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Culture and Negotiation

Jeanne M. Brett
Northwestern University, Evanston, USA

This article develops a model of how culture affects negotiation processes and outcomes. It begins with a description of
negotiation from a Western perspective: confrontational, focused on transactions or the resolution of disputes, evaluated in
terms of integrative and distributive outcomes. It proposes that power and information processes are fundamental to
negotiations and that one impact of culture on negotiations is through these processes. The cultural value of individualism
versus collectivism is linked to goals in negotiation; the cultural value of egalitarianism versus hierarchy is linked to power
in negotiation; and the cultural value for high versus low context communication is linked to information sharing in
negotiation. The article describes why inter-cultural negotiations pose signi® cant strategic challenges, but concludes that
negotiators who are motivated to search for information, and are ¯ exible about how that search is carried out, can reach
high-quality negotiated outcomes.
Cet article preÂsente un modeÁle sur la manieÁre dont la culture in¯ uence les processus et les reÂsultats d’une neÂgociation. Il
commence par une description d’une neÂgociation d’un point de vue occidental: confrontante, centreÂe sur les transactions
ou la reÂsolution de con¯ its, eÂvalueÂe par le caracteÁre inteÂgratif et distributif de l’issue. Il propose que les processus de
pouvoir et d’information sont fondamentaux dans les neÂgociations et que c’est par ces processus que la culture a un impact
sur les neÂgociations. La valeur culturelle individualisme-collectivisme est lieÂe aux buts de la neÂgociation; la valeur culturelle
eÂgalitarisme-hie rarchisation est lieÂe au pouvoir dans la neÂgociation; et la valeur culturelle communication contextuelle forte
ou faible est lieÂe au partage de l’information dans la neÂgociation. Cet article deÂcrit pourquoi les neÂgociations inter-
culturelles preÂsentent des de® s strateÂgiques signi® catifs, mais conclut que les neÂgociateurs qui sont motiveÂs aÁ chercher
l’information et qui sont ¯ exibles dans la manieÁre de la chercher peuvent arriver aÁ obtenir des reÂsultats de grande qualiteÂ.

Breakdowns in negotiations when parties are from dif- negotiation, it is useful to have a mental model of nego-
ferent cultures are invariably attributed to cultural differ- tiation. What is it that people mean when they say they
ences. Though some of these breakdowns may not fairly negotiate? What is involved in negotiating? What is a
be attributable to culture, others undoubtedly have good outcome in negotiation? What does it take to get
cultural origins. This article develops a conceptual model a good outcome? What goes wrong in a negotiation that
to explain how culture impacts negotiation. It draws on has a poor outcome? However, if culture has an effect on
previous research on culture and on negotiation to negotiation, the mental models of negotiators from one
develop an understanding of how culture affects negotia- culture may not map on to the mental models of nego-
tion processes and outcomes. The article begins with a tiators from another culture, making the speci® cation of
review of fundamental concepts in the literature on nego- a single mental model problematic. There are two ways to
tiation and culture. These concepts provide a language approach this problem of specifying a mental model of
for what we know and what we do not know about negotiation. One is to specify the model in use in one
culture and negotiation and allow us to build a model culture and then compare and contrast its elements with
of factors affecting inter-cultural negotiation process and elements of models of negotiation from other cultures.
outcome. Alternatively, we can specify the mental models of nego-
tiation in many different cultures and aggregate their
A MODEL OF INTER-CULTURAL common and unique elements. The latter approach is
NEGOTIATION less likely to overlook culturally unique aspects of nego-
tiation, but requires the prior existence or current con-
Negotiation struction of many culturally emic (unique) models of
negotiation. (See Brett, Tinsley, Janssens, Barsness, &
Negotiation is a form of social interaction. It is the Lytle, 1997 for a discussion of these two approaches to
process by which two or more parties try to resolve designing cross-cultural research.) This article relies on
perceived incompatible goals (Carnevale & Pruitt, the ® rst approach because there is a well-speci® ed model
1992). In order to understand the effect of culture on of negotiation grounded in Western theory and empirical

