Too often I see agency leaders who treat relationships with clients or employees as adversarial in nature.

That’s the wrong way to think of it.

Both parties — agency and client or employer and employee — have some shared interests and some interests that diverge.

That means that there will be some natural give and take.

That’s different from treating the other party as if they are a potential enemy.

To avoid getting into the trap of an adversarial relationship, it’s important to understand the interests of the other side — just as you would in any negotiation.

As much as we may not like it, most agency-client and employer-employee relationships are a series of negotiations.

The default answer when a client pushes for too much work or an employee pushes for too little shouldn’t be “no.”

The duty of an effective leader is to understand why the client or employee is asking for more work, more pay, more time off, or more of whatever it is that you are probably disinclined to give.

As part of this, you need to understand why you don’t want to give in — and whether your instinct is based in fact or simply emotion.

There’s no need to be a pushover. I’m not advocating you give in to any request an employee or client makes.

Instead, if you understand what they want (and why) and what you want (and why) you’ll be more likely to find either common ground or a different path forward.

Adversarial relationships fuel animosity and discord.

They rarely lead to improved productivity or profit.

They almost never last.

If you find yourself in an adversarial relationship with a client or employee, look in the mirror and figure out if it is in your own behavior that can change, if it is something you need to address with the other party, or if it is a relationship that you would be better off walking away from.