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Negotiating Competitive Arousal: When the Cost of “Winning” is Too High

Take a look at this summary of the article When Winning Is Everything by Deepak Malhotra, Gillian Ku, and J. Keith Murnighan, now available online here as well as in the May ’08 Harvard Business Review.

Malhotra and colleagues suggest that an adrenaline-fueled emotional state [which they] call  competitive arousal, often leads to bad decisions.

Negotiating litigators may want to note that all of the conditions giving rise to “competitive arousal” are the day-to-day conditions in which litigation is conducted, i.e., intense rivalry, especially in the form of one-on-one competitions; time pressure . . . ; and being in the spotlight—that is, working in the presence of an audience.

Sound familiar?  Take a look at the consequences and the potential solutions below.

Individually, these factors can seriously impair managerial decision making; together, their consequences can be dire, as evidenced by many high-profile business disasters. It’s not possible to avoid destructive competitions and bidding wars completely.

But managers can help prevent competitive arousal by anticipating potentially harmful competitive dynamics and then restructuring the deal-making process. They can also stop irrational competitive behavior from escalating by addressing the causes of competitive arousal.

When rivalry is intense, for instance, managers can

  • limit the roles of those who feel it most
  • reduce time pressure by extending or eliminating arbitrary deadlines
  • deflect the spotlight by spreading the responsibility for critical competitive decisions among team members.

Decision makers will be most successful when they focus on winning contests in which they have a real advantage—and take a step back from those in which winning exacts too high a cost.

                        author

Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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