Requests for reprints should be addressed to Jeanne M. Brett, Organization Behavior, J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management,
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA (Tel: 1 1 847 491 8075; Fax: 1 1 847 491 8896; E-mail:

q 2000 International Union of Psychological Science


research by scholars such as Howard Raiffa, Morton a ® xed set of resources among the parties. The division
Deutsch, Dean Pruitt, Peter Carnevale, and Max Bazer- can be equal, which is sometimes what is meant by the
man and Margaret Neale. In taking the Western mental term ``compromise,’ ’ or unequal. Integrative agreements
model of negotiation as a starting point, no assumption distribute an enhanced set of resources. Few negotiations
is made that the Western model is etic (generalizable to are pure win-lose situations (Deutsch, 1973). In most
all cultures). situations there are opportunities to expand the
resources to be divided, or to integrate, either by adding
Direct Confrontation. Negotiation involves direct issues to the table or fractionating a single negotiation
confrontation, either face-to-face, or electronic, of prin- issue into parts. With multiple issues, negotiators may be
ciples and or their agents. This is clearly the ® rst of many able to trade low-priority issues for high-priority issues,
Western biases in the model. Negotiations can be, and in or identify compatible issues that bring value to both
many cultures frequently are, carried out indirectly parties.
through third parties. These third parties may act as Why should negotiators care about integrative agree-
agents (representatives of the principles), or mediators ments when most fail to realize integrative potential
(neutral third parties trying to facilitate an agreement), (Thompson, 1998)? There are two important reasons.
or they may act as go-betweens, conveying information First, integration can help parties avoid impasse. Second,
among parties and others with interests in the outcome. when parties reach agreements that are suboptimal, they
This is not to say that such indirect third-party activity leave resources on the table that neither party is able to
never occurs in cultures like the US, only that it is not recover (Walton & McKersie, 1965).
usually what cultural members think about when they
think about negotiation. The article in this Special Issue Processes That Lead to Distributive and Integrative
by Peter Carnevale and Dong Won Choi deals with third Agreements. The processes by which distributive and
parties in negotiations. integrative agreements are negotiated differ slightly in
transactions and the resolution of disputes. To under-
Types of Negotiations. Negotiations may be transac- stand these negotiation processes we need to understand
tional with buyers and sellers, or directed toward the how power and information are used in negotiation.
resolution of con¯ ict or disputes. Both types of negotia- Power is the ability to make the other party concede
tion revolve around a perceived incompatibility of goals when that party prefers not to concede (Ury, Brett, &
(Carnevale & Pruitt, 1992). Negotiators engaged in a Goldberg, 1993). In transactional negotiations power is
transaction are determining whether, despite this antici- typically the economic power of alternatives. Parties’
pated incompatibility of goals, they can negotiate the economic power is a function of their dependency on
terms of a relationship that is more favourable than each other (Emerson, 1962). The party with the best
any they believe they can negotiate with alternative alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) (Fisher,
buyers or sellers. Con¯ ict or dispute resolution negotia- Ury, & Patton, 1991) is the more powerful. Economic
tions imply that some blocking of goal attainment has power may vary as a function of the market (free market
already occurred. Negotiators resolving disputes are economy cultures) and of each party’s social status
determining what can be done about the blocked goal. within the market (controlled economy cultures). Nor-
A dispute is a rejected claim (Felstiner, Abel, & Sarat, mative standards of fairness (Fisher et al., 1991) may also
1980± 81), distinguished from the more general term, be used to reach distributive agreements. Examples of
con¯ ict (perceived goal incompatibility), by its explicit standards of fairness include relying on past practice,
nature. or the agreements reached with other buyers or suppliers.
Another difference between transactional and con¯ ict In the resolution of disputes, in addition to economic
management negotiations is the degree to which the and social power, and normative standards of fairness,
negotiators bring emotion to the table. In transactional legal standards may be the dominant standard used to
negotiations, negotiators may try to use positive emotion, determine the distribution of resources.
such as ingratiation, or feign emotional irrationality to Two types of information are relevant in negotiation:
in¯ uence outcomes. Negotiators may also become angry information about parties’ power and information about
during the course of the negotiation. When con¯ ict is the parties’ interests, or the reasons why they take the posi-
reason for the negotiation, however, negative emotion tions they do (Fisher et al., 1991). Information about
precedes the negotiation. power is relevant to both distributive and integrative
Con¯ ict within relationships and transactions to con- agreements, because in any integrative agreement, there
struct relationships occur in and between all cultures. is still a distribution. Information about interests is rele-
However, every culture has evolved its own ways of vant to constructing integrative agreements.
managing con¯ ict and transactions. With information about relative power, the negotiator
can judge (a) when to walk away from a negotiation with
Distributive and Integrative Agreements. The result con® dence that no deal is possible, (b) when to press for
of a transactional or con¯ ict resolution negotiation more in a negotiation, or (c) when to accept an offer.
may be a purely distributive agreement or an integrative However, acquiring such information may not be a sim-
agreement, or an impasse. Distributive agreements divide ple task. First, power is a perception, a psychological

