Home or Away?

Published: Apr 27 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Manchester City play Manchester United next Monday (30th April) in a match that should identify the team that will win the Championship. Both teams come to the end of a grueling and competitive season and both teams have 3 games left to play. Whichever team wins on Monday will be in pole position to bring the league home to Manchester. Manchester being the winner in both cases.

United are predicted to squeeze it by many commentators. They are just in front going in to the match. They know how to win tough games. Stress will play a factor and United have faced down their demons year after year, whilst City are in relatively unchartered territory.

But the match will take place at City and the home team does usually get an advantage. In sport your team often plays better when on home turf. In practically every sport, other things being equal, the home team tends to have the edge over visitors.

If that is true of sport, what about business?

In a study recently published in the journal Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Process, researchers set out to discover if location had a bearing on the outcome of negotiations. To do this the researchers Graham Brown and Markus Baer recruited businesspeople to take part in a classic buyer/seller negotiation.

Teams were selected to be buyers or sellers and the conflict was set up. Buyers and sellers both wanted to maximize their profitability.

One of the teams was ascribed 'home' status. They could personalize the meeting room, control the layout, set up the whiteboard etc, etc. The visitor had to wait to be invited into their opponents office.

Consistent to the sports analogy the home team consistently outperformed regardless of whether they were buyers or sellers.

But why?  The researchers were careful to be utterly random and to select equally skilled negotiators. No screaming fans could influence the referee.

The research suggests that the setting of the negotiation will influence the negotiations outcome. Relative to a neutral location negotiating in a familiar place will boost confidence and in an opponents territory reduce it.

So next time you are invited to negotiate in an opponent's location, it could make sense to suggest a neutral location. Even better, ask them to come to you. If they do it might just be that there is a better chance of the home team going wild.

Come on Manchester

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith
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