They say good fences makes good neighbors. It should also say, “be kind to your neighbor or karma will thump you!” I’m watching karma in action as the battle with my neighbors continues over the height of my hedges. It’s a competitive negotiation that should have saw coming…
We were getting some work done in our backyard. Our HOA required that we get approval from the neighbors to the left and the neighbors to the rear. However, the HOA felt the neighbors to the right, who sit above us, were too far away from us and would not be impacted by our work, so we didn’t need their approval. We got all of our approvals required, the worked was signed off by the HOA, and construction began.
No sooner did construction begin then did our uphill neighbors start taking pictures and complaining to the guys doing the work. Shortly thereafter we got a letter from the HOA telling us we needed to get a secondary approval from, you guessed it, our disgruntled uphill neighbors. As you can imagine, this conversation was not starting off on the right foot.
I could have guessed this was going to be a competitive negotiation. When you’re in a voluntary relationship people tend to work together to resolve conflict to preserve their relationship. When people are involuntarily thrust together and conflict arises, they tend to only look out for their own interest with little regard to the other party. The situation breeds a competitive negotiation environment. A win-lose outcome is almost inevitable.
Involuntary relationships happen all the time in business. A new account person takes over your account. You’re assigned an existing supplier to deal with. You’ve absorbed (or were absorbed into) a new department. Before trust can be built, involuntary relationships often start out as competitive and can be arduous to navigate. That’s exactly what was happening with our uphill neighbors.
Our neighbors knew they had considerable leverage over us. Investments had already been made, construction had already started, and there would be significant costs if we had to shut down. So our uphill neighbors starting making demands about the days of week construction could happen, the times of day construction could happen, all the way down to the type of hedges we could plant and how tall those hedges could be. We didn’t have a lot of choice if we wanted to get the work done on time and within budget. When all was said and done, even though we got to complete our construction, it felt like we lost and they won.
Fast forward a few years, we get a knock on our door and it’s our uphill neighbors. Guess what they were seeking? Our approval on their own backyard construction plans. Now that the power shifted to our favor, guess what we asked for? We were well within our rights to seek our pound of flesh. We almost did but decided against it (mostly because we didn’t want karma haunting us!). However, we did get them to let go of their requirements for the height of our hedges.
The lesson is, watch out for competitive negotiations that involuntary relationships can breed. And when you have all the power, be prudent and mindful of the day when the power shifts because your power trip could come back and haunt you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
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