Employment lawsuits can generate very intense emotions by both the plaintiff and defendant. We often measure our value as human beings based on the work we do and the income we earn. When that job is taken away from us, especially under circumstances that we think violate the law, it can generate a lot of anger, even rage, against the former employer. Anger can also result if a manager or business owner feels he or she is wrongly accused of breaking the law and his or her name is being dragged through the mud for no good reason.
Larger employers may see an employment case in a less emotional way, as a risk to be managed. The costs of litigation will be weighed against the chances of the possible outcomes and the benefits of putting a case behind them through negotiation. A smaller company, especially a sole proprietorship, may have much more of an emotional investment in the case. The owner may be angry at having been falsely accused and having to spend limited resources on a case that might be seen as an attempt at extortion through the court system.
Emotions Impact NegotiationsEmotions Impact Negotiations
Employment litigation is notorious for dragging on potentially for years. This time factor may result in a plaintiff accepting the situation, “moving on” and being more flexible and willing to settle. The client may also be unable to “let go” emotionally despite the passage of time, especially if he or she has been unable to get his or her career back on track after being fired and has suffered serious financial losses. The purpose of this client’s life may have become seeking “justice” and revenge against an ex-employer seen as ruining his or her life.
If you want to help your client deal with these emotions, it’s not a one size fits all solution because not everyone copes the same way given the circumstances, according to Psychology Today. You could try,
- Distraction, in which you try to get your client to disengage from negative emotions by distracting the client with other, more neutral, things to think about. This may prevent emotional reactions from gaining too much force and would probably be more effective when emotions are running high.
- Reappraisal which involves thinking about the troubling information so the negative meaning is reduced. The client could be reminded of the big picture and the positive aspects of his or her case. This approach works best when the intensity of emotions is low.
Attorneys for both sides need to manage these emotions and do their best to make sure clients see the law and facts as how they would appear to a judge or jury, not through what can be very biased and selective memories. The wisdom of a negotiated or mediated settlement may need to be sold to clients driven more by emotion than common sense.