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Kathleen O'Connor
Kathleen OConnor
"I've been studying negotiation for more than 20 years," says Kathleen O'Connor, associate professor of management and organizations. "It's the core of my academic work. The stereotype is that you have to be tough, but it's really about relationships. We live in a small world and networked communities." Her research has shown that cooperative negotiators achieve the best deals, whereas those with a reputation for toughness not only get the worst results but also are considered deceptive and less creative than more cooperative partners.

Recognized for her expertise in experimental methods, O'Connor says, "We have a real strength in the Johnson School in experimental research across all areas. Our Business Simulation Laboratory is a terrific asset. The real world is messy, but in the lab we can set up an experiment to isolate a mechanism that explains an effect. For example, we can look at the effect of stress on negotiation and make clean observations. The downside is that such experiments suffer from artificiality, but then we can go out and test the results in the real world."

For O'Connor, teaching negotiation skills is both a challenge and a pleasure. "The challenge is to teach across the spectrum of students and help them all to grow," she says. "While some need to get tougher, others need to build relationships." The pleasure comes in seeing their individual growth.

She also teaches the management course that's part of the required core curriculum. "My job is not only to teach students how to become effective managers and leaders but to get them engaged in the topic and infect them with the same passion I have for it."

That's more easily accomplished at the Johnson School than at larger schools. "We have a culture I like quite a bit," O'Connor says. "Our faculty, staff, and students are all part of the same community. It's supportive, but in service of excellence—very rewarding."