Why We Strike

By — on / Conflict Resolution, Daily

What happens when disputants feel like they have invested too much in a conflict to back down?

There are a number of reasons that negotiations fail and lead to protracted strikes, often to the detriment of both parties.

Both sides frequently believe that their case is stronger due to overconfidence. If one side doubts the other’s claims a strike can become even more likely.

Often concerns over fairness can keep negotiators from reaching a deal that would be beneficial for both. People may even sacrifice value in the negotiation to “punish” the other side who treated them unfairly.

Agents can also complicate a negotiation and inadvertently lead a group to strike since they may place their own interests above the group they represent at the bargaining table, thus missing an opportunity for a mutually agreeable settlement.

The view that negotiation is a competition that must be “won” can further escalate the discussion and makes it more likely that the parties will reach an impasse.

Finally, incremental commitments to a strike can make it hard to end one. The willingness of strikers to “hold out for one more day” can lead to an indefinite commitment to strike. While economists have long recommended that we ignore past investments of resources when making a decision about the future, many people find the decision to cut their losses very difficult.

Understanding the ways in which negotiations can fall apart can help you prevent these scenarios in your own negotiations and avoid a costly, protracted strike that benefits neither side.

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