Business Partnership Advisor
Together, we can fix your business and partnership problems
Chris Reich, Business Luminary
Lying to Your Mediator
If parties to mediation aren’t honest with the mediator, it makes for a crippled process. When outright deception is practiced, the mediator could be forced to walk away from trying to help.
Don’t Lie to Your Mediator
When I take on a new case, I sincerely want to help get the emotional tension out of the way so the partners can focus on their business. It is the nature of my work to have to deal with some pretty tough stuff but the hardest situation for me to navigate is when one or more of the parties in mediation are not being honest. Unless people are willing to come clean, it’s impossible to work out solutions because lying breaks trust.
The biggest problem that business partners experience is when the trust erodes between all partners. As trust breaks down, tension rises. In every single case where we had a very positive and healing conclusion, things worked out because all the cards were presented on the table. Once everything is out, forgiveness floods in and a fresh start commences. I have seen this over and over. I get emails from people years after we worked together telling me about how solid their partnership is. That’s very rewarding!
Lying to your business mediator only breaks trust and leads to a failed process.
“Successful mediation is based on honest, open talks between all parties.” Chris Reich, Business Mediator
How Can I Negotiate If I Show All My Cards?
I understand how you feel. I do. And you don’t have to expose your every flaw or fear the first time we conduct a meeting. But it’s my job to create a safe space for these things to come out so they can be addressed and fixed. When things are held back and subsequently found out, it feeds the mistrust and the tension between business partners. Get it out there so it can be fixed.
Nothing Is Too Big to Fix
I’ve helped reconcile partners when one of them was stealing from the business. It turned out that there was a personal need and the partner taking money had serious money issues. That often happens in a new business because people underestimate how long it will be before the money starts rolling in. People need money to live, and sometimes they have to tap the business for the rent! That’s real life. I’ve helped a few partnerships through that kind of stress with very positive results. And I’ve seen partnerships dissolve because we find out that one partner is stealing despite being in the middle of a mediation to fix the problems! If your mediation process is going to succeed, it’s up to you more than me. I can repair the biggest breaches if all parties are honest.
Should I Care if You Lie?
You bet. I’ve read blogs from other mediators who say that to remain neutral, they ignore lies made by the parties. I strongly disagree with that philosophy. Mediation is not a legal trial, it’s a process of reaching agreements and healing a broken business relationship. In a trial, an attorney must give her client the best possible defense regardless of guilt. Courts frown on perjury, however. And so should a good mediator. How can I broker a fair deal when I know that one party is lying?
The biggest item of contention is money. When partners argue about money, the heat goes way up. When to is taken by a partner and then denied despite a clear paper trail, trust is shattered.
The other big one is starting ventures or joining other businesses outside of your partnership without talking to your partner. This one is quite common in a failing partnership. The partner who is working on a new business always denies it. To me, that’s a serious enough matter to recommend dissolving the partnership. It just raises too many issues. Will your time still go into this business? Does the new business compete with this business? Are you diverting resources to a different venture without your partner’s consent? These could violate your fiduciary responsibility to your partner which could put you in a bad position in a legal case.
So, yes, lying matters in mediation. Don’t do it.
But What If…
What if I have something very confidential that I don’t want my partner to know about?
Talk with me! Tell me about it so I can guide the conversation past the issue. If there is a health problem or a personal money issue, a good mediator can take you through working things out with a need to divulge personal matters. Just be honest and open.
“I can help guide the conversation past personal issues if I know about them. Lying to me only creates mistrust.”
When the business partnership breaks down, the darker sides of the personalities come through. A dominant partner turns into a bully. A person who does not do well with conflict will withdraw. As the bully gets more aggressive, the pacifist withdraws further. Eventually, the bully gets so angry they are ready to lock the other partner out. The pacifist quits coming in. The next blowout is over money. The course is as logically predictable as what will happen to your car if you hit the highway with no oil in the engine. It will get louder and louder until the engine seizes.
I recommend that partners talk through a specific issue and then draft an agreement (called a resolution) that sets a policy. You can keep this in a binder to serve as amendments (or foundation) to your Partnership Agreement. In this post I’ll explain how to talk about things that bug you with your partner and how to draft a binding resolution to fix the problems.
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers.