Archive for the ‘Giving Advice’ Category

The 5 Pitfalls of Conflict Resolution

November 4th, 2015

Last year around this time, my friend and business partner, Rob Ferguson, published his book Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement, along with co-author Peter T. Coleman.

The book recieved excellent reviews.  Publishers Weekly described it as a “practical guide to redirecting energies from conflict toward the achievement of goals.” They went on to write: “Grounded in more than 15 years of research, Coleman and Ferguson’s findings offer insight into the strategies and skills necessary for managing work disputes and show how to make conflict work for you instead of against you. Full of valuable advice, this book will help readers develop better strategies for workplace disagreements.”

In honor of the book’s one year anniversary, we wanted to share with you the following excerpt. It’s about the pitfalls that can make workplace conflict resolution worse.
AVOID THESE 5 PITFALLS:

1. Treating all conflicts as the same.
Our research has identified seven distinct conflict situations, depending on how cooperative or competitive the parties are, who has more or less power, and how much they need each other to achieve their goals. The seven situations are Compassionate Responsibility, Command and Control, Cooperative Dependence, Unhappy Tolerance, Independence, Partnership, and Enemy Territory. Each situation requires a different approach, and diagnosing the situation correctly leads to the most effective strategy..

2. Ignoring power differences.
Most leaders (and consultants) overlook the full significance of how power differences affect conflict. Whether you have more power than the other party, or less, it takes additional skills to get to the real issues and achieve your goals. If you have less power, you risk overstepping your bounds or inviting abuse. If you have more power, you risk eliciting dishonesty or sabotage from your supervisee. Ignoring power differences, and lacking a strategy for them, can render standard conflict resolution methods ineffective.

3. Abusing the power you have.
Read any page of any history book and you see how monarchs, generals and presidents abuse power. But so do supervisors, middle managers, and team leads. You only need a little power to abuse it –– and thus make yourself less effective in conflict. Some of the most common power traps include: “The Bulletproof Trap” (you make conflicts worse by thinking you are invincible), the “Not-Seeing-the-Trees-for-the-Forest Trap” (you appear insensitive to your underlings by ignoring details because you only see the “big picture”), and the “Screw the Rules Trap” (you bend or break rules because after all, you’re special –– you’re the leader! This sets the stage for minor or major rebellions).

4. Neglecting the power you have.
When you find yourself in lower power in a conflict, you may fall into different traps. These include the “Keep your Head Down Trap” (you keep your aspirations so low you don’t even try to find better solutions), the “Powerlessness Corrupts Trap” (you succumb to cynicism or rage toward those in authority, turning to apathy or sabotage), and the “Victim Status Trap” (you wallow in a sense of oppression and victimhood, which ironically can lead to a sense of superiority and refusal to negotiate).

5. Misunderstanding power.
Don’t make conflict worse by acting passively. Even if you are less powerful than the person with whom you disagree, it doesn’t mean you have no power. Less power does not equal powerless. There are always informal ways to influence managers and leaders above you in the organization. And these methods do not show up on the org chart. They include actions such as appealing to the others’ interests, eliciting cooperation, creating positive relations with superiors, fostering reciprocity, rational persuasion, increasing their dependence on you, and more.

I highly encourage you to go buy the book! Happy reading!                            Making Conflict Work COVER

A Simpler Kind of Giving

December 11th, 2014

Happy Holidays! ‘Tis the season for giving! As a child, I remember getting a red Schwinn two-wheel bicycle. Within no time, I was riding it around Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with no hands on the bars! It was a joyful time. It is wonderful to receive, and in a way, it is easier to receive than to give. To receive a gift, a compliment, or encouragement is something that one just accepts and enjoys. That is what I did. It is fun and gratifying to receive, but to give…that takes consciousness, effort and creativity. I’m sure that in your holiday season (whichever one that involves gifts), you’ll be asked to give, repeatedly. Today, the little ones will have long lists of toys, accessories and tech gadgets that they hope to receive. Our co-workers may surprise us with gifts, and our peers will ask that we donate to worthy causes and charities. You’ll do so much giving that it may become overwhelming! Yet, I too ask you to give, and in fact, I urge you to give more and more frequently!

Before you stop reading, let me explain what I mean.

I offer you these non-material, inexpensive and creative options you can give during holiday seasons, and year round:

TIME: In our busy lives, nothing is more valuable than the time you spend with family and loved ones. Reserve a small chunk of your schedule to spend with those you love and, better yet, with those who need you. Be intentional about catching up over coffee or enjoying a few hours in a park or playground. Offer to help someone at work who is struggling to figure something out. Trust me, they will appreciate it and will remember that moment for a long, long time.

COMPLIMENTS: On my way home recently, someone said I looked “very dapper.” We don’t compliment people enough anymore, and I think we should. It made my day. A genuine and thoughtful compliment, even to a stranger, will evoke joy and positivity.

GUIDANCE & ADVICE: It is easy to surround yourself with successful people and ignore others who are struggling or just starting their careers, forgetting that we had to start from somewhere too. To this day, I talk with people who call and want to know about the consulting profession, all because someone else (Eleanor Upton) did that for me early on. Offering advice to someone who needs it will not just be beneficial to the other party, but it will allow you to share your wisdom and to analyze your own past and present journey.

Now by no means am I advocating for you to be a Scrooge. If you’re able to donate to charities, you should, and if you can manage to give toys and tech to youngsters and friends alike, do it! Make them happy. These ideas are meant to make sure that you don’t exhaust your mind or wallet trying to come up with nice things to give. And..if you still need a tangible gift idea, here’s a link to Raleigh Consulting Group’s Dr. Rob Ferguson book on Making Conflict Work. This is a practical gift of both knowledge and advice for the folks at your office. Season’s greetings,