Unique take on conflicts

Laurier prof Ivona Hideg. (Photo by Kate Turner).
Laurier prof Ivona Hideg. (Photo by Kate Turner).

If you’re in a negotiation it might be time to get a little bit angry.

According to research by Ivona Hideg, an assistant business professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, displaying signs of genuine anger can beneficial in negotiations.

“It’s a very good and effective strategy because by displaying anger, the other party is more likely to concede and you get what you would like to get out of the negotiation,” explained Hideg.

However, in her recent research, Hideg, along with Stéphane Côté from University of Toronto and Gerben Van Kleef from University of Amsterdam, questioned whether the authenticity of the anger influenced the outcomes.

“If you try to adopt a tough stance and game your emotions, you may be faking those emotions, and we just did not believe that the outcomes of the fake emotions would be quite the same as [if] they are of genuine emotions,” said Hideg.

The research involved an experiment on undergraduate students who were instructed to negotiate for a car with another student; however, the other student was actually a hired actor.

These actors were all given the same script and told to make the same offer for every negotiation, but the one differing factor was that they either displayed neutral emotions, genuine anger or fake anger.

The negotiations were done face-to-face or through a pre-videotaped offer. The results for both were the same.

“In line with past research, [actors] who displayed genuine anger — the other party did concede. So you would get more by displaying genuine anger,” said Hideg. “However, that only worked if you displayed truly felt anger. If you actually gamed the emotions and displayed something you did not feel, this strategy not only didn’t work, it actually backfired, and you gained even less than by not displaying emotions whatsoever.”

Although faking anger may not have favourable outcomes, this study illustrates that genuine anger can be a valuable tool in negotiations. But Hideg warns that even with genuine anger, the context should be appropriate for the emotion.

“If you think about negotiating over a job offer or job salary — that is probably a situation where anger would not be appropriate to display. There is an imbalance in power. Obviously, the person giving you a job is more powerful, and that may dictate what’s appropriate for you to display,” said Hideg.

However, Hideg points out that the power balance can shift once you have multiple job offers.

“If you have multiple job offers, you can be tough. You can negotiate, ‘I’m not happy with this offer because I’ve got better offers’ because power now is in your court. And you can be open about it because this is where your power lies,” she continued.

Negotiating is never black and white, but this practical insight from Hideg’s research may definitely be useful for graduating students on the hunt for jobs and careers.

The research has been accepted for publication into The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and is expected to be officially published later this year.

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