Turning Adversaries Into Allies: How To Resolve Workplace Conflict
By Eliakim Thorpe
With a rapidly expanding, growing, and challenging global economy; organizations increasingly feel the strain to remain competitive. These new economic dynamics have created a new paradigm in workplace relationships which are solely based upon the pursuit of performance, productivity, and personal objectives. Due to these evolving workplace dynamics, little attention is paid to promoting positive working relationships.
I have worked in corporate America for nearly 20 years, have developed two successful organizations managing 20-25 employees, and to be honest, if you've worked any amount of time in corporate America or managed people, you have experienced workplace conflict as I have. Conflict comes in two flavors; passive and aggressive conflict which is typically seen in one's personal or professional life.It is nearly unavoidable because the workplace is a complex/diverse set of personalities trying to cohesively accomplish organizational goals. Even while trying to avoid it, conflict has a way of locating the good, the bad, and the ugly in any corporate professional. YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM CONFLICT! The question to be answered is how do corporate professionals navigate and/or resolve workplace conflict proactively, swiftly, resolutely, truthfully, and compassionately without fracturing organizational relationships (the decision-maker, the influencer, and the contributor)? Conflict that is concealed, avoided, or ignored will ultimately create larger organizational problems. All conflict requires a combatant! If there there were no combatants, there would be no conflicts. Conflict is like a sore, without treatment, will infect the whole corporate culture of an organization.
I have always been an admirer of martial arts because of not only learning how to physically defend ones self, but also the philosophy behind martial arts on how to resolve conflict without the use of defensive tactical skills. In the last year, I attended a number of Krav Maga martial art classes to learn various defensive skills (unsuccessfully I might add LOL). While l learned a number of defensive tactical skills, what was of most importance was the ability to resolve conflict using these 6 specific techniques:
Treat everyone with dignity- No matter what differences exist during conflict, it is important to honor and respect the individuals opposing viewpoint. Everyone wants to be treated with respect because all employees desire to be appreciated for what they contribute to an organization.
Listen Actively- Practice active listening when you talk to your colleagues. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Focus on listening more than you talk, and you'll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.
Welcome Diversity- People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your colleagues offer different opinions from yours, take the time to consider what they have to say, and factor their insights into your decision-making or opinion.
Become Mindful- This means taking responsibility for your words and actions. Those who are mindful are careful and attend to what they say, and they don't let their own negative emotions impact the people around them. Respectfully and tactfully state your objection; by saying something like, "I hear what you are saying, but it's difficult for me to see how that would work, can you please provide clarification." Then communicate trust & support them to make their own decision by saying; "However, I trust your judgement & will support your decision." or "However, I support the team and will do my part." Help them save face with an alternative suggestion by stating; "However if the (not YOUR!) plan doesn't work, would you be open to trying it another way, or hearing some other suggestions?"
Use the Power of Persuasion- This is the ability to tactfully communicate your opinion using a compelling, powerful, and convincing argument without condemning the viewpoint of another person.You are not trying to sway people against their will but to offer them a chance to see things from a different perspective. It is the exchange of ideas and opinions with the goal of coming to an agreement. It's using your influence to get people to say 'YES'. It is knowing how to communicate in a way that persuades others to cooperate, and more importantly collaborate.
Turn Adversaries into Allies- Be willing to be of service by humbling yourself and helping them despite current conflict. The best way to turn adversaries into allies is to find something you have in common by identifying what you're passionate about.
There is a quote that states, "serenity is not finding freedom from the storm, but peace within it." Developing effective conflict resolution techniques are an essential component of building a sustainable workforce. If conflict remains unresolved, it can have a devastating effect on employee productivity, employee creativity, and create barriers to cooperation and collaboration within an organization.
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Eliakim Thorpe is a sought-after speaker, a business consultant, entrepreneur, author, and an authority on organizational transformation. He draws from his experience working with, and consulting for, Fortune 10 to Fortune 100 companies such as IBM, Whirlpool, General Motors, Chrysler, Pfizer and many others.
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