We often think that conflict is bad – it is not. In fact, conflict is natural and a very healthy part of doing business. Management and conflict is as natural as bread and butter.
Here are just a few reasons why conflict exists.
We all have different values and we put those values in a different priority order. Many people can look at the same issue and see a different problem, then disagree on how it should be solved.
We all have different thinking styles and we each take a different approach to how we make decisions. We each have different personalities and every individual is motivated by different needs.
Another hypothesis is that people can have a totally different memory of the exact same event, based on how it affected them emotionally. Additionally, a person’s memory will be altered depending on what they experienced just before or just after the event.
Is it any surprise why it is difficult to bring a group of smart people with similar goals and similar corporate loyalties together to develop strategy, solve problems, or create a new product offering without conflict? This should never stop us however, from achieving what has to be done.
Conflict will not resolve on its own. In fact, it can escalate to the point where egos and relationships are irreparable if not dealt with proactively and appropriately. It is not uncommon to see that which might have been a non-event manifest itself into a monumental problem if not resolved early on.
There are five general ways people handle conflict:
Avoiders: They hope the conflict will just go away. Unfortunately, it never simply “goes away.” It just comes back in a bigger and uglier form until it becomes unavoidable. Usually, the conflict escalates far beyond the ability to engage in a rational discussion and resolution.
Accommodators: These folks prefer to pacify antagonistic team members – just to keep the peace. This strategy buys peace in the short run, but eventually accommodators erupt. They will keep score of each accommodation they’ve made, then one event tips them over the edge!
Competitors: They want it their way. Period. No room for discussion. The competitor wants to win and will do and say anything to get their way.
Compromisers: “You have to lose a little to gain a little” is their mantra. It is a give and take strategy. A compromise is never particularly satisfying to anyone involved. By its very definition, no one “wins.” Everyone has to give up something – which doesn’t lend itself to the best possible outcome.
Collaborators: Looking for a win-win, collaborators have the courage to speak their minds as well as listen to others’ viewpoints. They search for a consensus that everyone can live with and support. They engage in dialogue rather than discussion.
So within your organization, recognize that each person approaches conflict differently. The key is to manage the dynamic versus letting the conflict escalate out of control.
Most of us want to live a full life of excitement, achieve success, raise a family, and leave a legacy. You cannot do this without experiencing conflict.
In my next few columns I will focus on handling conflict in the workplace. I will address the topics listed above, the causes, the solutions and how organizations can actually capitalize on conflict.
My question this week: “As a manager, what are you doing to provide an environment where people can constructively disagree, but work together to develop collaborative solutions?”