One of the key tenets of successful negotiation is that both parties get something out of the final deal, creating a win/win situation. While learning to compromise is an important part of navigating office politics, developing leadership skills, and moving up the corporate ladder, it also has its drawbacks. Understanding the fine line between compromising and being taken advantage of will help you stand firm without seeming inflexible.
Both Sides Lose Something
While compromising might seem to give both sides something that benefits them, it can also leave both shortchanged. For example, if you and a coworker have a six-task project and you both want two of the same tasks, you might compromise and each take one. This means neither of you got what you wanted, and it might also mean the tasks weren't assigned to the most qualified person. Before you compromise to keep the peace, decide what’s in the best interest of the company and what’s fair to you. If you feel compromise isn't in everyone’s best interest, make your case.
It Weakens You
If you never stand your ground, people will begin to see you as a soft touch and come to you when they have a problem or need a favor. Even strong bosses don’t like to deal with whiny employees and might gravitate toward weaker subordinates, piling more work on them. Before you decide to compromise, think about not only what’s best for the company, but also how it improves or damages your credibility in the future. Sometimes it’s best to lose a battle in the form of hurt feelings so you can prevent losing the war of gaining respect in the long term.
You Upset Your Team
If you represent others, consider how they will take the news that you compromised with another department or customer. For example, you might agree to less-functional e-commerce pages on the company’s website because it will be easier for the website developers to program. This might decrease sales, hurting your sales department’s commissions or letting the accounting department see you are decreasing the company’s bottom line. If you’re the website developer and you agree to more complex e-commerce pages because a salesperson who doesn't understand technology wants these changes made, you might force your programmers to work overtime and blow your department’s budget.
It Strengthens the Wrong People
Bullies look for easy targets and rarely pick on people who hit back. They often start by testing the waters, asking for an inch now so they can find who will give them a mile later. Even if there is no downside for you personally in a compromise, consider whether you are encouraging a serial problem employee. When you’re faced with a compromise, ask yourself if the person asking for the concession really needs it or just wants it.
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