Negotiation Processes As Sources of (And Solutions To) Interorganizational Conflict

by Elizabeth Long Lingo, Colin Fisher & Kathleen L. McGinn

Overview — Negotiations are often conceptualized as a means of managing or resolving conflict. Yet just as the process of negotiation may be a solution to conflict in some cases, it may be a source of conflict in others. This paper examines how contextual features within organizations affect negotiation processes and outcomes, and how these processes in turn become a source of or solution to interorganizational conflict. The authors argue that principals, agents, and teams face different sets of constraints and opportunities in negotiations. It is thus important to understand the link between unfolding interactions (the subject of considerable negotiation process research) and more macro features of organizations, such as formalization of roles, culture, or party representation. Key concepts include:

  • Relational aspects of negotiation processes and outcomes are very important.
  • Inter-organizational negotiations present choices regarding who will negotiate on behalf of the organization. Despite the critical resources at stake, little is known about the relative pros and cons of negotiating alone for one's own interests, sending an agent, or relying on a team.
  • Constraints and opportunities center on three domains: (a) the knowledge and skills that parties bring to bear on the negotiation; (b) the potential development of cross-party identification, trust, or relational conflict; and (c) coordination and communication.

Author Abstract

We investigate how structural features of negotiations can affect interaction processes and how negotiations can be not only a solution to, but also a source of, inter-organizational conflict. Principals, agents, and teams face different sets of constraints and opportunities in negotiations. We develop grounded theory detailing how the micro-interactions comprising a negotiation are shaped by the representation structure (principals, agents, or teams) of the parties. In qualitative and quantitative analyses of negotiations carried out by principals, agents, and teams in a laboratory experiment, we find that negotiators' efforts to manage the constraints and opportunities of their representation structure are reflected in the micro-interactions, the broad improvisations, and the resulting substantive and relational outcomes.

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