Make Love Not War


The great Chinese generals observed that he who achieves his goals without fighting is the most victorious. When one starts a war, there are few winners and less winning than if things are dealt with peacefully. Most people are well-intentioned, given reasonable hope of a secure future, and are driven by seeing their needs met. The art of negotiation is to bring as many peoples' needs, and then desires, into alignment as possible.

Sometimes there are circumstances that make it impossible to avoid fundamental conflict. If the enterprise is cutting staff, it is rare that any amount of negotiation will be able to save everyone's job and position in the company. In these situations people are driven by needs lower on the Maslow hierarchy and will act in ways that others may find less civilized. These situations call for particularly strong leadership and tough decisions. These situations call for constructive action: inaction is sometimes worse either than going to war or avoiding war. The worse thing that can happen is that people sit around and plan their investment strategies for survival and life after the organization goes bankrupt; it is important for leadership to keep a vibrant focus on solving the problem. The goals of this leadership and of these decisions is to get to a place where dialog can take place among people who are concerned about their joint welfare all at the same level of the Maslow comfort hierarchy. If one can build on health at lower levels of the hierarchy and carry on this dialogue at higher levels, so much the better.

Having achieved that level of stability, the process of inclusion and dialogue can start. It needn't always be genteel and high-brow; perhaps everyone is worried about the company going bankrupt within a few months, or about the parent company firing all of the employees. Such desperate measures have, in fact, proven to be great rallying forces in the organizations we have worked with. Desperation is the mother of invention--or it can be, under leadership that can rally such a group to introspection and dialogue. But success comes from dealing constructively with the problem rather than by making war on a shared enemy.