Blinded by Power: Untangling Mixed Results Regarding Power and Efficiency in Negotiation
Negotiators are often advised to seek information about their counterparts’ power. However, we know little about how such information affects negotiators’ behaviours and outcomes. Study 1 considered dyadic negotiations in which negotiators have symmetric or asymmetric best alternatives to the negotiated agreement (BATNAs). It also examined the impacts of (a)symmetry and knowledge of a counterpart’s BATNA on agreement efficiency (indexed by joint gains), and how knowledge alters negotiators’ realised power (indexed by percentage of resource claimed) in BATNA-asymmetric negotiations. Studies 2 and 3 focussed on BATNA-asymmetric negotiations. Study 2 tested the mechanism by which knowledge affects efficiency. Study 3 considered the impacts of knowledge on equity concerns, perceived power and information exchange about preferences. The findings indicate the following: knowledge of BATNA asymmetries (rather than the existence of BATNA asymmetries) adversely affects agreement efficiency; this knowledge increases strong negotiators’ focus on value claiming, judgement errors about counterparts’ preferences, perceived power and realised power, but impedes their information-sharing behaviour about preferences. Their focus on value claiming mediates the relationship between knowledge and judgement errors, whereas judgement errors mediate the relationship between their focus on value claiming and agreement efficiency. Furthermore, knowledge of BATNA asymmetries leads to contrasting perceptions of fairness. Strong negotiators with knowledge believe that a fair agreement should reflect their power advantage; weak negotiators generally tend to judge fairness based on equality. Counterintuitively, knowing one’s own strengths can lead to ‘winning’ a meagre prize and neglecting the opportunity for value creation by trading-off on negotiated issues.