A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
reSoLvING coNfliCT bEFORe IT dISOlvES yOUr tEaM
by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group
Does the above headline (written in tOggGLe CaSE) annoy you? Anger you? If so, you and I are now in conflict. Conflict between two or more people can be occur over a clash of ideas, opinions, preferences, goals, values, procedures, facts, styles, hairdos, etc. Over anything. I like tOggGLe CaSE because it's different and stands out. You don't like it because it's hard to read. Regardless of the cause, in most all cases, conflict has an emotional component to it.
We've all learned that unresolved conflict is devastating to personal relationships. On teams, conflicts over ideas, procedures, approaches etc., is healthy and productive when the ensuing debate produces a more informed decision, or a resolution of the matter. Unresolved conflict leads to low team productivity and stress. And, as unresolved conflict accumulates, so does poor team morale.
As a team member or project leader, what can you do about it? Here is an overview of three different styles you could use to resolve the tOggGLe CaSE conflict.
Take a stance that headlines written in tOggGLe CaSE are by nature annoying and attempt to bulldoze me into changing the CaSe. Better yet, change it on me when I'm not looking � just before the article goes to press.
Suck it up. Disregard your own feelings even though you've hated tOggGLe CaSE since you were prenatal.
State your feeling in an honest, direct way without dominating or being degrading. "I see what you're trying to say, but I have another perspective to offer." The goal of an assertive response is a collaborative solution, where we both get everything we want, or a compromise, where we arrive at a middle ground by each giving up something.
Resolving conflict: Taking the Assertive approach
Here's an approach that I use with good results. It consists of three guidelines plus 4-step model or process.
As project leader, I recommend you take a proactive stance on conflict. Send a clear message to the team that you recognize that conflict is a fact of life. Offer up the six-step model as an operating norm to resolve conflict as it occurs in team meetings or in one-on-one situations.
- Diffuse yourself first. My mother used to tell me, "Count to ten." Frankly, that doesn't work for me. When you find yourself in the midst of an interpersonal conflict, say to yourself, "I can picture myself doing (or saying) the same thing that he/she just did (said)."
- Treat the other person with respect.
- Mirror. Go to lengths to understand the other party before making yourself understood. Paraphrase back what the other person said until they are satisfied that you understand their thoughts and feelings.
- Briefly state your needs, views, feelings.
Important: These initial steps are all intended to diffuse the emotional, front end component of the conflict � that is to put the parties in a position to apply a rational, problem solving process. Once things have calmed down, then take the final two steps.
- Brainstorm and negotiate a solution
- Take action
The overarching principal to keep in mind is that effective conflict resolution means that one must first deal with the feelings in the matter before dealing with the facts. Said another way: Feelings -> Facts -> Solutions. Or is it fEEinGs -> FaCTs -> SOLUtions?
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