Compromise is essentially a golden rule for most businesspeople. We're taught not only that it facilitates growth and partnership, but also that it helps others view us as professional. In the vast majority of cases, this is the truth. But there are a handful of times when compromising is an absolutely horrid idea with the potential to harm your career or company.
1. Your core values and vision are in jeopardy.
Brands often reorient themselves a bit to accommodate the market. But this isn't the same as throwing the central beliefs and goals under which you started operating out the window. You should be able to leave an agreement confident that your customers will still be able to recognize and trust who you are. Retaining this sense of business self is critical for your employee morale and retention, too, because most hiring is done trying to find people who align with the heart of your business.
2. The agreement raises clear, avoidable legal risks.
Most people who go into business want to do some good. But there are also individuals who get so caught up in greed, profit and the bottom line that they become willing to look for any way to cut corners, such as risking a fine or closure for dumping waste improperly. Even if your company is able to survive the courtroom, the dings to your reputation might not be repairable. Strong compromises will leave the bulk of legal protections intact for both you and the other party.
3. You or someone else could get hurt.
Related to the legal circumstance above, this point has a surprisingly wide scope. For example, tired drivers still might ask for overtime, or a particular screw in your product might come out unless you tweak the design. Compromising here could cost you financially in multiple ways, such as lawsuits or having to train a temporary replacement for a worker who's recovering. But it also casts significant doubt on how much you care about your employees and customers. Both groups of people want to feel valued. They'll leave or stop buying if they don't.
4. The other party has insufficient experience, skill or understanding.
You might run into this problem when you're trying to reach agreements between people who are on the floor in regular operations and those who are not, when a non-involved heir inherits a business, or when a larger company buys a smaller one outside of its niche. In these situations, the goal by refusing to compromise isn't to prevent change forever or to paint the other party in a negative light. It's merely to slow down or halt decision-making until you've educated the other party about procedures, rationales and the science of what you do.
In any of the above situations, standing your ground doesn't mean abandoning decency and decorum. Explain politely to the other party exactly why you're saying no, detailing what you need to move forward. If there is a way to help the other party meet those requirements, do what you can to support them. Give them time to think and respond, and don't make it personal. If you and the other party go your separate ways in the end, it's not a loss. It merely means you haven't found the right partner yet. And in time, you will.