Conflict is one facet of organizational dynamics that is virtually guaranteed to occur from time to time. When conflict does occur, there is likely to be a negotiation process between the parties involved to resolve it, and as part of this negotiation process, two things that may be communicated are anger or threats. Although these communication strategies are similar, there are some key differences between them that may impact their effectiveness in negotiations. A new paper by Marwan Sinaceur and colleagues explores these differences.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
After an initial pilot study, the authors conducted three experiments to assess the effectiveness of conveying anger or threats in negotiations. Among the authors’ hypotheses, they suggested that threats (i.e. “If you do not submit your report by Friday, there will be such-and-such consequence”) would be more effective than anger at obtaining concessions in negotiations, and that threat would be mediated (or explained by) by poise. The authors note that anger is more emotion-based, while threats are more calculated and emotionally-neutral. This relates to the hypothesis of poise mediating the threat-concessions relationship: the authors believe that the calmer, relatively controlled nature that may characterize the communication of threats may be viewed more favorably than a more dramatic, emotional communication of anger. Results of the experiments supported the authors’ hypotheses.
The main practical implication of these findings is that it is beneficial to be rational and focus on the problem itself in negotiations, as opposed to being emotionally involved and focusing on the other participant personally. By conjunction, organizational training programs that cover conflict resolution, and even informal instruction from managers to employees, might emphasize the importance of communicating rational threats, instead of anger, when confronted with conflict and disagreements in the workplace.
Sinaceur, M., Van Kleef, G. A., Neale, M. A., Adam, H., & Haag, C. (2011). Hot or cold: Is communicating anger or threats more effective in negotiation? Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 1018-1032.
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