When it comes to business negotiations, faking it until you make it is more acceptable in some ways than others, according to a new study.
Ingrid Fulmer, an organizational behavior assistant professor, has found that intentionally faking emotional states such as enthusiasm or anger to influence someone in a negotiation is viewed as more morally appropriate than other forms of deception, such as misrepresenting facts or making false promises.
Titled "Lying and Smiling: Informational and Emotional Deception in Negotiation," Fulmer conducted the study in collaboration with scholars Bruce Barry and D. Adam Long. It appears in the Journal of Business Ethics.
Deception has long been viewed as something people probably should expect in business negotiations, Fulmer explains.
But research has shown that people are actually less than accepting of deception when they are the victim, and that they disapprove of many commonly used tactics of deception, albeit to varying degrees.
Faking emotional states in the course of a negotiation might be viewed more favorably than other deceptive tactics because many jobs and situational norms already require people to manage their emotional expressions, even if the intent is not nefarious, the researchers note.
"Our research demonstrates that emotions can materially alter negotiation outcomes, which in turn explains the motivation a negotiator might have to engage in emotional deception," Fulmer says.
"In essence, the intention to deceive or manipulate the other party is there, whether it is done using feelings or words."
"The ethical debate has ignored the use of emotional manipulation or deceit," she adds. "Should faked emotion in a business negotiation be held to a different ethical standard than faked emotion in a personal relationship? And should emotional manipulation be held to a different moral standard than other types of manipulation or deception used in business settings?"