By Michael Kline
Conway Daily Sun, July 17, 2016
Most work places have more conflict than we are comfortable with.
Today we’re going to explore why that is, and what to do about it. Properly
dealt with, conflict can be a key ingredient to progress in relationships as
well as product and service improvements. In fact, Thomas Paine, the highly
influential writer during the American Revolution wrote “The harder the
conflict, the more glorious the triumph”.
I’ve been known to risk a little glory to avoid a little conflict, so I’m not promoting conflict or saying it’s good, but good can come from it. Conflict is a fact of life, so we need to learn to deal with it and create benefit when we can. The trouble is that for some, conflict is actually a way of life and that is usually bad for business, bad for coworkers,
employers, employees and customers.
Let’s start with an easy way to eliminate some conflict – disagreeing about facts. Some conflicts are really just simple disagreements that don’t really matter. Perhaps we’re talking politics and I make a reference to Orson Welles’s Book 1984. You, being so much smarter, remember that it was George Orwell that wrote 1984, so you move quickly to correct me. If we’re friends and you correct me in a friendly way, that’s great. In real life, some folks need to correct people with whom they are not friendly. They take joy in correcting people they don’t like, as a way of bringing them down, thus creating conflict where it need not be. This is so frequent on Facebook it makes me want to delete my account some days. Or perhaps, if I insist that I am correct, you may feel a need to argue that I am wrong and you can prove it. In the meantime, we fight about it and bring up other things that we’ve been wrong about in the past to destroy each other’s credibility. We need to ask ourselves, does it matter that you are right? How does my being wrong affect the outcome of our work? Does it lower our productivity or quality? If we were writing a book about American literature, we need to resolve the issue – otherwise, just let it go. For some folks it seems near impossible, because what’s important to them is not the need for the right answer to be known, but the need to prove they are the one who knows it.
Now let’s resolve some common conflicts that can’t easily be avoided. When two people want the same thing, conflict develops quickly. We usually state our position instead of our interests, eliminating all other possible solutions. If instead, we state our interests and let discussion flow, we find alternative solutions that meet our interests and allow others to have their interests met as well. For instance, let’s say you and I occasionally use the company van for work purposes. You state that you need to take the van to a customer site this morning. I respond with “no way, I have our most important customer to pick up at the airport”. How do we resolve the issue? Go ahead, take a moment and guess! I bet that most of you did what most people do at work – they start comparing why each one is more entitled to get their way. We each make a good case, and then we need a boss (parent figure) to settle it for us. The boss listens to our arguments and as the supreme judge (or mother), they will pick their favorite of the day to make one of us a winner and one of us a loser. There can only be one winner since there is only one van, right? Not so fast. The correct and best answer in this case, is to ask each of us to express our interests instead of our positions.
My interest is not the van itself, but picking up our client at the airport. Your interest was perhaps delivering a large item to your client as promised. No problem, I’ll drop the large item for you, on my way to the airport! Or perhaps, I could take the boss’s Mercedes to the airport instead of the van. The point is that by stating our interests instead of taking our positions, we open up possibilities and many conflicts can be resolved quickly and easily.
This is similar to resolving conflicts we feel about our work, our lives and our happiness, isn’t it? Always start with the goal. Is it possible to accomplish the goal some other way? Almost always, the answer is yes, and life’s biggest problems become a much easier to solve puzzle. Enjoy the puzzle and be kind.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He
may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail,