How to re­solve con­flict and win bat­tles with­out fight­ing

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

BY the time you read this col­umn, af­ter weeks and weeks of emo­tional de­bates, dra­matic posters and bill­boards, and heated con­ver­sa­tions, the big vote will be over. Al­though I am proudly an Ir­ish res­i­dent, I still only have Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship, and as such I was un­able to vote in the ref­er­en­dum. I was, how­ever, re­cently in­vited to take part in a TV3 panel on the is­sue.

I of­fered my broader his­toric per­spec­tive of what has tran­spired in my home coun­try since the US Supreme Court de­cided Roe v Wade. Need­less to say, the dis­cus­sion was im­pas­sioned on all sides.

Mar­garet Hef­fer­nan (the Amer­i­can busi­ness­woman, not the doyenne of Dunnes Stores) is quoted as say­ing: “For true in­no­va­tion, you need hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, con­flict, ar­gu­ment and de­bate.”

In busi­ness in­ter­ac­tions, as with other types, we must learn to deal with one an­other af­ter a ve­he­ment time of con­flict or de­bate.

When con­flict arises in the work­place — as it in­vari­ably will — many or­gan­i­sa­tions are not pre­pared to han­dle it.

Many chief ex­ec­u­tives work hard to cre­ate a cul­ture that elim­i­nates con­flict or one which rapidly stamps out rip­ples of dis­con­tent.

But, rather than try­ing to avoid it in the first place, un­der­stand­ing that — as Hef­fer­nan stated — con­flict can be­come a fuel to spur pos­i­tive growth, change or evo­lu­tion, can lead an or­gan­i­sa­tion to em­brace it, rather than dis­cour­age it.

In fact, re­search from the Univer­sity of Ne­braska sug­gests that al­low­ing con­flict to sur­face and en­cour­ag­ing a “devil’s ad­vo­cacy ap­proach” to de­ci­sion-mak­ing of­ten pro­duces bet­ter out­comes and re­duces group­think.

Con­flicts are bound to hap­pen. So man­agers who fo­cus on pro­mot­ing mind­ful­ness and re­spect­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tions can help teams work ef­fec­tively through dis­agree­ments.

If a clash comes crash­ing into your com­pany, it will take time to work through it, but, never fear, I have some sug­ges­tions to help guide your way. SELF-AWARE: is to take a work­shop specif­i­cally on the very is­sue. Un­der­stand­ing how al­ter­na­tively look­ing at the tra­di­tional con­cept of con­flict can be very ben­e­fi­cial in re­fram­ing at­ti­tudes. Again, that Univer­sity of Ne­braska re­port ar­gues that task con­flict stim­u­lates cre­ativ­ity and en­hances team ef­fec­tive­ness. How’s that for a dif­fer­ent view?

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