representation of the strength of one’s position in the norms de® ne what is appropriate and inappropriate
negotiation. Like other perceptions, perceptions of power behaviour. Cultural values and norms provide the philo-
are likely to be biased by egocentricism (thinking you sophy underlying the society’s institutions. At the same
have more power than you would be assigned as having time cultural institutions preserve cultural values and
by a neutral observer), anchoring (being in¯ uenced by the norms, give them authority, and provide a context for
persuasive arguments the other side uses about its power), social interaction.
and framing (being in¯ uenced by role, for example buyer There are many different cultural values, norms, and
or seller, or some other contextual variable) (Neale & institutions. Not all relate to negotiation. However, many
Bazerman, 1991). Second, perceptions of power are do because they provide a basis for interpreting situa-
subject to in¯ uences such as persuasion, ingratiation, sub- tions (this is a negotiation, therefore I behave) and a
stantiation, and appeals to sympathy (Lewicki, Saunders, basis for interpreting the behaviours of others (he or
& Minton, 1997; Weingart, Thompson, Bazerman, & she threatened me, therefore I should . . .) (Fiske &
Carroll, 1990). Taylor, 1991). Cultural values that our research indicates
The creation of resources that is the hallmark of are relevant to norms and strategies for negotiation
integrative agreements rests on the identi® cation of include individualism versus collectivism, egalitarianism
trade-offs and mutually bene® cial alternatives. To realize versus hierarchy, and direct versus indirect communica-
integrative potential, negotiators need to know both tions. Other values, no doubt, are also relevant.
their own and the other party’s priorities and interests.
Priority information identi® es what issues are more and Individualism versus Collectivism. Individualism ver-
what issues are less important to a negotiator. Interest sus collectivism refers to the extent to which a society
information identi® es why an issue is important or unim- treats individuals as autonomous, or as embedded in
portant (Fisher et al., 1991). When different interests are their social groups (Schwartz, 1994). In individualistic
uncovered, trade-offs can be negotiated. When mutual cultures, nor ms and institutions promote the autonomy
interests are uncovered, both parties can gain. There are of the individual. Individual accomplishments are
two ways to acquire such information leading to inte- rewarded and revered by economic and social institu-
grative agreements. Parties can engage in reciprocal tions, and legal institutions protect individual rights. In
information sharing about preferences, priorities, and collectivist cultures, norms and institutions promote
interests underlying positions (Pruitt, 1981). Alterna- interdependence of individuals through emphasis on
tively, parties can engage in heuristic trial and error social obligations. Sacri® ce of personal needs for the
processing, during which they may propose alternative greater good is rewarded and legal institutions place
deals, slowly working their way toward an integrative the greater good of the collective above the rights of
agreement (Pruitt, 1981). the individual. Political and economic institutions
Recent empirical research suggests that cultures differ reward classes of people as opposed to individuals.
with respect to the basis of power in negotiation (Brett & The way a society treats people affects the way people
Okumura, 1998) and appropriate standards of fairness self-construe and the way they act toward and interact
(Leung, 1997). Cultures also differ with respect to infor- with each other. People in all cultures distinguish
mation sharing, both in the extent to which information between in-groups, of which they are members, and
is viewed as important in negotiation (Brett et al., 1998), out-groups, of which they are not (Turner, 1987). In
and in the approach to sharing information relevant to collectivist cultures self-identity is interdependent with
reaching integrative agreements (Adair, Okumura, & in-group membership, but in individualistic cultures
Brett, 1998c). Some cultures share the information about self-identity consists of attributes that are independent
interests and priorities needed to reach integrative agree- of in-group membership (Marcus & Kitayama, 1991).
ments directly, while others share that information indir- Perhaps because collectivists identify more strongly
ectly, and still others not at all (Adair et al., 1998a). with their in-groups, they are said to be more attuned
Other research shows cultural differences in the emphasis to the needs of others than individualists (Schweder &
placed on interests, rights, and power in dispute resolu- Bourne, 1982) and to make stronger in-group/out-group
tion (Tinsley, 1997, 1998). distinctions than individualists (Gudykunst et al., 1992).
Individualism versus collectivism, according to
Culture Schwartz (1994, p. 140), re¯ ects cultures’ basic prefer-
ences and priorities for ``some goals rather than
Culture is the unique character of a social group. It others.’ ’ Goals are motivating; they direct behaviour
encompasses the values and norms shared by members and sustain effort (Locke & Latham, 1990). We have
of that group. It is the economic, social, political, and found that individualists, because of their strong self-
religious institutions that direct and control current interests, set high personal goals in negotiation (Brett &
group members and socialize new members (Lytle, Okumura, 1998). We think these goals motivate indivi-
Brett, Barsness, Tinsley, & Janssens, 1995). All of these dualists to reject acceptable, but suboptimal, agreements
elements of culture can affect social interactions like and to continue to search among alternative possible
negotiations. Cultural values direct group members’ agreements for one that best meets the individualists’
attention to what is more and less important. Cultural self-interests.

