I heard Finnish one politician saying “you don’t negotiate with terrorists” and have heard same from American politicians. I’ve heard some bosses, managers and producers having similar attitude: they have certain guidelines that must be obeyed and which cannot be negotiated. I think there’s couple of major problems with this attitude
First of all, if one chooses not to negotiate with certain group he might mistakenly ignore people who actually do not belong to that group. If a company chooses to ignore “hostile customers” they might miss valuable lessons. They might ignore comments that were made by some loyal customer just because he first seems arrogant, and “company policy says we don’t deal with arrogant people”.
The second, and more important point, is that whenever one choose a strict position the progress might stop. Like when one applies rule “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” they automatically miss the possibility of finding the solution via means of communication. One of the verses from Dao de Ching says:
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
It doesn’t require reading a book to realize that those who don’t bend, are in danger to break. Common sense can tell you this. The moment somebody sets strict a rule, he is in danger of losing the battle so to speak – or is forcing all parties towards a conflict.
The point here is not that everybody should be allowed to do anything they want. I believe in achieving results: if there’s a situation where the result must be achieved or some people will lose jobs then it is reality and people need to deal with it. But, the moment somebody forces other people the way how those results must be achieved (by setting strict guidelines) and chooses not to negotiate about them, he is limiting his own options. It might happen that he could find an alternative solution with some of the team members that would achieve the necessary results, by letting them act their way. It’s useful to negotiate, since it might give you what you want without need of a conflict.
There’s hardly many situations where one should not choose to negotiate over something.