Jun 28, 2017
How To Resolve Internal Conflicts
Business is more fast paced that ever before in human history. Technology boasting massive computing and communication power is held in our palm. It accompanies us on life’s journey, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, everywhere we go. We are working in the flattest organisations ever designed, often in noisy, distracting open plan environments. We are also increasing thrust into matrix relationships with bosses, subordinates and colleagues residing in distant climes. We rarely meet them face to face, so communication becomes more strained.
Milestones, timelines, targets, revenues, KPIs are all screaming for blood. We are under the pressure of instant response and a growing culture of impatience. If our computer is slow to boot up, or if a file takes time to download, we are severely irritated. Twenty years ago we were amazed you could instantly send a document file by email from one location to another. Oh, the revolution of rising expectations!
Imagine our forebears who when working internationally, had to wait for the mail from headquarters to arrive by boat and then would wait months for the reply to arrive there and then more months for the subsequent answer to come back. Super snail mail ping pong. Life was a wee bit more leisurely then and people had a lot more independence through necessity. Not today. We want it and we want it now and look out anyone who gets in our way. We have unconsciously designed a system guaranteed to produce more conflict in the workplace.
We can break the conflict touch point issues into five categories for attention. Process Conflict – is this what we are dealing with? How much control do we have in this particular case we are facing? We need to analyse the root cause of the problem and talk to the process owner. They may not be aware this is causing problems for others. We need to diplomatically raise it with them, get agreement it needs to be resolved and come up with a joint action plan to fix it.
Role Conflicts easily arise in flat organisations. What is our perception of our own role in relation to others involved in this issue? We can’t expect others to be making the effort to clarify our role, so we have to take the lead to do so. This is hard, but we have to be prepared to change our perception of what our actual role is. We should take the macro view and see where we need to be flexible around our perception of our own role, to make sure the organisation is moving forward. This may require some changes and we have to see change as an opportunity for growth and improvement (easily said!!!).
Interpersonal Conflicts are the tough ones. We are confronted by the actions, behavours, words and the reported versions from others around us. We need to take a step back and ask, “to what degree are my personal biases and prejudices affecting this relationship”. Are people telling me things to suit their own agenda and stirring me up for no good reason?
There are key things we can do to improve the situation and we usually know exactly what they are but we don’t want to do them. However, we have to commit to making those changes, as difficult and painful as that may be. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the other person to change – take action yourself.
This may mean having a direct conversation with your counterpart on the issues. Before you do that though, forget about what you want for the moment and put yourself in their shoes. Reflect on how you would see the issue from their perspective. This will make it easier to have that one-on-one conversation.
Direction Conflicts arise when the path forward is unclear. Companies are not always excellent in informing everyone of what needs to happen or at the same time. Check that you are in fact clear yourself on the organisation’s current direction or vision. Bring up the discrepancy between you and the other party in respectful terms, in a neutral way. This is not about establishing blame (although we often like doing that!), but about getting joint clarity about what is the aim and how it should be delivered together.
External Conflicts are tough because by definition, you lack power or control. Ask yourself whether you have a dog in this fight or not? Choose your battles carefully and concentrate on what you can do to improve things, rather than wasting energy whining about what you cannot control. As a general rule, if you find yourself complaining about anything outside of your control stop and re-set your mind around how the situation can be improved. Ask yourself, “in what way can we continue to move the organisation forward?”. In the words of the hardest working man in show business Mr. James Brown, “get on the good foot”!
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About The Author
Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan
In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.
A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcasts “THE Leadership Japan Series”, THE Sales Japan Series and THE Presentations Japan Series, he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.
Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.