The secret of success is before attempting anything, be very clear about why you are doing it.
Guan Yin Tzu
Conflict is a human condition, but one we can choose to engage in or not. In the business world there are times when you have to stand up and be heard even when those around you would rather you kept quiet. If you use the war analogy there are many battles to be fought in a campaign, some you will win, some you will lose. The important thing is to choose your battles wisely; choose only those you believe in, and that you have a chance of winning. Now this is not always the case in personal battles, sometimes we pick a fight even when we know it is hopeless, because we cannot in all conscience stay quiet. Then, the reason for the “fight” is that it is an issue so important, we would rather fight and lose than never try in the first place. See my post in the Huffington Post about Picking Your Fights
There are some organisations that positively discourage dissent and expect their employees to “toe the party line” and get on with it. This does not make for good business. Employees who never challenge their bosses are also never going to bring you new ideas. The business will stagnate, dying at the altar of “We always do it this way” and be overtaken by others who are prepared to change, battle, question their methods and innovate.
This does not mean you should encourage conflict at work. The bear pit of the Stock exchange is an extreme version of constant battling, not an ideal business model for most companies. However, there are battles that need to be fought and a smart company recognises this. Employees who feel undervalued and ignored will become restless if their voices are never listened to. Their ultimate “weapon” is to leave. So, if your company has a high turnover of staff, see it as a sign there is something wrong with the culture of the business.
Similarly as an employee you make a choice between risking losing your job through dissent, or standing up for what you believe in and effecting a positive change.
Ask yourself the following questions before going into battle.
- Is this something you know will make a positive impact?
- Is this something you believe in so passionately that you are prepared to risk failure?
- Do others feel the same way?
- Is the impact of losing outweighed by the benefits of winning?
- Can you garner support in a non-destructive fashion?
- Are you flogging the proverbial dead horse and will your efforts fall on deaf ears so that you are wasting your energy on an unwinnable fight?
Knowing when to quit- choose your battles
Sometimes we go into battle over something we believe in passionately and exhaust ourselves to the point of detriment to us and those around us. There are few battles worth the collapse of your family structure or damage to your health. A smart person knows when to quit. It is the law of diminishing returns. If all your efforts fail to bear fruit then why are you continuing with the battle? Ask yourself if this has become a matter of pride rather than passion. Stubbornness is an admirable quality only when it succeeds. If the emotional investment you are making in the fight is no longer producing any returns of value, then be brave enough to quit the fight.
Business battles worth fighting
As a company you operate in a competitive environment. You expect to have to fight for your share of the market and go up against other businesses whose practices you may not approve of or some you may even be envious of! Compromising your own principles to win a battle may get you the prize in the short term, but long term you will pay the price. The battles worth fighting are those where you have a strategy, support from your employees and a very strong reason for winning. Profit is not the only reason in these battles. These are known as “Must-Win-Battles” and are strategic and part of your business plan. This is the ultimate choose your battles wisely approach. These battles have certain characteristics as shown in the slide below