Business Negotiation January 06, 2015

Workplace Agreements Are Always Brittle

All workplace agreements are brittle because they are unsupported by a formal legal structure and subject to inevitable organizational change over time. In almost all external dealings, agreements are put in writing and signed...

All workplace agreements are brittle because they are unsupported by a formal legal structure and subject to inevitable organizational change over time. In almost all external dealings, agreements are put in writing and signed. When disagreements arise between buyer and seller about responsibilities and obligations the courts stand ready to decide.  A formal legal system exists.  The settlement of disputes is encouraged first by direct negotiation between parties, then informal off-the-record bargaining between attorneys, and finally if necessary in a court of law.

The key to reducing the problems inherent in workplace agreements lies in convincing both sides that they must reconcile themselves to frequent review and follow-up of all the issues agreed to.  Without that, settlements will fall apart and be more difficult to rebuild.

One more ever-present factor that causes the breakdown of internal dealings is change.  Constant change occurs in every organization.  People move from place to place, team to team, department to department.  Those who negotiated the agreement in good faith may go on to a higher position or retire.  Their replacements are rarely as committed to the agreement or its goals as those who initially settled the terms.  Those affected by the initial negotiated outcome are replaced by strangers with no institutional memory of how the agreement came about or why.

Priorities change over time, as do budgets, needs and motivations. All workplace agreements are brittle.  They must respond to the realities of change and renegotiation to stay alive.

 
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