As the example above shows, it is possible to stop the technical letter of an agreement, while the spirit of the agreement continues to be violated and held accountable. The letter of the law against the spirit of the law is an idiom antithesis. If one obeys the letter of the law, but not in spirit, one obeys the literal interpretation of the words (of “letters”) of the law, but not necessarily for those who wrote the law. Conversely, if you obey the spirit of the law, but not the letter, you are doing what the authors of the law wanted, but not necessarily to maintain its literal text. Negotiators from different organizational, professional or national cultures often put on the table assumptions that collide. Ming-Jer Chen, the former director of Wharton Global Chinese Business Initiative, said in Inside Chinese Business: “The Chinese feel that contracts are too rigid to take into account new circumstances. It is therefore not a stigma to change the terms of an agreement after it is signed. This approach often frustrates businessmen who assume that a contract is an agreement and a complete and firm description of each party`s commitments. However, as we all know, the best intentions are rarely where the story ends. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a party (the negative party) to subsequently fail to meet its contractual obligations, reflecting a lack of willingness to respect the spirit of the treaty. Under these conditions, the other party (the aggrieved party) may legally be allowed to terminate the contract on the grounds of refusal. The social contract should not only complement the economic contract, but the economic contract itself can effectively embody much of the social embodiment.
In the late 1980s, for example, Chrysler deliberately restructured both the letter and spirit of its contracts with suppliers to save its business. In 1989, the company faced an expected overrun of a new $1 billion program, an unfunded retirement commitment of $4.5 billion and a record loss of $664 million in the fourth quarter. To stop the bleeding, Chrysler decided to revolutionize its relationships with suppliers (with other strategic measures). The auto giant had traditionally divested its business to the qualified bidder, which offers the lowest price, and relied on competition from suppliers to reduce costs. It then sought to create long-term partnerships with a subset of its traditional suppliers. In this new model, the partner should not only improve its own performance, but also improve Chrysler`s operations beyond the delivery report.