Monday, January 25, 2010

You Can Win the Battle but Lose the War

It’s human nature to want to be right or have our way. But there are times when you really have to evaluate whether getting what you want at the moment is going to be in the best interest of you, the other person and your relationship for the long-term.

Case in point.

My company rents office space that includes a small dishwasher in the kitchen. We’ve loved that appliance during the past four years, so when it broke a few months ago, we naturally assumed the owner would fix or replace it.

Unfortunately, he’s interested in winning the battle. He’s going by the letter of the lease, which states that he’s responsible for electrical, plumbing and HVAC repairs but does not specify “dishwasher” – so he’s refusing to pick up the $300 tab to make a tenant happy - even though it represents less than 1% of his annual revenues from us. Our building is currently 50% vacant, so you’d think he’d do everything he could to ensure that we renew our lease in two years.

But that’s not what’s happening. Although we’ve made a logical case, he refuses to budge on this issue. So when our lease expires, you can be sure we won’t remain in this building.

Think back to situations where you’ve dug in your heels and refused to budge. Sometimes this is important when it’s an ethical or moral issue. But often we want to “win” because we let our egos get in the way. We’re afraid that we’ll look bad if we appear to be giving in.

I’ve seen the need to be right seriously damage personal and professional relationships. The next time you find yourself in one of these conflicts, take a moment to ask yourself why you feel you must win this particular battle. And if you do win, how will you feel a week from now? Imagine how the other person will feel a month or a year from now – about the situation and about you. Taking a long-term perspective can help you make better decisions and strengthen your relationships.

16 comments:

Denny said...

It's not always possible to create a win-win resolution of conflict. But you can most of the time. And people rarely try! Good post.

@ShariRisoff said...

I'm curious... have you told the landlord that his refusal to replace the dishwasher will be a lease renewal deal-breaker?

Meredith Bell said...

Denny, I agree that you can find a way to meet the needs of both parties most of the time.

Shari, yes, we've relayed that message through our contact at the property management company for our building. The owner is intent on sticking with his position, no matter what. Totally baffling!

Kathleen Scott said...

He's pinching his pennies too hard.

I'm always sure I'm right but I've learned to say, "I could be mistaken." If being right isn't life or death and my stance creates a problem for someone else, I don't mind backing off. And it's easier for those (few) unforeseen times when it turns out I was wrong.

Curt Canada said...

I share in your energy of compassion but I was sort of surprised that your company is moving out of this location due to a unyielding stubborn landlord.

I plan to follow your blog in which I'm encouraged and inspired
about!

Perhaps you and your colleagues will weather this little storm by interjecting the positive energies that brought me to your blog. (unless you had planned on moving prior to this incident)

Meredith Bell said...

Kathleen, good points about knowing when to choose your battles.

Curt, you're right about a "little storm" not being the whole story. There are some other factors affecting our decision, and this was the proverbial "last straw." I'm delighted that you plan to follow my blog, and I look forward to your comments!

Ben Power said...

Meredith, this is such a good point. I've said the same thing in my own words a number of times: "Being correct doesn't necessarily mean you're right."

Meredith said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Ben, and sharing your version of this principle. It's so important!

Mike said...

Sometimes being right is the lonelist place in the world - space for only one up there on that pedestal. I know, been there, done that, wonder why now :)

Meredith Bell said...

Mike, as long as you learned from the experience and can now apply new wisdom to future situations, that loneliness you felt can serve you well. I appreciate your honesty.

shilpa said...

good post and I have seen several people do this.. I call it the penny wise pound foolish guys.

Lane Baldwin said...

Excellent article, Meredith, as always. More than once, I've found myself in a similar situation... on both sides of the issue. When I'm the one with dug-in heels, I do my best to ask myself, "why is this so important?" If I can't give myself a good answer, it tells me I should re-think my position.

Cindy Hayen said...

So true! So often couples argue to the death...to 'win the battle' not recognizing that if one person wins then it is the relationship that loses ultimately. Constructive arguments are about coming to a decision or conclusion where both parties feel heard and respected and the decision is one that benefits both. My perspective might be the one that reigns this time or maybe yours, or maybe a combination of the two...neither party should walk away feeling like they have lost however. If so, the relationship has most likely suffered a blow.

Anonymous said...

What do you do when you've given in multiple times on an issue and you still can't win?

Cecilia Harry said...

Great point! All too often, we forget about the ripple effects of being right on a short-term issue. In this case, no one wins. He'll be down a tenant and you will have the burden of relocating.

Here is a question: Is leaving this location a "win" for you in the long-run? Could it be that you a reacting emotionally to a bad customer service experience when it could be better in the long run to stay put?

Meredith Bell said...

Cecilia, You raise a good question. This was definitely not a case of an emotional reaction. There were a series of other actions by the landlord that led to this being the last straw. As it turned out, there were others that came up after this incident. We left that space over a year ago now, and it was an excellent decision. We realized we didn't even need to rent office space anymore so we all work remotely from home. Love my commute up the stairs every day!