Relief Versus Regret: The Effect of Gender and Negotiating Norm Ambiguity on Reactions to Having One’s First Offer Accepted
Women experience more relief following the acceptance of their first offer in an employment negotiation than men.
Negotiating effectively is an important skill in many domains of life, particularly for job candidates. Whereas a candidate wants to maximize a salary, the employer is motivated to keep costs down. An employer’s immediate acceptance of a candidate’s offer may actually disappoint the candidate as this signals that the employee could have asked for an even higher salary. This study examines how gender affects individuals’ reactions to having a first offer accepted, as opposed to engaging in a process in which both parties make concessions before arriving at a deal. In three experiments, the authors explore whether women were more likely to experience relief following the acceptance of their first offer compared to men; whether men and women adopt different goals in employment negotiations; and whether women’s relief turns to regret in situations in which the rewards for negotiating competitively –when a detailed explanation of why the negotiation should be important to the negotiator and how the results reflect positively on them– are clearly specified.
- Women were more relieved after having their first offer accepted than when they experienced the negotiation process. Women ranked their relief as 5.3 out of 7 when having their first offer accepted, as opposed to a score of 4 after the negotiation process. By contrast, men were more relieved when they experienced the negotiation process (with scores of 5.3) than when they had their first offer accepted (with scores of 4.2).
- Men and women care similarly about monetary concerns, but differ on relation concerns, as women care more about relationships with their supervisor relative to a successful negotiation. Women ranked their relational concerns as 7.4 on a 9-point scale, compared with 6.7 for monetary concerns; no difference was found for men.
- Men reported being less anxious and more confident about negotiations than women. Men’s self-reported anxiety levels were 5.2 out of 7, and confidence levels were 4.4 out of 7. Women’s self-reported anxiety levels were 6, and confidence levels were 3.3.
- Women experienced more regret (as opposed to relief) when the rewards for negotiating competitively were clearly specified than when they were not specified, with regret as 6.3 and 5.1 out of 7, respectively. Men did not experience more or less regret when the rewards were clearly specified.
The first experiment explored whether women were more likely to experience relief following the acceptance of their first salary offer compared to men. Participants were 34 undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory organizational behavior course (16 men and 18 women). Participants then read a scenario in which a company makes them an employment offer. Half of the participants read that their offer was accepted immediately, and half of participants read that they negotiated. After reading the scenario, participants indicated how relieved they felt on a scale of 1 to 7.
The second experiment examined whether men and women adopt different goals in employment negotiations. Participants were 135 undergraduate students (46 men and 89 women) who were paid $15 per hour for participation. Participants completed surveys in which they negotiated their first job post-graduation. Participants then indicated the extent to which they would be concerned with winning the negotiation, not losing the negotiation, appearing competing, appearing skillful, making one’s employer happy, developing an ongoing relationship with one’s employer, and being tough on a 9-point scale.
The third experiment examined whether ambiguity in negotiation norms affects the emotional reactions of men and women differently. Participants included 118 MBA students enrolled in a course in negotiations (76 men and 42 women). Participants completed an online survey that assessed their beliefs about conflict and negotiation style. Embedded in the survey was a scenario concerning an employment negotiation. Participants then ranked their confidence, anxiety, satisfaction, and relief about the negotiation on a 7-point scale.