Schmooze or Lose: Social Friction and Lubrication in E-mail Negotiations

By Michael W. MorrisJanice NadlerTerri KurtzbergLeigh Thompson
2000| Working Paper No. 1639

We explored how the process of e-mail negotiation differs from face-to-face negotiation and then tested hypotheses about how its liabilities can be minimized. In the first experiment, participants negotiated one-on-one, either face-to-face or via e-mail. Consistent with expectations, negotiators took advantage of e-mail by exchanging more complex, multiple-issue offers than they exchanged face-to-face. Yet, e-mail reduced rapport-building conversation about non-negotiable, contextual issues, and clarifying questions which prevent misunderstandings and facilitate rapport. E-mail negotiators compensated with more explicit statements about the relationship, but these were less effective in preventing mistrust and misunderstanding. In a second experiment, we tested the power of a minimal intervention designed to reduce the liabilities of e-mail. Half the negotiation dyads had a personalized telephone conversation (“schmoozed”) before engaging in e-mail negotiations, and the other half did not schmooze. Even though the telephone conversation was strictly non-business, schmoozing negotiators anticipated and planned a cooperative, positive negotiation experience from the outset, and they attained better economic and social outcomes. This was primarily true among mixed-gender dyads.