By Steven G. Mehta

I don’t need to be told twice that men and women are very different in the way that they react to everything.  The fact is that gender differences research is very important because men and women do react so very differently to specific situations.  A recent study reflects how the different genders reflect on failure.

Here is the abstract of the article How do women account for failure when they expect success? by Verna-Jean Amell Semkow and Michael McCarrey

Recent research suggests that men and women account for failures differently. Competent, self-aware men discount failures; competent, self-aware women accept them. This style of accounting for failure outcomes in achievement has been explored in studies of attribution and, more recently, the expectancies an individual holds regarding the outcome (to fail or succeed). The theories do not predict acceptance of failure by competent, self-aware individuals. The incongruent results have been consequently explained as a sex difference. Closer evaluation of the research, however, indicates that most women expect failure rather than success, and that this is a learned expectation. This study attempted to answer whether an exposure to success experiences would alter this expectancy and, if so, whether women would then discount failures in a self-serving manner as men do. Through a manipulation of success and failure outcomes using anagram tasks, it was demonstrated that, given an expectation to succeed, women did use systematic biased attributions to account for failure. These findings have significant implications for attribution research and for our understanding of women’s attitude towards achievement and ability to maintain a sense of well-being when faced with failure.

I think that the simple takeaway for negotiations is that prior to negotiations, there needs to be some way that an expectation of success can be given to the female negotiators.  This will serve two purposes:  First, other studies have shown that the greater the expectation of success, the better the negotiator will do in the negotiations regardless of gender.  Creating an expectation of success will help the negotation process.  Second, if the negotiation fails, based upon this research, women might discount the failure more and be more ready get into other similar negotiations.

My concern is that the issue of not discounting failure because of the lack of expectation may have greater long term ramifications.  Specifically, this could create a cycle of lower expectations which could ultimately affect women’s ability to negotiate in life.

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