Being an effective — and smart — compromiser enhances all your relationships, including the ones at work.

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All jobs, as in all of life, require compromises. Some may be small (you have to adhere to a dress code), and others not so small (you have to work closely with a person you personally dislike).

But learning, and practicing, the fine art of compromise will improve all your relationships — not just the ones at work. So here are a few basic guidelines for how to deal with the less-than-ideal.

Look for areas of agreement. At loggerheads with a co-worker, your boss or even a customer? Identifying what you do agree on is the first step to settling most types of discord. You both probably want to ensure the success of your business, for example. You both want a safe and happy workplace. Start in a place like this and work your way forward.

Seek out the win-win. Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Disagreements can be approached in ways that allow each party to come out a winner. Give a little to get a little — an expression your grandpa may have used — still applies today, and always will.

Pick your battles. Some issues are simply not worth going to the mat for, so save your energy and your social capital for the really important ones. A side benefit is that giving in on things of lesser significance puts you in a stronger position to hold firm when the stakes are higher.

Keep your emotions in check. When we think (or know!) we’re right, we can become passionate, and this passion sometimes runs away with us. However, cooler heads actually do prevail. You’ll get more of what you want if you don’t succumb to anger or frustration. Really.

Be a good winner/loser. No matter what the outcome, determine to focus on the positives. Show your appreciation for the compromises of others, even if you’re still convinced they didn’t go far enough. Most of all, when it’s over, let it really be over.

Are there areas where you should never compromise? There sure are. Your integrity, your self-respect and your health should never be sacrificed for a job. If you ever find yourself being called upon to do this, step back and take a long, hard look at your situation.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at