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Do You Hear the People Sing?

Gridlock has stymied countless organizations, governments and relationships. The unwavering “dig-in” of sides or individuals where blockades are erected to show how much certain ideas and position matter.  And to be fair, some of these blockades do matter. Values are real and ought to cause both protective and assertive action. The people will rise, hopefully, ready to compromise.

Every time I see the makeshift blockade from Les Miserables, I sit in awe. Random pieces of furniture – tables, chairs, bureaus – along with rugs, logs, crates and more come together as a symbol of tenacity, fortitude and commitment. Those rebellious front-runners stood on values of health and opportunity. They rose in opposition to the government that would not help secure them, and in some ways, fostered degradation. Dig in, Revolutionaries, dig in.

However, we cannot break desks and chairs daily in our organizational communication and dynamics efforts, at least not daily. Is everything blockade-worthy?

What is Compromise?

Compromise is a valuable ally, and it is one whose value has been untapped in many companies. Some organizations have labeled success in compromise when, despite initially having just one choice, three kinds of requested K-Cups are available to staff. Accommodation is not the same as compromise. According to Gottman Institute research, “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something.” That’s how compromise works.

Compromise in Organizations

In an organizational dynamic, compromise is the right alignment of influence bartering. There are ways individuals, departments and divisions can have their needs handled by the supportive influence of other individuals, departments and divisions. The very best managers recognize that their influence is directly connected to their willingness and acceptance of others’ influence. Compromise is dependent upon how and when this influence is exercised by each and all parties connected.

It’s in this way that compromise is different than cooperation. Pulling together towards a common goal or affirmed value is, by practice, what good cooperation looks like. I mean, how many of those team building retreats do you have to go on to learn this one? Don’t drop this dude, link arms, bend at the knees. If the principles of compromise are applied here in addition, in order for the desired cooperation to occur, compromise in methodology, amount of effort and dismount tactic will happen. No one person may have his/her/their way met completely.

That’s usually the sign of immaturity in your companies. Which supervisor has a “my way or the highway” attitude? Better, which C-Suite leader has a “my way or the highway” course of repeated action? Ouch. You know it happens. The art of compromise is lost on this influential individual and in its wake a lack of trust and a lack of care settle in by those around such a leader. The question asked by that leader should not be one of “Are you going to go my way?” but rather “Which ways are value-centric rather than preferential?” There can be a canyon of difference in the answers to the latter.

Directed Influence

Those blockades might be ready for dismantling while some may need reinforcement. Compromise is not about weakness; it is about directed influence. The “growing up” of management is sorely lacking in some of the smallest and largest organizations today. Address it with a real roadmap which includes an understanding of what matters and how compromise fits. Teach leaders how to survey the “land” and observe the signs. Ask them, “Do you hear the people sing?”

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