The key to solving a conflict is the identification of the participants’ underlying needs. One of the most important tasks of the mediator is to make these needs explicit. The participants typically come to the mediation aware of what they want (their ideal solution), but few have done the preparation work that helps them to discover why they want this particular outcome (their needs).Read More
Important Topics on Harnessing the Power of Conflict
- Building Great Teams 23
- Conflict Data Points 9
- Conflict Tools 37
- Conflict in the Workplace 19
- Costs & Value of Conflict 3
- Culture and Conflict 10
- Difficult Conversations 6
- Groupthink 5
- Innovation and Conflict 16
- Mediation 10
- Mergers and Acquisitions 4
- Ombudsman 4
- Productive Workplace 11
- Teamwork 9
- Trust Building in Teams 12
- Understanding Conflict 20
- World of Conflict 3
My friend and colleague David Miller once sat in a meeting with me and took on the question from a client; What is the big picture of what you all do? David answered something like this; Envision your organization as a single dense forest sitting on a vast landscape of rolling grassy hills and mountains. The ombudsman’s job is to walk through the forest, and step back from the forest, and watch the forest from a very high perspective almost like a hawk does, curious, vigilant, and skilled. The Ombudsman walks and circles and looks from all angles and what we look for is smoke coming from inside your forest. When we spot smoke coming from your forest we take action and move in and stop the smoke before it spreads and turns into a raging fire. Then the Ombudsman helps those who manage the forest see why there was smoke in the first place and also helps them to understand what they can do to stop it from happening again. That’s the big picture of what we do.
Paul Ekman, a psychologist from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), established the universality of facial expressions and identified seven core emotions that all humans are hardwired to display: anger, fear, sadness, contempt, disgust, happiness and surprise.
Mediators need to recognize the different emotions and decide how they influence the decision-making process in a mediation. They need to tune into and sense the emotional states of the participants. Not only does the mediator need to recognize each participant’s emotional state (let’s say, for instance, anger or sadness), but also the intensity of the emotion (how angry or how sad the person is).Read More
Team members work in increasingly diverse environments: in terms of age (there are more older workers), gender (there are more women), race (there are more people of color), language (there are more languages spoken), and nationality (there are more immigrants). Beyond these differences, there are also deeper cultural differences that influence the way conflict is approached.
The use of teams represents an important change in the way we work. The theory is that through the interdependency of the parts greater productivity is achieved by the whole. Experience has been less kind. One reason that teams fail to meet performance expectations is their paralysis through unresolved conflict. This article focuses on the impact of culture on the prevention and resolution of conflict in teams.Read More
The truth is that starting up is one thing, but staying alive is another. Research shows that half of new business startups fail within the first five years of operation, and over 60% fail due to negative outcomes from conflict. Noam Wasserman’s research on startups, described in his best-selling book The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, reveals this: Most business startups ‘sink’ not because of lack of planning, failure to test the market or undercapitalization, but rather due to interpersonal complexities, destructive co-founder disputes, destructive team dynamics, and people problems.
Another truth is that conflict is a necessary part of successfully running a business. This is because conflict is a natural occurrence which can happen any time two or more individuals have different ideas, wants, and needs. Conflict is normal in any environment. However, if not properly managed, conflict can escalate into disagreement and become entrenched to a point of no return for a young, fragile business.Read More
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. However, that does not mean that we cannot work to prevent unproductive behavior that leads to conflict. Difficult behavior is a good example of an area where a difference can be made. Although it is easy to label people as difficult, the real focus should always be on the actual behavior. Dealing effectively with difficult behavior is a skill that can nip conflict in the bud.
Difficult behavior is essentially that which inhibits the performance of others. Left alone it will get worse, affect more people and continue to incur hidden costs for the organization in which it occurs. Most difficult behavior is accidental, but it can also be the result of intentional thought. Sometimes it is sporadic and takes us by surprise. At other times it is ongoing and forms patterns.Read More
While conflict may be a constant, paradigms to explain conflict in organizations have changed. Systems thinking or chaos theory is the latest paradigm that has been used to understand organizational conflict. The demise of the mechanistic worldview allows us to contemplate how organizations deal with conflict through a fresh set of lenses.
The term "system" is widely used in the field of organizational conflict management. The Federal Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group recently sponsored a brown bag Session-"Growing Your ADR Program - Are You Ready for a System?"-that focused on examples of two agencies 'that are attempting to replace ADR programs with ADR systems.'Read More
This is the second in our series of Leader’s Guides on harnessing the power of conflict. Conflict, when well managed, can breathe life and energy into workplace relationships that inspire more productivity, creativity and innovation.
I talked in the previous article, The Leader’s Guide: The Key to Boosting Employee Engagement in Your Workplace: It’s Not What You Think, about what conflict is - a natural occurrence in a workplace that can either be a positive or a negative experience. And that a leader who sees conflict as a useful tool rather than a negative thing to avoid, helps increase employee engagement and the vibrant exchange of ideas that take your business on the innovation and growth path.
So how, as a leader, do you start to create the kind of organizational dynamics that harness the power of constructive conflict? Read on...Read More
Once we embrace that conflict is inevitable in social relationships, the question we have to ask is “how do we respond?” Responsibly, we’d hope. Yet, for the most part, when we are in conflict, we are not very responsive, and tend to be reactive. Shifting to a responsive approach to conflict is easier said than done. When we are in conflict situations, we are typically being triggered and reverting to our unconscious conflict handling scripts.
