Computer Mediated Communication and Negotiation: Effects of Media and Power on Relationship Development

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2007-08-07

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The dissertation examined the cues filtered out and Social Information Processing (SIP) approaches to relationship development in an intra-organizational dyadic negotiation by comparing the use of face-to-face (FTF) and e-mail channels. The study further examined the effect of power difference on dimensions of relationship development such as dominance, trust, affect, depth, formality, and task/social orientation. Individuals in organizations use technology based tools such as e-mail to perform a variety of communication tasks. The dissertation provides a test and expansion of SIP with regard to the effects of time on relationship development by testing the theory within a highly social process like organizational negotiation where there is mixed channel use. This dissertation also provides a test of e-mail's unique characteristics and their effects on the development of relationships in an intra-organizational environment. The hypotheses were tested using a dyadic data analysis technique know as the Actor-Partner Independence Model (APIM).

One hundred and forty-eight students (74 dyads) participated in the study and negotiated three times. For the first negotiation, all participants used FTF to establish a baseline relationship measure and for the next two negotiations half of the participants used e-mail and the other half FTF. For the last two negotiations, a power difference also was introduced so that in half of the dyads in each group the seller had greater power than the buyer.

The study produced results in three main areas related to negotiation and computer mediated communication: (1) interpersonal relationships develop over lean media like e-mail; (2) the characteristics of e-mail affect relationship development when compared to FTF; and (3) the preference to use e-mail for future negotiations is affected by prior e-mail negotiation experience with one's partner, computer mediated communication comfort, and the level of dominance one's partner exhibits in e-mail negotiations. With regard to interpersonal relationships and negotiation, the study suggests that individuals learn to manage their interpersonal relationships via e-mail because it can be a useful tool for managing one's persona. Bargaining power and bargaining role were only of limited influence on the development of interpersonal relationships when e-mail was used to negotiate.

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