management technique for women that combines friendliness and flirtation to achieve their broader interaction goals.
Her research showed that flirtation was seen as a concern for self, where friendliness was seen as a concern for the other.
When their actions were perceived as flirtation female negotiators received better offers, when they were seen as friendliness they negotiated worse deals.
Maybe warmth signals a lack of competitiveness? Women negotiators who were seen as ‘too nice’ got a smaller cut of the pie.
But also a lack of feminine charm can lead to negative impressions. There is a US legal case ( Anne Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse Coopers) where a woman seen as too ‘macho’ was denied a partnership.
There may be gender differences in how we best negotiate, Dr Kray suggests. Expressions ofanger increase men’s status, but diminish the status of women. Feminine charm may be a uniquely feminine technique for getting a better deal.
“Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations,” Laura Kray, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, online July 19, 2012 – forthcoming, October 2012.