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When East meets West at the bargaining table: adaptation, behavior and outcomes in intra- and intercultural German–Chinese business negotiations

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Abstract

This study analyzes how negotiators from Germany and China deal with a foreign opponent compared to a compatriot. Hypotheses about negotiation behavior and behavioral adaptation are derived from differences in cooperative and competitive motivational orientation represented by the cultural values of assertiveness and humane orientation. Additionally, negotiation outcomes in this cultural setting are assessed in order to shed light on this economically very important, but currently much under researched bilateral trade relationship. To this end, 45 German, 41 Chinese, 42 German–Chinese, and 45 Chinese–German negotiation dyads had to solve a complex, integrative bargaining task through internet chats. Negotiation behavior was content-coded and subjected to logistic regression analysis. In the intracultural negotiations, German negotiators used more integrative and less distributive tactics compared to Chinese negotiators. When changing the setting from intra- to intercultural, the Chinese negotiators did not change behavior, but the German negotiators increased their level of distributive behavior. Since they did not significantly change their level of integrative behavior, we found (partial) behavioral adaptation of the German negotiators. As a result, the joint gains achieved by intercultural dyads are lower than the joint gains of German intracultural dyads, but higher than those of Chinese intracultural dyads.

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Notes

  1. These are Graham (1985), Graham and Andrews (1987), Adler and Graham (1989), Mintu-Wimsatt and Calantone (1995), Natlandsmyr and Rognes (1995), Kamins et al. (1998), Brett and Okumura (1998), Adair et al. (2001), Adair (2003) and Adair and Brett (2005).

  2. Germany and China are among the top three exporting nations world-wide and share large volumes of mutual trade with each other. Exports from China to Germany reached EUR 79.5 billion in 2011; exports from Germany to China equaled EUR 64.8 billion (Statistisches Bundesamt 2012).

  3. For instance, Arunachalam et al. (1998) find more integrative agreements for collectivist Hong Kong Chinese than individualist US Americans, whereas Natlandsmyr and Rognes (1995) report more integrative outcomes for individualist Norwegians compared to collectivist Mexicans.

  4. To derive a name for their proposition, Kelley and Stahelski (1970a) put the focal player’s motivational orientation (from cooperative to competitive) into a matrix combined with the other’s motivational orientation. For all combinations assumed realistic under their proposition the respective cell in the matrix is marked with a cross. Since the shape of the envelope around all crosses is a triangle, the authors call their proposition the “triangle hypothesis” (see Kelley and Stahelski 1970a, p. 77).

  5. In each sample more dyads were collected, but excluded from the analysis either due to impasses or insufficient negotiation activity identified through an outlier analysis. In the German intracultural sample 3 dyads (2 impasses/1 outlier), in the Chinese intracultural 5 dyads (5/0), in the German–Chinese intercultural 4 dyads (3/1), and in the Chinese-German intercultural 7 dyads (5/2) were removed and are not include in the analysis.

  6. 2010: By Harald Neun for his dissertation (Neun 2011); 2012: by Kai Lügger for the purpose of analyzing adaptation.

  7. One reviewer noted that a different incentive scheme may have led to different outcomes. While we cannot rule out this possibility completely, we are quite confident that our choice did not bias our results because all participants in all conditions received the same incentives. Hence, our between-subjects comparisons are not touched by the choice of incentive.

  8. Because English is the primary foreign language taught in both countries and Chinese participants had to pass the College-English-Test 4 to enroll in their university, we feel confident that all participants fully understood the provided information.

  9. Interaction effects are discussed in the text but not included in Tables 1 and 2.

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Correspondence to Ingmar Geiger.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 4, 5, 6, 7 and Fig. 1.

Table 4 Pay-off matrix of the negotiation task (also employed by Wilken et al. 2013)
Table 5 Assertiveness and humane orientation (House et al. 2004)
Table 6 Coding scheme (based on Alexander et al. 1991)
Table 7 Scores of assertiveness and humane orientation in the GLOBE study and the sample

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Lügger, K., Geiger, I., Neun, H. et al. When East meets West at the bargaining table: adaptation, behavior and outcomes in intra- and intercultural German–Chinese business negotiations. J Bus Econ 85, 15–43 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11573-013-0703-3

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