Editor’s note: Rellie Derfler-Rozin is an associate professor of management and organization at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title, “The Myths About Workplace Negotations.”

Employees and the organizations in which they are embedded are complex human beings and entities. But when it comes to things like hiring, negotiations and fostering creativity, there is often a tendency to reject such complexity and see things as “either-or” or “winner vs. loser”. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, says Maryland Smith’s Rellie Derfler-Rozin.

That line of thinking is known as the zero-sum mind-set. An all-or-nothing mentality that, Derfler-Rozin says, can adversely affect organizations at every level.

“We all have those myths about how things work in the world. In our thinking, we can sometimes oversimplify and that is manifested in this zero-sum mind-set, that it's an either-or deal,” says Derfler-Rozin, associate professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “The first step toward correction is being aware of this tendency and how it may lead to a lot of errors and biases. We have to try to embrace complexity rather than regard everything as either ‘this or that.’”

Derfler-Rozin has researched the impact of zero-sum thinking in the employment negotiation process. What’s crucial to success in negotiations, she says, is for both parties to shy away from the idea that if one side is getting more, the other must be coming out worse for wear – especially when it’s time to talk salary.

“It’s easy to fall into the zero-sum mind-set during salary negotiations because it’s easy to quantify salary in comparison to less easily quantifiable factors like work-life balance, growth opportunities and telecommuting,” says Derfler-Rozi...