Good managers look at conflict as a manageable aspect of work


August 08, 1993|By Niki Scott

Most managers dread conflict of any kind, but women managers are even more likely to -- because we've been taught for so long that it's our job to keep everyone happy.

We tend to fear anger and abhor scenes, as well; we seem to believe conflict means communication (at which we're supposed be so good) has broken down and, therefore, relationships will be damaged.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Conflict is bound to occur in any environment in which emotionally healthy people co-exist and interact; and while not all conflicts can be resolved, most can be managed.

And while conflict is often the result of a breakdown in communication, it can represent an opportunity to air differences, vent emotions, clarify issues and come up with creative solutions to problems.

"The best way to resolve a conflict is with a win/win solution: nobody loses, everybody wins," writes Jerry Wisinski in "Resolving Conflicts on the Job" (AMACOM; $10.95).

He lists five basic methods for resolving conflicts in the 'u workplace: competition, accommodation, avoidance, compromise and collaboration.

The competition approach is an attempt at dominance, a winner-take-all position in which a manager uses whatever power she has to win.

This is a valid way to deal with workplace conflicts if we're in an emergency situation and must take quick action, or if we have no room to negotiate, or if we've tried everything else we can think of and nothing has worked.

Resolving a conflict by accommodation means being willing to yield our position, not just to keep the peace, but because we've made a conscious decision to do so.

This is a good choice if an issue is much more important to the other person than it is to us, or if we can afford to lose this one,

Avoidance is a valid method of dealing with conflict only if an argument has become heated and both parties need time to cool off, or if both parties view the issue as minor, or if the consequences of further conflict would be too damaging.

Compromise addresses the issue directly, but both parties must be willing to listen, negotiate, stay flexible, remain calm and both win and lose some of what they want.

Collaboration is a win/win method. It entails identifying the areas of agreement and disagreement, looking at alternatives, thinking creatively and finding solutions that have the full support of all parties.

"In order for collaboration to work, both parties must not only be willing to resolve the conflict, but to explore the origins of the conflict in order to identify its true source and deal with it," writes Mr. Wisinski.

And in this and all effective methods of conflict resolution, both sides must be willing to accept and understand the other person's feelings and point of view, even though they might not agree with them.

) Universal Press Syndicate

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