What’s the difference between a responsive and a reactive approach? When we respond to the challenges of life-including our conflict situations-we take responsibility for our role in the situation, we are in tune with what we are feeling and why, and our thoughts, words and behaviors are conscious of the bigger picture. By contrast, when we react, we shift responsibility for the situation to the other through blame; we assume the victim role and are ‘justifiably’ carried away by powerful feelings like anger, fear and grief. We use an unconscious template for reaction that seeks acknowledgement, justice, restoration, and even revenge.Read More
Seasoned leaders know that the road to a successful change management process is not always a smooth one. Strategy, structure, tech, resources and capacity all may be in place and positioned for an effective effort. However, what are often missed are factors that can be crucial to success and that can blindside the unwary leader. In two words: Conflict and Culture.
Conflict is an inevitable part of change...Read More
There is no question that to resolve a conflict beyond a superficial level, the emotional energy that accompanies any conflict must be addressed. And yet how we go about working with emotions in conflict situations is not that clear. Some encourage a focus on forgiveness, while others point out that until the nasty reality of revenge is addressed, forgiveness will be illusionary. Some say we need to understand the neurobiology of emotion to respond and others say that all we have to do is listen actively.
In this article, I want to explore the role of intuition and suggest that at the heart of the work of conflict resolution, whether by professional mediators, or HR managers is our ability to sense what to do or not do, intervention wise. To do this, we first need to develop our capacity to sense through feeling and images. Secondly, and at a cognitive level, we need to develop rules of thumbs or what some call ‘heuristics’ to guide us in our interventions.Read More
The tendency to deflect responsibility is common in the workplace with employees blaming others while ignoring their own contribution to a problem. And when they are unable to address their challenge directly themselves, they often turn to third parties-typically those with some power to address the situation in their favor. Their narrative may reveal a victim mentality. Regardless, they want their perspective validated and something done.
If your company has an 'open door policy' employees may go above their supervisors head to address their concerns with someone higher up the chain of command. And from time to time employees do go to HR.
This is where you have to be careful, as there is a thin line between actions that are helpful and those that are not!
According to evidence based psychologist, John Gottman, “the ratio of positive to negative affect during conflict in stable relationships is 5:1; in couples headed for divorce, it is 0.8:1!”
As Gottman points out, this does not require that we declare war on negative emotions. All emotions have value when we view them as sources of decision making information to navigate life. In fact, without them, we would be rudderless!
We have entered an era of increased police scrutiny, sparked by recent accounts of abusive police practices. People we never knew suddenly have become household names representing the many sad sides of this issue, and a highly emotional and complicated discourse has occupied our society.
No one disputes that the job of the police officer is a dangerous and often thankless one. They put their lives on the line every day, with the potential of facing an armed, hardheaded, impulsive, predatory, violent person, and under constant pressure to make quick, potentially life-or-death decisions. And no one would dispute that the core mission and obligation of law enforcement is to protect life, keep peace, enforce society’s laws, and offer a framework for people to live freely without the worry of victimization.
21st Century Policing: Conflict Management Training...Read More
I’ve been working on better ways to deal with conflict in organizations for more than 40 years. And my understanding of conflict, its effects in organizations and of how best to reduce its harms and capitalize on its benefits has certainly evolved. I learned from hard experience that grievances and lawsuits can leave personal scars and do permanent damage to work relationships. Mediation produces better results with less damage. A stint as an organizational ombudsman taught me that discussing disputes confidentially, off the record could yield good solutions and help keep work relationships intact. I’ve been working on better ways to deal with conflict in organizations for more than 40 years. And my understanding of conflict, its effects in organizations and of how best to reduce its harms and capitalize on its benefits has certainly evolved. I learned from hard experience that grievances and lawsuits can leave personal scars and do permanent damage to work relationships. Mediation produces better results with less damage. A stint as an organizational ombudsman taught me that discussing disputes confidentially, off the record could yield good solutions and help keep work relationships intact.Read More
Many businesses rely on innovation for success. There is a lot of literature on how to encourage the creative thinking that inspires innovation, but you won’t often hear this tip: Welcome conflict into your teams! Yet this is exactly what I’m enthusiastically promoting. It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Most leaders are busy looking for ways to avoid fights and disputes, not invite them.
Conflict is a natural part of human behavior and...Read More
We explored in the earlier article "How Trust is Essential to a productive Workplace," what can happen when trust is missing, and how trust is a cornerstone to employee engagement, productivity, and more. As Dr. David Ballard, the head of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, says: “...Lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers...Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance."Read More
Trust is both a cause and an effect of organization culture. Most experts would agree that trust is perhaps the most vital element of a productive, harmonious, and synergistic work environment. One Harvard University study showed that the level of trust in the work environment greatly influenced the productivity as well as the happiness of employees. According to Dr. Nancy Etcoff, the lead researcher on the study, work environments that foster positivity, interpersonal trust, respect, open communication and quality personal relationships build the most committed and productive workforce.
What does building trust mean to your workplace?Read More
Many people think mediation is simply an alternative to a legal suit, but it can be much more. It can create a more empowered and productive workplace environment. The best time to learn mediation techniques and have a mediation plan is before you actually need it!...Read More
A recent article by Charles Duhigg in the NY Times, revealed and confirmed some of the most interesting findings I have ever seen around team dynamics and high performance. If you read nothing else about team dynamics this year, I highly recommend finishing my short synopsis in this post, and, popping over to the full article What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. It will be worth every minute, I promise.
Over the past five years Google engaged in a special project (Project Aristotle) that was tasked with breaking the code on how to build a perfect team. They have a huge workforce, a great number of teams, and methodologies to measure and analyze results that are second to none. They originally set out to see if they could predict what types of personality types and experience could be matched together to build a high performing team. The results of all that work…Read More