We began, yesterday, talking about Mary Parker Follett‘s views on conflict in organizations. She recognized that the most obvious way to deal with it is through compromise. This method enjoys broad support and is widely viewed even today as the most sophisticated and mature approach to the resolution of conflict.
We all recognize that it is often necessary for each side to surrender some of what it wants in order to avoid the risk of losing it all in a contest for domination. This is also sometimes justified as sacrificing the pursuit of our selfish instincts in order to preserve the common good.
Of course, much of modern organizational life is based on the studied and careful application of compromise. Labor negotiations, strategic partnerships and mergers, supply chain – even customer – relationships, all have historically drawn heavily on the use of the principle of compromise.
In fact, its use has become so embedded in the momentum and mind-set of these relationships that it can sometimes be difficult to imagine any other way of engaging in them. When the need is felt to break free of the gridlock of mutual dissatisfaction that compromise is often viewed as being, recourse is usually taken to domination; for example, through strikes or lockouts.
But Follett’s most telling observation about compromise is that it is the method we resort to, “in order to have peace, or, to speak more accurately, in order that the activity which has been interrupted by the conflict may go on.” That is, it is an essentially conservative process.
The work that goes into developing compromise agreements can certainly be very ingenious and reflect great insight about the needs and natures of the conflicting parties, but the process of compromise, itself, is generally not creative; nothing really new results. The conflict is viewed as a blockage which, upon being removed, permits the previous activity to resume.
Compromise constrains the ambitions of all sides in order to preserve the essential features of the pre-existing activity that sustains them all. This might be viewed as the removal of conflict – always temporary and inherently artificial.
Perhaps there is another way. And there is! We hope you will join us next as we examine it.
This post is a part of a series. You can learn about and link to the other articles here: Conflict
Today’s tip: Speaking of the rush from compromise to domination, please see this telling piece about intolerance of diversity in the mainstream of political discourse in the United States, by Michael Cobb at his eponymous site. Whatever your own political proclivities, you may recognize dynamics underway at your workplace, of the sort that lead to an aggressively oppressive groupthink.
Have you noticed the blue “Sphere” icon, below? When you click on it, it will produce a window offering you content related to today’s item from other blogs and the regular media. Give it a try!
And, while you’re clicking around down there, don’t forget to subscribe, by email or RSS reader!
Technorati Tags: conflict, organization, compromise, domination, Labor, negotiations, partnership, merger, supply chain, customer, ambition, diversity, United States, Michael Cobb, workplace, groupthink, Mary Parker Follett, creative, conservative