Getting to Excess: Psychological Entitlement and Negotiation Attitudes

Abstract

In this paper, we extend the literature on psychological entitlement to the domain of negotiation. Psychological entitlement describes a tendency to demand excessive and unearned rewards. For negotiators, entitlement is associated not only with individually beneficial attitudes, like aspirations, first offer intentions and self-efficacy, but also with contentious and unethical approaches to bargaining. As such, we argue that entitlement in negotiation may function as a social trap: The functional negotiation attitudes it engenders are likely to result in personally favourable outcomes for the entitled negotiator, reinforcing and exacerbating those attitudes. But these advantages are simultaneously accompanied by a suite of dysfunctional attitudes (unethicality, a “zero-sum” mindset and a contentious style) that lead the entitled to seek advantage at others’ cost. In three cross-sectional studies of recalled, hypothetical and planned future negotiations (n = 615), we show both the functional and dysfunctional consequences of entitlement in negotiation. Importantly, we establish the ability of entitlement to predict these consequences above and beyond traits robustly situated in the personality literature (e.g. narcissism, low agreeableness, neuroticism). Our findings indicate entitlement may have pernicious effects for negotiation ethics. We close by addressing the methodological limitations of our study and by proposing a research agenda for management, personality and negotiation researchers interested in mitigating the effects of entitlement in negotiating.

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Data Availability

Data are publicly available at https://osf.io/k35qg/.

Notes

  1. 1.

    This definition of entitlement is distinct from deservingness, which is based on legitimate and proportionate claims to rewards (e.g., Feather, 1999; see Tomlinson, 2013, for a review of this distinction).

  2. 2.

    Consistent with standards for transparency in the reporting of psychological research (Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011), the following variables were gathered but not reported in this manuscript: equity sensitivity, relational self-esteem, trait positive and negative affect, the NPI entitlement subscale and a cognitive negotiation anxiety scale. We also had brief measures of Big Five neuroticism and agreeableness (using TIPI and BFI-10 items), but the agreeableness measure lacked adequate reliability (α = 0.561), so we examine the relationship between these constructs and entitlement in study 3 instead. The full dataset and scripts are posted to the Open Science Framework repository at https://osf.io/k35qg/. The correlations between these variables and the study variables are presented in Table 1.

  3. 3.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for this suggestion.

  4. 4.

    We also included an experimental manipulation of bargaining power in the procedure: Half of participants answered the SINS-II questions in the context of a negotiation in which they had strong alternatives to a negotiated settlement, while the other half answered in the context of a weak alternative. We set a sample of n = 150 to allow for 75 participants per cell in the originally planned design. In the strong alternative condition, participants were asked to “imagine a negotiation where you have a very good alternative available to you. If you don’t succeed in getting a deal with your counterpart, you have a good backup plan. You know that there is another party who wants to make a deal, and is willing to offer you very favourable terms. So, even if this negotiation fails, you’ve got a good fall-back option”. In the weak alternative condition, participants were asked to “imagine a negotiation where you have no other good alternative available to you. If you don’t succeed in getting a deal with your counterpart, you have no good backup plan. You don’t know of any other party who wants to make a deal, and nobody else is willing to offer you very favourable terms. So, if this negotiation fails, you’ve don’t have a good fall-back option”. This manipulation did not moderate any of the reported results or correlate significantly with any of the study variables. However, we report it here in order to be consistent with reporting standards for transparency in psychological research (Simmons et al., 2011). The full dataset and scripts are available for inspection and reanalysis on the Open Science Framework repository at https://osf.io/k35qg/.

  5. 5.

    We recruited 150 participants on MTurk but ended with a final sample of 153 as three participants initially entered the wrong completion code, were rejected, and later emailed with a correct completion code. We set our sample size at n = 150 in order to achieve cell sizes of n = 75 in our experimental design, described in the procedure below.

  6. 6.

    We also included an experimental manipulation of reputation salience in the procedure. The manipulation occurred after answering the personality questions but before answering the salary, SINS-II, and dominating-style questions. Randomly, half of participants were asked to “recall and give a detailed account of what you did yesterday, starting with what you did in the morning and leading up to going to bed at night, including activities, work, and leisure” (control), while the other half were asked, “imagine that all your current and previous managers were gossiping to each other about you. What do you think they would say? What would they tell each other about what it’s like to deal with you? How does this fit with how you would like to be seen?” This manipulation did not moderate any of the reported results or correlate significantly with any of the study variables. However, we report it here in order to be consistent with reporting standards for transparency in psychological research (Simmons et al., 2011). Our data are available for inspection or reanalysis on the Open Science Framework at https://osf.io/k35qg/.

  7. 7.

    See Table 1: correlations between study variables and supplementary variables.

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This research was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant 430-2013-1069.

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Neville, L., Fisk, G.M. Getting to Excess: Psychological Entitlement and Negotiation Attitudes. J Bus Psychol 34, 555–574 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-018-9557-6

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Keywords

  • Negotiation
  • Psychological entitlement
  • Personality
  • Individual differences