Self-Affirmation Can Improve Job Negotiation

June 7, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Pharmacy students facing a job interview should take a few minutes to write down their best traits and skills.

Pharmacy students facing a job interview should take a few minutes to write down their best traits and skills.

New research has found low-power negotiators, such as those interviewing for a job, can perform better when they have the opportunity to self-affirm.

Through several experiments, the study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found participants with higher power performed better in pressure-filled situations than those with lower power. However, self-affirmation can lift performance for those with less power.

One of the experiments involved participants playing the role of either a recruiter or job candidate as they discussed salary, vacation, and job benefits. The researchers told half of the participants the negotiations would gauge their negotiating skills. For the others, the situation was framed as a learning experience, and the participants were told the negotiation would not be an accurate gauge of their negotiation skills.

The candidates in the higher-stakes situation performed worse than those in the lower-pressure situation.

Another experiment showed those who wrote about their most important negotiating skill for 5 minutes before a negotiation scenario performed better than those who wrote for the same period of time about their least important negotiating skill.

“You should reflect on things that you know are good about yourself,” said lead study author Sonia Kang, PhD, an assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto, in a press release. “Anyone has the potential to do really well. It’s how you respond under pressure that makes a key difference.”

Dr. Kang added that even writing or thinking about your positive traits unrelated to the pressing situation might be helpful for performance.

“Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations,” Dr. Kang said. “Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat.”