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The Power To Leverage Your Power: How Social Power Affects The Use of Negotiation-Specific Power

Having a strong alternative (i.e., BATNA) is widely acknowledged as one of the most significant sources of power in negotiations. A key assumption in this literature is that people will, when armed with a BATNA, leverage it against their counterpart. In this research, we examine the puzzling phenomenon of having a BATNA but choosing not to exercise it through the lens of social power. Across 6 studies, we find that individuals with less social power (e.g., an employee) are less likely to leverage their BATNA when negotiating with a higher power counterpart (e.g., their boss). We also highlight on important mechanism—relation concerns—that drive low-power negotiators' reluctance to leverage their BATNA. Finally, we explore whether individuals with lower social power are prescient to hold back. The current research suggests that a deeper understanding of negotiations requires integrating the effects of broader social power with negotiation-specific power.

Alice Lee
Cornell University
United States

Jessica Li
Georgia Tech
United States

Adam Galinsky
Columbia Business School
United States


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