A Common Sense 5-Step Approach to Resolving Disputes & Conflicts in a Win-Win Manner!
At my first “real” job, after a very long and illustrious academic career, (Read more about me here: About Me) I worked for a sporting goods company that was transitioning into corporate fulfillment programs. The company belonged to a regional cooperative type organization that granted exclusive selling territories to each of the member businesses. At one point we were confronted with a problem where another member business was discovered to have made a few sales in our designated territory.
The owner of the company I worked for tasked me to resolving the situation. He had dealings with this other company in the past – and felt we would need to utilize the arbitration option provided for in the member agreement – or maybe even move for their expulsion from the group.
Expectation for a Resolution
Being new and naive (and having an education in both law & psychology) – I requested the opportunity to reach out to the other company with a letter. I wrote to them and used a format that I have used many times since. Here is the format I used.
- I brought the issue to their intention and how their actions were a direct and irrefutable violation of our agreement. I did this in very plain and direct fashion. I indicated the sales that had been made, the dates and the amounts of those sales.
- I gave them the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to save face. Here I gave them some respect for their long-standing reputation as a member of the organization and within their community. I expressed confidence that their wrongful action must have been the result of a mistake or oversight.
- I appealed to their sense of honor & integrity to make the situation right. Very simply, I gave them a reputation to live up to. I also respectfully requested a specific dollar amount that we felt constituted fair restitution.
- I showed them our ammo! Here I indicated, in detail, the actions we would be taking if I was wrong in assuming this incident was a mistake or oversight on their part. In this instance I also referred to the pertinent sections of the member agreement and the remedies they provided to us as well as the copies we had obtained evidencing the improper sales activities.
- I gave them a specific and definitive time-frame for which I expected a response & resolution to this matter. I wrapped up the correspondence by expressing my sincere desire and confidence that we would be able resolve this issue expeditiously and amicably. I stated that we would require a resolution in 10 business days – to ensure that this matter was treated with the urgency and attention it deserved.
While the owner of the company was impressed with my both my effort and letter – he had little confidence that my approach would yield a satisfactory outcome.
The Results Speak For Themselves – And They Say…
We sent the letter and waited…..
To the owner’s shock – in a matter of days we received a check, for the full amount requested, in response to my letter, and the situation was completely resolved.
Since then I have used the same approach in many other circumstances and disputes I have encountered in my life – with a very similar outcome. Taking the ego out of the equation (win – lose or I’m right – you’re wrong) and giving the other party an opportunity to save face really does work!
The focus needs to remain on the fact that the objective is to reach a resolution – not to destroy the other party – or rub their face in the fresh dog poop… On the contrary – it is pretty easy to make the right choice when you get a good peek at the other party’s ample arsenal of nuclear tipped weapons…
This approach has served me very well over the years and I sincerely hope that my children will use a similar strategy that balances both strength & diplomacy to resolve disputes that they will face in their lives.
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