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When a Dispute “Win” May Prove Shortsighted

What sometimes looks, sounds and feels like victory in disputes might not turn out that way eventually, and it might well result in consequences, ones that could have been avoided if only the problem-solving thinking and remedy would have been more intelligent and skilled.

Consider the recent story of the Washington Redskins and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The National Football League franchise has intensely defended its legal right to continue using the name “Redskins” despite groups of society and a segment of the media covering the sport feeling the word is hurtful, ugly and racist.

This has been a dispute that has been going on and had opposition support of many influential and powerful people in government. The football franchise, however, triumphed in the end with its trademark and will retain the marketing and financial identity benefits.

All is good for them, right?

Is it?

Has the franchise thought about fallout after taking a black-and-white view and defense of the debate? This country and world are punitive minded in the marketplace when they feel mistreated, betrayed or a company doesn’t carry similar values.

Could this be a temporary, low-ceiling “victory” for owner Dan Snyder and the franchise?

Will there be increasing financial pain and misery after the court’s decision? Will the team find any resistance to revenue-and-profit pursuits in its’ multiple income streams?

How will their insistence on using the team name resonate in the public and more so, in the opinionated media?

The argument of this article – does corporate America or even smaller business think long term as well as short term in the midst of disputes? I’m not so sure Snyder and his organizations has done so.

What might have been more productive and risk-management protective would have been conflict management other than entitlement and going-to-court self-righteousness.

Why not expand your vision and increase your depth of understanding about the conflict, mediate it for not only improving or healing a relationship with human beings who feel legitimately pained, and work together, through understanding on a more dynamic, valuable and safer (consider it insurance) solution?

Consider this – what could have been lost, cost wise, by mediating with Native American leadership organizations and advocates? Time? Relatively minor money? Now, what could have been gained, tangibly and intangibly? Doesn’t that seem like  much more significant? Possible gain > potential variable costs

The deep-and-wide, mutually satisfactory or satisfying solutions are not found in court. They can often be developed in negotiation. Yet negotiations often bog down due to emotional strongholds. Mediating disputes are where the emotions can be addressed and navigated most effectively to be able to problem solve.

Emotions cloud best judgment, they don’t allow for optimal brainstorming and decision making.

When we pursue some level of greater understanding, walls come down, resistance fades, even if slightly and bigger possibilities of intelligence, creativity and “invention” are likely to develop.

Conclusion – Snyder and his business“won” what they wanted, yet how limited an answer to their problem did they receive? Time may reveal, in their desire to triumph, that they forfeited at least tremendous financial value and likely intangible benefits. 


Michael Toebe

Michael is a conflict management specialist, serving businesses and individuals in strategically, effectively gaining deeper understanding of conflicts and disputes and working through them more protectively and wisely. MORE >

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