In business and personal relations a negative action can create a chain of reactions that center around a negative thread. We enter into personal relationships never expecting things will go wrong. However sometimes they do and the "wrongs" become defined through our personal filters of what the "rights" should be. What usually ensues is arguments over who is right and who is wrong with neither party seeking to understand before they can be understood.
Rarely do such arguments end in a win win solution but when they do it is evidence of both parties ability to set aside differences while agreeing to both respect those differences and focus on the common values of the relationship.
Is This True in Business Relationships?
Business conflicts usually arise out of broken promises and expectations not being met. The fuel that drives conflict is centric to economic gain or loss by either party. However, the essence of conflicts start and end with the dynamics of the relationships.
When we form business relations it follows the model of either a supplier, employee or a customer of the business. Businesses need suppliers and employees in order to serve the end product, service or message to their customers. When things go "wrong" anywhere in the supply chain or the delivery chain, whether it be with the product or service, relationship conflicts arise and much time and money is spent trying to resolve the "wrongs".
When a wrong carries significance, either economically, emotionally, physically or mentally the magnitude of loss determines the degree of pursuit to be made "right". In business the larger the perceived wrong the more likely that a legal process will be used as the means for conflict resolution. As soon as any conflict gets to the legal stage the cost of resolution goes up and damage to the "relationships", or in a larger sense markets, becomes extremely difficult to repair or even salvage.
Then there are business conflicts which never end up in legal disputes but the cost of these conflicts can sometimes be larger than those pursued through the legal system. Historically these kind of conflicts were buried in the hearts and minds of those who have loss something as a result of the "wrongs". Everyone simply walked away and the offenders hoped the issues would never arise again and that "word of the conflict" would not spread too far. Some businesses, not all, tend to take advantage of both there size and economic muscle, power, in resolving conflicts by leveraging the offending parties inability to fuel the cost of a legal dispute. Many consider these tactics a win and will leverage these dynamics any day of the week.
Will Conflicts Now Trickle Down or Up?
The social web creates transparency to both the wrongs and the rights of suppliers, employees and customers. The transparency of collective conversations are open to discovery by anyone, anywhere about anything and everything. Today's media is quick to report "news" formed by either major business announcements or collective conversations facilitated through the social web. A wrong or right can trickle down to the masses very quickly.
The term "trickle-down" comes from an analogy with a phenomenon in marketing, the trickle-down effect. Some economist support "trickle-down economics" and "trickle-down theory," and propose that it works best for a collective society. Conversational rivers flow through the social web and trickle down to the point of influence over people, businesses and markets.
Given these dynamics business owners, shareholders and entire markets may need to rethink how they deal with conflict resolution in the future. Focusing on the value of good relations may mean the past tactics of conflict resolution need to be reconstructed around enhancing good will with people rather than leveraging power against them for the wrong purpose.
The alternative is that the conversational rivers of the people become a negative influence over your business, your markets, your suppliers, your customers and certainly not least, your employees. In the old days conversations and the subsequent objectives trickled down. Today the conversations may trickle up.
What goes around comes around.
What say you?