Lacking Compassion, is there another way?
Measuring the Outcome
Mediation and Arbitration
Measuring the Outcome. Through the ages, many have negotiated deals that were worth good profit because they gave away something that the other party wanted and was willing to pay a price to acquire. Until money dominated commerce, buyers and sellers had a culture that allowed for barter, which is dickering about the comparative worth of two commodities. True, it was awkward to carry a sheep around or three bales of timothy hay, but everyone was in on setting the price. Those were the good old days. Today, a customer pays a price set by the seller. It is uncommon to dicker about dollars unless one is engaged in stocks, bonds and commodities – which is limited to those who do not need to barter for basic necessities. If a farmer wanted to sell a sheep on the open market today, much of the profit is already taken by a commodities trader who may never have seen a sheep.
It used to be that business and labor would sit down and dicker, each side knowing the financial status of the company. In one example, the business negotiating team was under severe orders not to grant more than a two cent per hour raise. The labor negotiating team had its members clamoring for ten cents an hour. After three weeks at the negotiating table, the final result was: the union received a two cent raise. However, labor also received a four-week vacation instead of two and was allowed to accumulate sick leave. The solution was a two cent raise to please the bosses and the equivalent of a ten cent raise for the union members. It’s all in how one measures things. There is no doubt the process improved oneness in the company.
Measuring the outcome requires that two elements be in place: those involved are using the same measuring stick – one of the big reasons money became a standard; the other is respect for the measuring process. With these two items in place, it is possible to reconcile differences even if there is no compassion. It may not be easy but it can be done.
In recent years, airline companies have received a bad reputation because some airlines did not want to measure the outcome with the union’s help. Some airlines declared bankruptcy, which negated labor contracts that were in place. Weeks later, when the bankruptcy court agreed to a method for emerging from bankruptcy, the employees were at the mercy of the airline if they wanted to keep their jobs. This is an example of not agreeing about how to measure outcomes. Another failure to use the same measures for outcome led to heated reactions by US citizenry when in 2008 banks that caused a severe recession were not allowed to fail and the citizenry was furious when large bonuses were paid to bank traders. Behind the scenes, the Federal Government and the banks were dickering and making deals about who would fail and who would pay fines. The Government actually ended up owning bank stock as a guarantee. For lack of agreed measuring, this situation is still unresolved in the citizens’ minds six years later.
Mediation and arbitration are controlled dickering. This is accomplished by using a third party to oversee the negotiation. A good example is when Egypt attempted to mediate a compromise between Gaza and Israel. The mediation will not work for two reasons: neither Gaza (Hamas) nor Israel want to use the same values by which to measure the outcome; neither Gaza nor Israel perceive a greater reality. Oneness, even by an uncompassionate process, is out of the question.
Having an arbiter or judge decide the outcome of a conflict inevitably leaves one party or the other, or both parties, unsatisfied. Granted there are times when two parties will never accept a common measure of outcome; neither will accept the arbiter’s measure of outcome. While forcing a conclusion to an unstable situation, the difficulty with mediation and arbitration is that the methods generally do not build oneness.
Conflicts that find themselves in court inevitably enter a win-lose environment. While negotiation may take place within the court process, the win-lose environment remains. Constricted by legal procedures, empathy and compassion are not players. One may make the case that courts expedite irresolvable situations, for example divorce or property conflicts. Still, these arrangements are self serving and do not encourage the union of lesser and greater realities based on compassion and oneness.
The question: You may be familiar with this situation and may already know the act of compassion. You and a friend have one doughnut to share. What is the best procedure to assure the doughnut is equally shared? Think about your combined feelings of trust and fairness that were necessary. Which feeling was stronger?