Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

Conflict to Collaboration

 -  5/19/10

Understanding conflict and addressing it instead of avoiding it can allow learning and development professionals to build much more effective teams.

When people think of conflict, they may think of an embittered battle, the locking of horns or the need to prove right versus wrong. Many view conflict as a bad thing — something that needs to be managed. Further, many approach conflict with the idea of simply avoiding it. They associate conflict with arguing, and if they aren’t arguing, they believe there is no conflict. But understanding conflict and addressing it instead of avoiding it can allow learning and development professionals to harness it and lead teams to better collaboration.

There are five distinct modes people deploy in reacting to and managing conflict. The first is avoidance. Those in the avoiding mindset will not argue. They don’t care if their point of view is honored, nor do they care if the other’s point of view is honored. Typically, they believe it is not worth the effort. When issues are trivial, avoiding can be the most appropriate mode. Basically, the approach is to pick your battles and avoid the ones that do not hold return on investment. Also, if tempers have flared, take a timeout. Agree to get back together after an explicit amount of time; temporarily avoiding can be a powerful way to reduce tension to allow the parties to come back together and be more productive. Going to this avoiding mode too frequently, however, can result in others believing someone has no decision-making ability. If they are important decisions, the festering will eventually become too much.

The second conflict mode is competing. Those in competing mode believe, “It’s my way or the highway.” They need to win at all costs. When tough, unpopular decisions need to be made, these folks can be very useful. They are willing to make the call despite what others think. They are willing to take a stand and not be swayed from it. They will argue for their point regardless of the other points presented. They will throw their weight around if their position or rank will get them what they want. The challenge with overusing the competing mode is that no one will want to present dissenting views. There will be no opportunity for learning. The folks who will be attracted here will only be willing to give welcome messages, omitting other information regardless of how pertinent it is.


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