Because of their identi® cation with in-groups, collecti- superiors. The decision by the high status third party
vists’ goals should be aligned with their in-groups’ goals. reinforces his/her authority without necessarily confer-
If the other negotiator is an in-group member, goal align- ring differentiated status on the contestants as would be
ment should generate cooperative behaviour in negotia- the case in a negotiation in which one party won and the
tions, whereby parties search together for a mutually other lost.
satisfying agreement. However, if the other negotiator is Con¯ ict within egalitarian cultures also poses a threat
an out-group member, as is likely in any inter-cultural to the social structure, but the egalitarian nature of the
negotiation, goals are unlikely to be aligned and compe- culture empowers con¯ icting members to resolve the
titive behaviour may ensue. In Prisoners’ Dilemma games con¯ ict themselves. Egalitarian cultures support direct,
negotiators with individualistic motivational orientations face-to-face negotiations, mediation or facilitation by a
do not change their behaviour depending upon with peer, and group decision making, to resolve con¯ ict. An
whom they are interacting (Kelley & Stahelski, 1970). agreement between two disputing parties may not distri-
However, in some recent multi-party negotiation bute resources equally. One party may claim more and
research, some individualists changed to a cooperative the other less. Yet, differentiated status associated with
strategy, perhaps because they were confronted with the successful claiming in one negotiation may not translate
possibility of an impasse (Weingart & Brett, 1998), sug- into permanent changes in social status. There are two
gesting that individualists may be pragmatic. Negotiators reasons for this. First, there are few avenues in egalitarian
with cooperative motivational orientations vary their societies for precedent setting. Second, social status is
behavior, depending on the orientation of the other nego- only stable until the next negotiation.
tiator (Kelley & Stahelski, 1970). They cooperate when Thus, one implication for negotiations of the cultural
they are dealing with other cooperative negotiators, but value, egalitarianism versus hierarchy, is the way con¯ ict
in dyads will compete when dealing with negotiators with is handled in a culture. A second implication is the view
individualist or competitive orientations. of power in negotiations.
The distinction between individualistic and competi- Negotiators from egalitarian and hierarchical socie-
tive behaviour is important. The individualist goes his ties have rather different views of the bases of power in
own way regardless of the behaviour of the other, but negotiations (Brett & Okumura, 1998). Consistent with
may be affected by the structure of the situation. The the transitory notion of social structure that is character-
competitor, like the cooperator, is sensitive to the needs istic of egalitarian societies, power in negotiations in
of others, and the competitor seeks to maximize the egalitarian cultures tends to be evaluated with respect
difference between his own and other’s outcomes to the situation under negotiation and the alternatives
(Messick & McClintock, 1968). This is a very different if no agreement can be reached. Every negotiator has a
orientation from the individualist, who essentially is BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement).
unconcerned with how well or how poorly the negotia- BATNAs are not ® xed. If, in analyzing the alternatives,
tion is going for the other party, so long as it is going well the negotiator is dissatis® ed with her BATNA, she may
for himself. invest in action to improve her BATNA by seeking
another alternative. In transactional negotiations, parties’
Egalitarianism versus Hierarchy. Egalitarianism ver- BATNAs are frequently unrelated. The buyer has an
sus hierarchy refers to the extent to which a culture’s alternative seller with whom to negotiate and the seller
social structure is ¯ at (egalitarian) versus differentiated has an alternative buyer with whom to negotiate. How-
into ranks (hierarchical) (Schwartz, 1994). In hierarchi- ever, in dispute resolution negotiations one party may be
cal cultures, social status implies social power. Social able to impose its BATNA on the other. For example,
superiors are granted power and privilege. Social infer- in a dispute over the terms of a contract, the defen-
iors are obligated to defer to social superiors and comply dant may not simply be able to walk away from a
with their requests. However, social superiors also have negotiation that has reached an impasse, but will
an obligation to look out for the needs of social inferiors have to defend himself in court, which is the claimant’s
(Leung, 1997). No such obligation exists in egalitarian BATNA.
societies, where social boundaries are permeable and Negotiators in egalitarian cultures refer to BATNA
superior social status may be short-lived. or any other source of power in transactional negotia-
Con¯ ict within hierarchical cultures poses a threat to tions relatively infrequently, so long as negotiations are
the social structure, since the norm in such a culture is moving toward agreement (Adair et al., 1998c). These
not to challenge the directives of high status members. negotiators prefer to focus on the issues under negotia-
Thus, con¯ ict between members of different social ranks tion, sharing infor mation about priorities and interests,
is likely to be less frequent in hierarchical than egalitar- and noting similarities and differences (Adair et al.,
ian cultures (Leung, 1997). Con¯ ict between members 1998a).
of the same social rank is more likely to be handled by In hierarchical societies, interpersonal relationships
deference to a superior than by direct confrontation are vertical. In almost all social relationships a difference
between social equals (Leung, 1997). So, hierarchy in status exists based on age, sex, education, organiza-
reduces con¯ ict by providing norms for interaction, tion, or position in the organization (Graham, Johnston,
primarily by channelling con¯ ict that does break out to & Kamins, 1998). Social status confers social power and

