Refusing to compromise our ethics protects our moral compass. Refusing to compromise in business relationships just reserves time for us in a particular circle of hell called the stalemate. You know the stalemate: That’s the place where nothing worthwhile is accomplished and we waste time, money and resources. It’s where we end up when we can’t put aside our overwhelming desire to be right. AND, the longer we allow ourselves the indulgence of the stalemate, the harder it is to escape it.
A strong moral compass is a healthy foundation for all of us. However, sometimes we mistake morals and ethics for opinions. Parties in business often see compromise as defeat. Compromise is not defeat and it’s not giving up or losing. Compromise is actually the first step in winning.
Insisting on having all of our points accepted (because we are right) rarely paves a smooth road. What it does do is support the other party’s vow not to give in easily the next time. When we become entrenched in “right thinking”, we deny ourselves the opportunity to depend on solid relationships built on trust, respect and the achievement of mutual goals. Winning at “King of the Hill” is pretty exhausting. It’s also temporary. Ask any kid that’s played that game.
Daniel Dana, professor of organizational behavior at University of Hartford, founded the Dana Mediation Institute. The institute advances the strategic management of organizational conflict. According to Dana, conflict can be deconstructed and re-framed to achieve resolution.
Three Ways to Resolve Conflict
- Power Contests: Parties use available resources: Physical strength, credible threats, loud voices and number of allies.
- Rights Contests: Parties appeal to source of authority: Boss, policy manual, Board of Directors, court of law.
In the contests listed above, there is a winner and a loser. Both are adversarial methods of achieving resolution and both have long and distinguished histories in the story of humankind. AND, we know from experience that “beating” the opponent does not permanently solve the problem.
Winning the battle does not end the war when you have to continue to work in an organization with the opponent each day and every week. It may be tempting, but we really can’t have kickboxing tournaments every Friday at noon.
Human beings are the products of eons of “flight or fight” instincts. We have evolved, but it can be difficult to override human instinct when we encounter conflict in business. After all, we may find ourselves working daily with people who behave in ways that we perceive as threats to our self interests. Disagreements and barriers to collaboration can often degrade to competition.
- If I do not achieve my stated goals then I will be seen as losing.
- My career will be harmed if I do not win and come out on top.
- I can’t trust them to care about how I am affected by the outcome of this, so I’m going to do what is needed to protect myself.
How we “feel” does not always reflect the facts. We can RE-FRAME how we experience conflict.
Enter Interest Reconciliation.
- Interest Reconciliation opens the door by simplifying the situation with this question:
What do you really want?
Most of us will be surprised that our answer to that question usually matches what the other side wants:
- Engaging in communication that treats all parties with respect.
- Defining a goal that works well for the majority.
- Participating in a process where participants collaborate to reach the best solution.
- Address the issue where it stands today, without attaching people and their histories to it.
- Stop the habit of defining a similar view to ours as right, and a different view as wrong.
- Identify what points can be agreed upon; there are usually many.
- Identify the individual positions we can give up in order to support the team effort.
- Globalize the view: How do we best serve the interests of those who trust us to solve the issue?
- If we find ourselves in a stalemate situation, have the courage to reach out to mediation.
When we un-hook from preconceived perceptions, we allow ourselves to experience the power of the collective solution. We can then avoid the dreaded stalemate and drive the best interests of the business.
Article provided MKS&H’s Human Capital Management Division.
McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by advising them regarding their financial, technology and human capital management needs.