Dynamics of relationality in negotiation: a multi-perspective framework
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 01:10 by Junjun Cheng
Negotiation is a dynamic decision-making and communication process adopted by two or more parties to solve conflicts in human societies. There is abundant literature on negotiation phenomena. Scholars from multiple disciplines have developed many theoretical frameworks, equations and models to explain behavioral and psychological mechanisms of interactions among negotiators. Nevertheless, current research lacks emphasis on relationality as a critical perspective (Ingerson, DeTienne, & Liljenquist,2015). Most studies have conceptualized the negotiation process as relational, static, linear, and decontextualized. For this reason, researchers have proposed re-constituting negotiation theories with critical perspectives regarding relationality, dynamics and culture. This enables better exploration of the long-ignored behavioral mechanisms and influential elements embedded in negotiations, and provides a fine-grained description of substantive negotiations. This research aims to address this call to empirically investigate the dynamics of relationality in negotiations. This research first reviewed the main theories and findings in negotiation literature, and then discussed the theoretical foundation of three critical but under-researched perspectives, i.e., relationality, temporal dynamics and culture. A content analysis of 264 negotiation research reports published in 30 top academic journals over the past 15 years (January 2000 to December 2014) shows only 33 papers have an explicit focus on any of the critical perspectives. This reveals a lack of research regarding relationality, temporal dynamics and cultural variance in negotiation studies. Following this observation, this research developed a multi-perspective theoretical framework with hypotheses on the dynamics of relationality, and designed three empirical studies to test the hypotheses. A pilot study tested some scales commonly shared among the following studies. Study 1 was a laboratory observational study, with a sample of 52 MBA students from a Shanghai university. Based on the data provided before and after their negotiation simulation on an individual buyer/seller task, the result supported that relational constructs play a salient role in strong relational cultures. Additional data were collected for study 2 and 3 in an Australian university. The effective sample included psychological and behavioral self-reported data from 82 students with work experience. Participants completed two-round business negotiations simulating inter-firm buying/selling tasks. The author content-analyzed the recorded negotiation conversations in the second round, including 32003 minutes of recording which was transcribed into 62686 words, 3839 speaking turns and 4137 thought units. These data were used to calculate relative frequencies of different negotiation behaviors. Study 2 employed data from 42 participants (21 dyads) within the above database for correlation analysis and regression analysis. The research scope was extended from mono-cultural one-round negotiations to intracultural multi-round negotiations in multiple cultural groups. The experimental treatment was the dyadic cultural difference between strong relational culture and weak relational culture. In general, study 2 found remarkable differences in impacts of relationality between high- and low-relational cultures. For certain main effects, the bicultural-context variable plays a moderator role with statistical significance. Study 3 utilized the data of 76 participants (38 dyads) from the above database for correlation analysis and regression analysis. The research scope was further extended from an intracultural context to an intercultural context. The experimental treatment was the dyadic cultural difference between inter- and intracultural groups. Generally speaking, study 3 revealed the applicability of cultural adaptation theory in strong relational cultures, as well as the mitigating effects of inter- vs. intercultural context on the impacts of negotiation behaviors on subjective outcomes. This research makes substantial contributions to negotiation knowledge by identifying the rationales of relationality in negotiations. First, based on the empirical studies in both high- and low-relational cultural contexts, the findings support the salient presence of relationality in intracultural negotiations. The research has unraveled that negotiators' relational propensity impacts negotiation interactions and subjective outcomes, through its influences on relational commitment. This supplies new evidence regarding the impact of individual differences on negotiation outcomes. Second, this research contributes to the current understanding of relationality in negotiations in relation to cultural dynamics. The role of relational orientation (relational self-construal) was contingent upon the (high- or low-) relational context, implying a cultural boundary of relational accommodation in negotiations. It is also revealed that inter- vs. intracultural context undermines the behavioral impacts on subjective outcomes in negotiations. Third, the research discovered feedback effects across negotiation sessions, substantiating the conceptualization of negotiation as a sequence of interrelated sessions and relationality as a dynamic notion related to its temporal progression. Fourth, this thesis investigated cultural adaptation in intercultural negotiations. The results delimitate the cultural adaptation theory, as cultural adaptation was only discovered among negotiators from high-relational cultures. These empirical findings suggest that future research should pay more attention to the capacity of existing theories to explain negotiation phenomena in new cultural contexts.