knowledge of status dictates how people will interact. In high-context cultures who share information indirectly
within-culture negotiations, when parties’ social status is (Brett & Okumura, 1998).
known, there may be little need to negotiate the relative The cultural value for high- versus low-context com-
distribution of resources. However, when relative status is munication may also be related to the willingness of
in doubt, negotiators must somehow determine each parties in con¯ ict to confront and negotiate directly ver-
party’s relative status, and thus the distribution of sus to avoid confrontation and conceal ill feelings, or to
resources. Research on transactional negotiations shows confront indirectly by involving third parties (Leung,
that negotiators from hierarchical cultures are more 1997; Tinsley, 1997; Ting-Toomey, 1988). Most of the
likely than negotiators from egalitarian cultures to research regarding confrontation versus avoidance is sur-
endorse as normative and to use all types of power in vey research of preferences for con¯ ict management pro-
negotiation: status, BATNA, and persuasion (Adair et al., cesses or descriptions of actual con¯ ict management
1998a; Brett et al., 1998). behaviours. Attributions for these preferences are as fre-
quently made to collectivism as to high-context commu-
High- versus Low-context Communication. High- nication. (See Leung, 1997, for a review.) The cultural
versus low-context communication refers to the degree value for egalitarianism versus hierarchy also serves as a
to which within-culture communications are indirect ver- context for confrontation versus nonconfrontation in
sus direct (Hall, 1976; Ting-Toomey, 1988). In high-con- negotiations. In research comparing Hong Kong Chinese
text cultures little information is in the message itself. and US intra-cultural negotiators, we placed parties in a
Instead, the context of the communication stimulates simulated, face-to-face dispute resolution setting, per-
pre-existing knowledge in the receiver. In high-context haps an uncomfortable setting for the Hong Kong
cultures meaning is inferred rather than directly inter- Chinese (Tinsley & Brett, 1998). We found that during
preted from the communication. In low-context cultures the 45-minute negotiation, the Hong Kong Chinese
information is contained in explicit messages, and mean- negotiators resolved fewer issues and were more likely
ing is conveyed without nuance and is context free. Com- to involve a third party than were the US negotiators
munication in low-context cultures is action oriented and (Tinsley & Brett, 1998).
solution minded. The implications of the information are
laid out in further detailed communications.
Information is the central factor affecting the degree
to which negotiated agreements are integrative. Differ- MODEL OF CULTURE AND
ences between parties in priorities and interests provide NEGOTIATION
one source of integrative potential. Compatibility with
respect to issues provides another. If parties are going to When people from two different cultural groups negoti-
realize integrative potential, they must learn about the ate, each brings to the table his or her way of thinking
other party’s interests, preferences, and priorities. Nego- about the issues to be negotiated and the process of
tiation research has shown that integrative agreements negotiation. Some of that thinking is affected by the
may result from information sharing about preferences negotiator’s cultural group membership and the ways in
and priorities (Olekalns, Smith, & Walsh, 1996; Pruitt, which issues are typically assessed and negotiations
1981; Weingart et al., 1990), or from heuristic trial-and- carried out within that cultural group. Figure 1 represents
error search (Pruitt & Lewis, 1975; Tutzauer & Roloff, inter-cultural negotiations as a function of differences
1988). Information sharing about preferences and prio- between parties with respect to preferences on issues
rities is a direct information sharing approach. Questions and negotiation strategies.
are asked and answered in a give-and-take fashion as Cultural values may result in preferences on issues
both sides slowly develop an understanding of what that are quite distinct. For example, negotiators from
issues are mutually bene® cial, what issues are more cultures that value tradition may be less enthusiastic
important to one side than the other, and what issues about economic development that threatens to change
are purely distributive. valued ways of life, than negotiators from cultures that
Heuristic trial-and-error search is an indirect informa- value change and development. The same values that
tion sharing approach. It occurs in negotiations when generate cultural differences in preferences may also act
parties trade proposals back and forth across the bar- as cultural blinders. Members of one culture expect pre-
gaining table. When one party rejects the other’s propo- ferences to be compatible, and cannot understand the
sal, and offers its own, the ® rst party may infer what rationality of the other party, whose views on the same
was wrong with the proposal from the way the second issue are at odds with their own. It is generally always
party changed it in making its own proposal. Multi-issue unwise in negotiation to label the other party as irra-
proposals provide a great deal of indirect information tional. Such labelling encourages persuasion to get the
about preferences and priorities because the integrative other party to adopt the ® rst’s view of the situation,
trade-offs are contained within the proposal. Our rather than the search for trade-offs that are the founda-
research shows that negotiators from low-context cul- tion of integrative agreements. There is opportunity in
tures who share information directly are as capable of differences, or what is represented in Fig. 1 as integrative
negotiating integrative agreements as negotiators from potential.

