How to make everybody happy (hint: you can’t)

My daughter has a dance recital this weekend. She works all year to be ready for it, and it’s a great chance for us to see how much she’s progressed. But this year, we have a dilemma. The dance school scheduled her two recitals for Saturday afternoon, right smack over two of our sons’ baseball games.

My daughter wants the whole family at the same recital but that will be physically impossible unless one of our boys misses a game. A sticky problem, and the only known value in this equation is that at least one person – and probably more than one – will be disappointed.

Decisions are often like that. Sometimes the only way to satisfy one person is to disappoint another. Only one person will get the promotion. Only one person will be the MVP. Only one person will get the last popsicle.

Several years ago, a business owner confided in me about a problem on his staff. He had a high-performing sales team that was 100% travel and 100% commission. They were kicking the lights out of their quotas, the company was making money, and everyone was happy – well, everyone but the payroll administrator who thought they were overpaid.

She had sown so much dissent among the office staff that he was actually considering a change to the sales compensation just to keep the peace. That would surely have caused an uproar with the sales associates who had a certain expectation of what they would earn in exchange for the risk they assumed on commission, and the time they spent away from home. I understand the business owner’s uncertainty. It’s easy when faced with continual pressure to bow to the wrong opinion – but it’s critical to make sure that the path of least resistance doesn’t lead off a cliff.

We’ll resolve our upcoming conflict in the only way that really makes sense – half of us will go to one recital and half of us to the other. One of the parents will attend our younger son’s game and the other will attend our older son’s game. No one will like it, because nobody gets to win – but then again, nobody’s really losing either.

Have a tough decision to make? Send your stories to – if I use it I’ll feature your business.