A "Winning" Strategy: Act Like A Girl?There is plenty of evidence that women don't negotiate as well as men — or, at least, that they don't end up with the same consequences out of a negotiation as men on average. We've even published negotiation strategies for women. But a new study touches on and then completely ignores the implications of the other side of the equation — the person on the other side of the table and their impressions of what you ought to be doing.Jared Curhan of MIT and Jennifer Overbeck of USC took 190 MBA students (granted, not exactly a blank slate of candidates) and assigned them in same-sex groups to play recruiters or interviewees in an employment negotiation. Half of them were told that if they could make a good impression on their counterparts, they'd get extra money. What Curhan and Overbeck found was that when they additionally incentivized the students playing the role of the recruiters, the women negotiated more aggressively and the men were more appeasing to the interviewees. But when the interviewees judged their recruiters, women who acted more aggressively were viewed — by their female interviewees — more negatively than the women who did not, and the men who acted more appeasing were viewed more favorably than men who did not. The first thing that strikes me in this study is not than men and women would benefit from different negotiation tactics — once again, we've already been doing that and being conciliatory doesn't get us that far — but that of course the interviewee who got everything he wanted out of a recruiter was going to be happier than the interviewee who felt herself subjected to a tough negotiation (regardless of gender). If they interviewees weren't incentivized or otherwise told to be aggressive, the question remains as to how they fared vis-à-vis their male counterparts in a negotiation and how they would've fared opposite male negotiators. It also remains to be seen what the male interviewees would've thought about an aggressive women recruiter and how a female interviewee would've scored an aggressive male recruiter. The other thing that strikes me is how the study uses a qualitative analysis without a basis of comparison — who's to say that a bunch of female MBA students aren't more aggressive than average? How was their initial level of aggressiveness determined? Was it determined? Were the women interviewees expecting an easier negotiation from another woman only to be confronted with the opposite — and did that influence their opinion? Were the men expecting sparring partners and end up with lapdogs on the other side of the table? These are some major concerns that would prejudice the results, and yet the study's conclusions focused on the "stereotypically" masculine traits the incentivized female recruiters exhibited to their own detriment and attempts to relate their scores to gendered expectations. And then, of course, the press accounts end up making it sound like assertive or aggressive women do more poorly than women who are meek and mild — which flies in the fact of every other piece of evidence about women's negotiating tactics and their real-life results. Even with the major flaws in the study that don't, I think, allow the authors to draw any major conclusions about how men and women negotiate and how they should alter their tactics, it's an interesting question to consider how an negotiating partner will view an aggressive woman. I have no doubt I've been turned down for jobs by coming across as too aggressive in interviews, and I'm certainly aware that my negotiating style can be viewed as inappropriately aggressive for a woman. On the other hand, my negotiating style is reflection of my personality, and if a potential employer is turned off by my aggressiveness in an interview, we're both just asking for me to get fired at some point not terribly long after I am hired. But a negotiation is about finding the balance between getting what you want and knowing your audience well enough to get it — and it's rarely about who is better liked at the end of it. Interesting Statistics [Women Don't Ask] Median Weekly Earnings Of Full-Time Wage And Salary Workers By Detailed Occupation And Sex [Bureau of Labor Statistics] Gender Stereotypes Contradicted When Negotiating [EurekAlert] More Assertive Women Judged Negatively [UPI]