Cultural values and norms also may affect negotiators’ ture’s normative indirect approach to information shar-
strategic negotiation processes. For example, negotiators ing and tried to adapt to the US strategy of direct
from cultures where direct, explicit communications are information sharing (Adair et al., 1998c; Brett &
preferred may share infor mation by stating and recipro- Okumura, 1998).
cating preferences and priorities, by commenting on There is not much research on what happens when
similarities and differences, and by giving direct feed- negotiators’ initial strategic approaches to bargaining are
back. Negotiators from cultures where the norm is to different, much less when those strategies are linked to
communicate indirectly and infer meaning may share cultural differences. In the negotiations literature gener-
information by making multi-issue proposals and infer- ally, there is more theorizing than empirical research on
ring priorities from subtle changes in proposals. In our incompatible negotiation strategies. This theorizing tends
research contrasting US and Japanese negotiators, we to argue that negotiators must adapt to each other and
found that the Japanese were using a relatively large develop a common ``frame’ ’ or approach to negotiations,
number of proposals, compared to the US negotiators, if an agreement is to be reached (Drake & Donohue,
and the US negotiators were using a whole array of direct 1996; Pinkley & Northcraft, 1994). Weiss (1994) argues
communications relatively more frequently than the that the party who is most familiar with the other’s
Japanese (Adair et al., 1998c). culture should adapt. This pattern of adaptation is con-
Figure 1 suggests that when the strategies negotiators sistent with our US-Japanese research. However, we note
bring to the table clash, the negotiation process is likely that the adaptation was not suf® cient to generate joint
to be less ef® cient, and agreements are likely to be sub- gains. Weiss’s perspective also ignores other criteria, like
optimal. We found, for example, that Japanese intra- parties’ relative power, that might be used as a basis for
cultural negotiators, using indirect communications, adaptation. Then again there is the problem of how much
and US intra-cultural negotiators, using direct commu- adaptation is necessary. Research has identi® ed cultural
nications, reached similarly ef® cient agreements. However, differences with respect to power, goals, and information
when Japanese expatriate managers negotiated with US sharing in negotiation. Is adaptation uniform across all
managers, agreements were suboptimal. Japanese inter- areas of cultural differences, or is it easier to adapt
cultural negotiators understood the US negotiators’ information sharing strategies than power strategies? Is
priorities, because the US negotiators were sharing infor- the adaptation short-lived for the single negotiation, or
mation directly. The US negotiators did not understand does the enhanced negotiation strategy continue to be
the Japanese negotiators’ priorities, even though the available to the adapting negotiator? Do negotiators even
inter-cultural Japanese negotiators shut down their cul- realize that they are adapting?

