Happy May Day! May 1 is also knows as International Workers’ Day and has long history of celebrations in various cultures. It is a national holiday in 80 countries and often features organized street demonstrations by labor unions. In the Northern Hemisphere it is a time when the soil is tillable so get your garden planted! Finally, it is recognized in the United States as Law Day.
This month’s newsletter continues our series on conflict strategies.
Do you confuse compromise and collaboration? Many people do. The way to tell the difference is to ask the following question: What percentage of each person’s needs is being met by the solution that the parties have developed? If each party has to give up something compromise is the name of the game.
Compromise partially satisfies each person’s concerns. If the defendant offers $20,000 to settle a lawsuit and the plaintiff’s last demand was $50,000, splitting the difference and settling at $35,000 would be a compromise. One person’s gains become the other person’s losses. Compromise, like accommodation and competition is a win-lose approach to conflict. Compromise is based on a sense of shared power because if one party is perceived as powerless, there would be no reason to compromise. When power is not equally distributed what may be perceived as compromise is really giving in (accommodation) or giving up (avoidance). Wilmot, William and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2011. Print.
If an issue is vital, such as corporate or personal integrity, then competition or collaboration, the two assertive conflict handling modes may be more appropriate strategies. However, there may be times when issues are significant but collaboration or competition is not practical. In this event, parties should strive to make sure that sacrifices in needs are shared or alternated if the compromise is ongoing. Compromise is a good answer when you need a temporary solution to a complex problem or there is a time constraint. In addition, compromise is the best option when collaboration and competition have failed to produce a result.
Pragmatism, speed, efficiency and fairness are the benefits of a compromise strategy. Moreover compromise generally helps to maintain and preserve relationships. On the other hand, solutions developed in a compromise framework may lead to (1) increased frustration when needs aren’t being met and (2) less innovation because the solutions are not optimal for either side. It is important to note that splitting the difference, which may be perceived as compromise, is more like a form of avoidance when there are issues that need to be discussed. Using chance to decide, like flipping a coin, is akin to a form of arbitration and is not true compromise where each side lets go of something.
Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.