FIG. 1. A model of inter-cultural negotiation.


WHEN CULTURES CLASH IN negotiation is useful information or not. Such knowledge

NEGOTIATION is harmful if it stimulates biased perceptions and in-
appropriate adjustments of negotiation strategy. It is
The practical questions for the cross-cultural negotiator useful to the extent that it facilitates accurate attributions
are how the party across the bargaining table is likely to and allows a negotiator to take the perspective of the
construe the issues and what strategies he or she is likely other negotiator and adjust her strategy.
to use. Culture can provide some insight into these When parties are motivated to reach an agreement,
questions. At the same time there are pitfalls of over- much can go on during the course of a negotiation to
reliance on cultural expectations. overcome individual, contextual, and cultural differences
Research has shown that there are fundamental dif- in negotiation strategy. Our research has identi® ed three
ferences between cultures with respect to norms for nego- key factors leading to successful integrative and distribu-
tiation (Brett et al., 1998) and behaviour in negotiations tive agreements that are affected by culture. The ® rst is a
(Adair et al., 1998a; Tinsley, 1997, 1998). Furthermore, value for information sharing. The second is a means of
these differences in norms and behaviour are correlated searching for information. The third is the motivation to
with cultural values (Brett et al., 1998; Tinsley, 1997). search for information. Cultures vary in the importance
Knowing the links between culture and negotiation stra- negotiators place on information sharing, in negotiators’
tegies, and knowing the other party’s cultural back- normative approaches to information search, and in
ground, may help reduce uncertainty about issue what motivates negotiators to search for information
construal and strategy. There are a number of sources that may lead them to alternatives and better outcomes
that provide descriptive information about culture and (Adair et al., 1998a, 1998c; Brett et al., 1998; Brett &
cultural values including Hofstede (1980), Schwartz Okumura, 1998). As a result, negotiating inter-culturally
(1994), Hall (1976), and Morrison, Conaway, and may pose a signi® cant strategic challenge. Yet, if nego-
Borden (1994). There are also descriptive accounts of tiators remain motivated to search for information on
how people from different cultures negotiate (e.g. March, which to build acceptable agreements and are ¯ exible in
1990). The best of these is the new edited volume by how that search is conducted, cultural differences can be
Leung and Tjosvold (1998), describing negotiation nor ms bridged (Adair, Kopelman, Gillespie, & Brett, 1998b).
in cultures around the Paci® c Rim.
These sources agree that there is a major cultural
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